Small sats: how fast is fast?



Feature Article

VICTUS NOX is a test of speed – how quickly we can respond to on-orbit needs.

“In a real-world conflict, we simply do not have the luxury of time,” said Lt Col MacKenzie Birchenough, Materiel Leader for Space Safari, Space Systems Command. “That’s why we’re conducting this tactically responsive space mission. If we identify and get through all the bumps now, we will be ready to respond to new on-orbit threats in the future.”

Space Safari contracted Millennium Space Systems to deliver VICTUS NOX in just eight months – unprecedented in Aerospace and Defense.

To achieve this timeline, Millennium pulled a satellite from its small satellite constellation production line. The team took advantage of vertically integrated, common core-products, with only slight modifications to support this unique mission and is rapidly firing through milestones.

“Just eleven weeks after authorization to proceed, we completed the systems requirements review and critical design review milestones for both the space and ground segments,” said Andrew Chau, VICTUS NOX program manager at Millennium Space Systems. “Now, with less than three months to delivery, we are finalizing vehicle integration and preparing for system-level and environmental testing.”

VICTUS NOX is undergoing vibration and thermal vacuum tests to ensure it can survive the launch and on-orbit environment. Once delivered, the mission has a 24-hour launch call-up time for satellite and launch vehicle encapsulation and launch.

“The fact that we’re able to pull a bus off our line, integrate a new payload, and modify for a completely different effort shows how our satellites can readily support quick turn TacRS missions,” said Katie Crosby, program manager at Millennium Space Systems. “What is unique is we’ve been in production since Day One. But it’s felt natural to move this quickly because we have the technical know-how and expertise to execute this type of mission.”

Millennium is working closely with launch vehicle provider Firefly to ensure the satellite and rocket interfaces align.

“We typically work hand-in-hand with launch providers over the course of a program,” said Chau. “The way we design our satellites ensures they can work with a wide range of launch systems. VICTUS NOX will feel right at home on Firefly’s rocket.”

Once on orbit, VICTUS NOX will conduct a space domain awareness mission, with mission operations from Millennium’s headquarters in El Segundo, California.

“Like many of our programs, we’re an end-to-end mission provider on VICTUS NOX,” said Chau. “In addition to building the satellite, we’re supporting launch and mission operations.”

The Space Safari program office is tasked with responding to urgent space needs, including emerging threats, by executing missions quickly. With VICTUS NOX, Millennium is capitalizing on decades of go-fast experience to support the mission.

“Having a program like this energizes us all – we can really show off what we do,” said Crosby. “Our teams adapt and are agile to meet our government customers’ need to go fast.”

About Millennium Space Systems
Millennium Space Systems, a Boeing Company, is a small satellite prime, delivering high-performance constellation solutions for National Security Space. Founded in 2001, the company's active production lines and 80% vertical integration enable the rapid delivery of small satellites across missions and orbits – LEO, MEO and GEO. For more information, visit

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