The Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) said Friday four Army nanosatellites were launched into orbit from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., on an Atlas 5 rocket.

Atlas V Liftoff With NROL-39 Payload And Army Nanosatellites          
Photo: ULA

The launch is part of the Army’s continuing effort to develop low-cost space support capabilities through the evolution of advanced nanosatellite technologies and concepts.

This is the fourth launch of Army built nanosatellites and is part of the Government Experimental Multi-Satellite (GEMSat) Program, SMDC said in a statement.

The United Launch alliance (ULA) Atlas V 501 vehicle powered liftoff for the National Reconnaissance Office-39 payload plus the GEMSat consisting of 12 Cubesats, which were deployed after completing the primary mission. ULA is a 50-50 joint venture between Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Boeing [BA].

The satellites will remain on orbit for several years supporting Army experiments and demonstrations before reentering the Earth’s atmosphere.

The inexpensive nanosatellites are designed as cost effective research platforms and will not survive reentry after their relatively short orbital life.

The SMDC/Army Forces Strategic Command, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., leads the Army initiative to explore cost effective space support options through the utilization of nanosatellite platforms.

An Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD)-funded nanosat on this flight is a SMDC Nano-satellite Program-3 (SNaP-3) Joint Capabilities Technology Demonstration.

The GEMSat program is part of a continuing evolution of Army nanosatellite capabilities which started with the first SMDC-ONE nanosatellite launch in January 2010 and was followed by the launch of additional SMDC-ONE nanosatellites in September 2012. This series of nanosatellites represents the first U.S. Army designed and built satellites in more than 50 years.