Mission X Update #2: Fly, Fix, Fly

By True Anomaly Co-Founders Even Rogers, Tom Nichols, Kyle Zakrzewski, and Dan Brunski

March 4, 2024, marked another significant milestone for True Anomaly and the future of space security as our first two Jackal autonomous orbital vehicles (AOVs) reached Sun-synchronous orbit via SpaceX’s Transporter-10 Rideshare mission.  

Our first flight test has progressed as far as possible and we do not anticipate meeting the remainder of the test objectives, including on-orbit rendezvous & proximity operation (RPO) demonstrations. We’ve spent the last two weeks analyzing data and are already heads-down in preparation to iterate our design for the next flight test.

Mission X commenced well before the Jackals reached orbit. It began during design and manufacturing—leading up to the final assembly and qualification of two spacecraft. Both Jackals passed a thorough vibration and thermal vacuum chamber test campaign, withstood launch, and separated from the rocket. Both Jackal 1 and 2 autonomously detumbled, deployed solar panels, and generated power for the bus.

After deploying from the Falcon 9 rocket, we worked with other Transporter-10 riders to share location information and confirm the orbit state of both Jackals. It was inspiring to watch the space community come together to help us and other organizations sort and correlate tracks for the closely spaced group of vehicles, which is common for Rideshare deployments into low-Earth orbit. Though initial telemetry from Jackal 1 indicated the vehicle was in a nominal state, we’ve been unable to verify if either Jackal is currently functional.

Our Mosaic operating system performed as designed, allowing our operators and engineers to work together to track, securely communicate with, and receive telemetry data from Jackal 1. As the early days of the flight test progressed, we added capabilities to Mosaic to provide operators with new tools for analysis and command and control.

Iterating for Mission X Flight Test 2

Fast design cycles are required to outpace the evolution of the contested operational space environment. True Anomaly is differentiated by our ability to rapidly iterate the design of our spacecraft and software as well as to assemble and qualify spacecraft in record time. We’re planning our second Jackal flight test within the next 12 months.  

Our engineering team has narrowed down the potential root causes of our mission challenges and is finalizing Flight Test 1 data analysis to confirm their findings. Based on our learnings so far, we intend to implement the following changes to Jackal for Flight Test 2:  

  • Improved ground test infrastructure for pre-flight testing
  • Lighter weight structure for increased maneuverability and payload capacity
  • Upgraded avionics for compute and input/output
  • Increased vehicle autonomy
  • Upgrades to Mosaic for vehicle identification, contact, and data collection

When we founded True Anomaly, our objective was to develop a full technology stack we wish we had access to when we were space operators in uniform. In just two years, our team has emerged from stealth, gained the confidence of both investors and customers, secured our first U.S. government contracts, grown to 120 employees, and developed Mosaic, unlocking command and control for dynamic space operations.

The challenges we experienced with Flight Test 1 validate True Anomaly’s thesis: the U.S. and its allies need modern, robust Space Domain Awareness capabilities and a responsive, innovative industrial base. Mission X Flight Test 1 has proven invaluable to our team and made our path forward even more certain by revealing significant lessons learned that will help us continue to progress on rapidly building, testing, and delivering products to solve critical space security challenges.  

Now, it's time to get back to work to deliver on our vision of a secure, stable, and sustainable space environment for the U.S., its allies, and partners.

Visit our Mission X page to learn more, sign up for updates, and watch “The Space Security Challenge,” the first in our Mission X video series.