This completes its requirement for NASA's SMEX-Lite program, which provides frequent flight opportunities for highly focused, small, scientific space missions. SMEX-Lite is a new system architecture and development process intended to provide ultra-low-cost, small spacecraft with performance that exceeds that accomplished with the initial five SMEX-Lite missions.
The Wide Infrared Explorer (WIRE) mission, scheduled to launch in early 1999, will be the first mission to use TecStar's solar panels, including one multi-junction panel. WIRE is designed to study the evolution of starburst galaxies and search for protogalaxies. The Flights Projects Directorate of Goddard Space Flight Center manages the SMEX program in Greenbelt, MD.
TecStar Inc. was founded in 1954 as the country's first supplier of space solar cells. Today, the privately held company employs approximately 900 people in three divisions; Applied Solar Division (ASD), Electro Systems Division (ESD), and Demo Systems Division (DSD). Sales in 1997 were $121 million. TecStar supports the space and aircraft industries, both as a leading producer of critical aircraft subsystems, data transfer systems, and ground support equipment, and by offering the most advanced technology in spacecraft solar panels and arrays. The company maintains an unblemished on-orbit performance on over 400 satellites from Vanguard, the first satellite powered by solar cells in the late 1950's, through today's on-orbit constellations such as GPS, Iridium, Landsat, Orbcomm, and the Mars-Pathfinder program. In early 1998 TecStar received its ISO 9001 certification.
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