VICTUS NOX Is Changing the Game for Tactically Responsive Space



Feature Article

Eight months to build, test and deliver. Under 58 hours to transport, fuel and integrate. Twenty-four hours to stand ready for launch. 37 hours to be mission ready. A seemingly impossible timeline for a national security space mission just became reality – and it worked.

“What we did on VICTUS NOX broke records and showed us we can deliver on tactically relevant timelines,” said Lt Col MacKenzie Birchenough, materiel leader for Space Systems Command Space Safari Program Office. “More importantly, VICTUS NOX performed the Space Domain Awareness mission.”

VICTUS NOX lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California aboard a Firefly Aerospace Alpha launch vehicle September 14. Millennium Space Systems made initial contact on the first pass, despite a window of just a few minutes, followed quickly by a vigorous initialization phase to be mission-ready in just 37 hours.

VICTUS NOX centered on one key objective: speed.

One of the biggest challenges for this program was not only compressing the timeline for development of the satellite, launch vehicle and associated ground systems, but also compressing the Activation and Launch Phases from what can normally take months to just hours.

“We have incredibly knowledgeable individuals who really understand the satellite,” said Andrew Chau, VICTUS NOX program manager, Millennium Space Systems. “What we did was stress test our procedures, processes and interfaces to ensure we get things right. This type of continuous improvement builds repeatability.”

Underscoring the entire program was the ability to adapt to uncertainty.

When Millennium Space Systems and Firefly Aerospace entered Hot Standby, all teams were on-call, ready to respond to the notification for the Activation Phase – a 60-hour window to transport VICTUS NOX from El Segundo to VSFB, perform final testing and fueling, and integrate it on the payload adaptor. Chau likened it to dominos.

“We set up an intricate logistical puzzle,” Chau said. “And just one phone call – that first domino – set a whole series of events in motion.”

That call came September 8, followed by the 24-hour launch notification September 13.

The team completed the Activation Phase in just under 58 hours against a 60-hour goal, which included fueling and mating the spacecraft to the payload adaptor. This despite dealing with unexpected events, like an electrical storm that caused the team to evacuate and delay work for four hours.

Following launch notification, the team performed final pre-flight activities and monitored the environmental conditions to ensure the safety of the spacecraft. And in just under 24 hours, the team was ready. Firefly launched at the first available window, just 27 hours after launch notification.

Following launch, having VICTUS NOX mission ready in just 37 hours against a 48-hour goal, was thanks to a dedicated team that automated much of the initialization process. Then came performing mission operations. From Millennium Space Systems’ mission operations center, the team acquired and observed a resident space object, or RSO, by taking advantage of internally-developed software. The RSO was identified, validated and then observed.

So, what’s next?

When it comes to the future of TacRS, incorporating lessons learned are essential to repeatability. Part of the lessons-learned process was identifying unknown unknowns, such as developing an infrastructure to support extended on-call operations and cross-training team members to fulfill multiple functions.

Success in accelerating timelines at this scale – on an undetermined, unknown schedule with multiple stakeholders – depended on open, transparent and candid communication.

“The entire VICTUS NOX mission has been unprecedented in its speed, scope and level of coordination necessary to achieve mission success,” said Jason Kim, chief executive officer, Millennium Space Systems. “Now we know where to adjust to respond quickly to future program needs.”

VICTUS NOX tested the limits of what’s possible. Today, the sky – or, in our case, space – is the limit.

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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