Air Force Ready For ISAT Proposals
BY KEITH STEIN
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Space Vehicles Directorate (VS), announced last week they are ready to accept detailed cost and technical proposals for a Flight Demonstration System (FDS) of the new Innovative Space-Based Radar Antenna Technology (ISAT) spacecraft.
The goal of ISAT FDS is to develop and demonstrate key technologies critical to fielding a Space-Based Radar system capable of providing tactical-grade ground moving target indication from medium Earth orbit.
The spacecraft is expected to be delivered to the launch facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., in 2009. The vehicle will be integrated and launched in 2010 aboard a Evolved Expandable Launch Vehicle (EELV). The system will operate for one year.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) created the ISAT program to perform system design trades, design, build and launch the FDS. DARPA has designated AFRL as the executing agent for the ISAT FDS program.
When launched in 2010, the football-field size demonstrator radar antenna, weighing more than five tons (11,020 pounds), will serve as the forerunner for the future of America’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets in space.
The ISAT program focuses on developing systems to deploy extremely large electronically scanning radar antennas flying 5,700 miles (9,173 kilometers) above the Earth’s surface and providing improved ground target detection to the warfighter.
Originated in 2002, and sponsored by DARPA in Arlington, Va., the ISAT program also involves participation by AFRL’s sensors directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and information directorate at Rome Laboratory, N.Y., as well as NASA’s Langley Research Center at Langley Va., and Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
In addition, two contractor teams — Boeing Co. and Raytheon Co., as well as Lockheed Martin Corp. and Harris Corp. — are competing to build the flight experiment. Following the spacecraft’s critical design review process in June, DARPA will select one of the contractor pairings to advance the project, with recommendations from the space vehicles directorate.
The Department of Defense Space Test Program in California will furnish the EELV to propel ISAT into low Earth orbit, about 620 miles (997 km) above the planet.
Technologies to be developed and demonstrated on the ISAT flight experiment include advanced antenna architectures and structures; lightweight radiation-hardened materials and electronics; reliable deployment technologies and mechanisms; compressible components and materials; as well as advanced metrology and calibration concepts for large radar antennas.
The multimillion-dollar project’s primary goal, however, is assisting the warfighter through development of tactical grade, ground-moving target indication capability. This tool will enable the tracking and identifying of targets with precise resolution and scanning in multiple areas of interest.