A conceptual design of the Coast Guard’s first CubeSats. (USCG graphic)

Coast Guard Hitches Ride with Spaceflight, Launches Cube Satellites for Arctic Mission

The Coast Guard has literally gone out of this world. Today, the Coast Guard Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) Program, and the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate launched six cube satellites into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The CubeSats will support the Coast Guard in future search-and-rescue operations in the Arctic.

“The Polar Scout project presents an opportunity to evaluate the most efficient way to ensure that the United States can project surface presence in the Arctic when and where it is needed while filling an immediate search-and-rescue capability gap in these remote areas,” said Jim Knight, the Coast Guard deputy assistant commandant for acquisition.

The nanosatellites, named Yukon and Kodiak, were launched in a low-Earth polar orbit Spaceflight rideshare mission along with small devices from 17 other countries. The launch was part of the Polar Scout project to determine the accuracy of such sensors in search-and-rescue situations. The CubeSats are made to detect 406 MHz emergency distress beacons, and will broadcast data to ground stations in New London, Conn., and at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  

“We will set the beacons off, the satellite should detect it and send signals back to the ground station,” said project leader Holly Wendelin.  

The launch is part of the Polar Scout project to evaluate the effectiveness of space-based sensors in support of Arctic search-and-rescue missions. Knowledge gained from this demonstration will be used to inform satellite technology recommendations for many potential applications within the Coast Guard and across DHS.

“Undoubtedly, the results and knowledge gained by the Polar Scout Satellite Project will lead to force-multiplying solutions for the department, which is a big priority in this age of complex threat cycles,” said Bill Bryan, senior official performing the duties of undersecretary for the S&T Directorate.

DHS will test the CubeSats with emergency test beacons in early 2019 and all throughout the summer.

ICYMI: Coast Guard RDT&E Program Celebrates 50 Years

Multimedia journalist James Cullum is Managing Editor of Homeland Security Today's Federal Pages. He has reported for over a decade to newspapers, magazines and websites in the D.C. metro area. He excels at finding order in chaotic environments, from slave liberations in South Sudan to the halls of the power in Washington, D.C.

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