The Air Force and the Aerospace Corp. launched an experimental cube satellite project aboard a Northrop Grumman [NOC] Antares rocket Nov. 2, hitching a ride with NASA’s NG-12 Cygnus mission heading for the International Space Station.

The Rogue CubeSat program is a dual cubesat program co-developed between the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (AFSMC) and the Aerospace Corp., with the goal of exploring how feasible it would be to develop small and inexpensive satellites to quickly plus-up a proliferated low Earth orbit constellation, the Air Force said Nov. 1. The satellites, once deployed into orbit after the release of the Cygnus capsule from the ISS, will explore “jumpstarting LEO cloud scene processing” and provide test data for short-wave infrared band satellites. NASA confirmed Monday that the Cygnus capsule has successfully attached to the ISS, where it will remain until January 2020.

The Aerospace Corp. designed, built and tested the cubesats using off-the-shelf sensors and common parts, along with a high-speed laser communications system to enable downlinks of large image files. The program was developed within 16 months including design, build and testing.

“The successful launch of the Aerospace CubeSats marks a huge achievement for SMC and its partners,” said Col. Dennis Bythewood, Program Executive Officer for Space Development. “This mission has set a precedent for speed and will also provide us with much needed data for future space development programs.”

The Antares 230+ space vehicle launched Saturday from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The NG-12 mission is the first to launch under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) 2 contract. The agency awarded CRS-2 contracts in 2016 to Sierra Nevada Corp., Space X and then-Orbital ATK, now Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, to deliver cargo through 2024 (Defense Daily, Jan. 14, 2016).