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Northrop Grumman delivers ESPAStar bus for USAF NTS-3 mission

Northrop Grumman Corporation has delivered an ESPAStar-D spacecraft bus to support the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3) mission set to launch from Cape Canaveral in 2022.

Northrop Grumman delivers ESPAStar bus for USAF NTS-3 mission
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Northrop Grumman's ESPAStar-D is designed to accommodate combinations of hosted and separable experimental payloads on six common and configurable payload ports.

The bus utilises an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) ring as its primary structure, allowing multiple ESPAStars to be stacked together on a single launch vehicle.

The platform can support missions in geosynchronous orbit (GEO), low-Earth orbit (LEO) and medium-Earth orbit (MEO).


The ESPAStar platform provides proven solutions for customers seeking a modular, cost-effective and highly capable spacecraft bus for hosting technology development and operational payloads, according to Blake Bullock, vice president, national security space, tactical space systems, Northrop Grumman.

“ESPAStar’s innovative design offers unmatched flexibility for orbit locations and deployment, and we are proud to partner with L3Harris to meet all of our customers’ requirements, including target cost goals supporting the Air Force’s on-orbit deployment schedule,” Bullock said.

The experimental NTS-3 payload is designed to augment space-based position, navigation and timing for warfighters and features a modular design capable of supporting a variety of mission needs.

In addition to the NTS-3 mission, Northrop Grumman is partnering with the US Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (AFSMC) in their mission to deliver resilient and affordable space capabilities with the production of three ESPAStar platforms for Long Duration Propulsive Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle missions.


The NTS-3 bus was built in Northrop Grumman’s state-of-the-art satellite manufacturing facility in Gilbert, Arizona.

The facility is currently undergoing an expansion to add more than 100,000 square feet of production space, increasing the overall ESPAStar Integration and Test capacity.

LDPE-1 is scheduled to launch in 2021 with the Space Test Program 3 mission.

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Nastasha Tupas

Nastasha Tupas

Nastasha is a Journalist at Momentum Media, she reports extensively across veterans issues, cyber security and geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific. Previously, she was a Content Producer at Verizon Media, a Digital Producer for Yahoo! 7 and Channel 7, a Digital Journalist at Sky News Australia, as well as a Website Manager and Digital Producer at SBS Australia. She started her career in media as a Video Producer and Digital News Presenter at News Corp Australia.

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