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By | January 8, 2007

      Discovery Mission Hits A Holiday Home Run

      Space Shuttle Discovery landed safely at Kennedy Space Center without any major damage after a winning STS-116 mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

      The Discovery crew installed a giant structural component on the ISS, rewired the space station electrical system, and used low-tech brute force and muscle power to get a balky array to fold up into a storage box. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, Dec. 18, 2006, for details of the work.)

      NASA Ares Review

      NASA completed the Ares I crew launch vehicle system requirements review — bringing the agency one step closer to developing a new mode of space transportation for astronauts on missions to explore the moon, Mars and other destinations.

      The system requirements review confirmed that the Ares I system requirements were complete, validated and responsive to mission requirements.

      Russian Missile Fails Again

      A submarine-deployed Russian ballistic missile once again failed in a test firing.

      That raises concerns in Russia that there may be a basic flaw in the design, according to reports.

      Good News On ABL

      Last year will go down as one of the most successful on record for Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] high-energy laser systems, which generated the most intense laser beams, the highest power levels, and the longest operating times yet seen in industry.

      “By any standard, 2006 was one of the most successful years in the company’s history of more than three decades of ‘high-energy laser firsts,'” said Alexis Livanos, president of the Northrop Grumman Space Technology sector.

      Mike McVey, vice president of directed energy systems, noted that in addition to making laser weapons more flexible as missions expand, rapid advancements also are making them more affordable.

      “Laser weapons are becoming much less expensive compared with other solutions for force protection against indirect fire threats. We estimate that accomplishments in 2006 could easily translate into high-energy laser weapons costing one-fourth the total system cost of tactical missiles.”

      NPOESS Personnel At Northrop

      Separately, Northrop assigned two current vice presidents to new responsibilities on the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) program. NPOESS is the nation’s next-generation low-Earth orbiting remote sensing system and will provide environmental data to military and civilian users.

      The new assignments are for Art Stephenson and David Rosener.

      Stephenson will serve as vice president and deputy program manager, responsible for day-to-day program operations and execution.

      Rosener, vice president and deputy program manager, will focus his efforts on the successful development of the Visible Infrared Imaging Sensor (VIIRS) by subcontractor Raytheon Co. [RTN].

      Boeing Satellite Deliveries Rise

      The Boeing Co. [BA] reported that its satellite deliveries jumped 33.3 percent in just a year.

      Boeing delivered four satellites during 2006, up from the three birds delivered in 2005, according to the company report on fourth quarter and full-year aircraft deliveries.

      More broadly, most Boeing military and commercial aircraft deliveries were up as well for 2006.

      AEHF Satellite Milestones

      Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] delivered ahead of schedule the flight structure for the third space vehicle in the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) program.

      The asset was delivered to the Lockheed Mississippi facility for integration with its propulsion subsystem.

      AEHF satellites will provide global, highly secure, protected, survivable communications for warfighters in all services within the Department of Defense.

      Over the next several months, a team of engineers and technicians at the Mississippi facility will integrate the spacecraft’s propulsion subsystem, which is essential for maneuvering the satellite during transfer orbit to its final location as well as conducting on-orbit operations and repositioning maneuvers throughout its mission life.

      AEHF satellites will deliver 10 times greater total capacity and channel data rates six times higher than that of Milstar II communications satellites. Higher data rates permit transmission of tactical military communications such as real-time video, battlefield maps and targeting data.

      Lockheed Martin currently is under contract to provide three Advanced EHF satellites and command control system to its customer, the Military Satellite Communications Systems Wing at the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles. The contract for a third AEHF spacecraft was awarded early this year.

      GPS Satellite Operational

      The newest modernized Global Positioning System Block IIR (GPS IIR-M) satellite went fully operational following successful on-orbit deployment and checkout of all spacecraft systems, according to Lockheed.

      That Air Force satellite, designated GPS IIR-16M, joins two other modernized Block IIR-M spacecraft and 12 original IIR satellites currently on-orbit within the overall 30- spacecraft constellation.

      The fourth GPS Block IIR-M satellite was delivered recently to Cape Canaveral to support a future 2007 launch, if requested by the Air Force for constellation sustainment.

      Launched last month from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., GPS IIR-16M is part of the eight-satellite Block IIR-M series that Lockheed Martin Navigation Systems is developing for its customer, the Global Positioning Systems Wing, Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif.

      The series includes new features that enhance operations and navigation signal performance for military and civilian GPS users around the globe.

      Lockheed Sun Spotter

      The Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUVI) instrument has begun returning images of the sun’s corona as part of NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO), Lockheed announced.

      EUVI was designed and built at the Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory of the Lockheed Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in Palo Alto.

      STEREO utilizes two nearly identical spacecraft on different trajectories to study the most energetic events on the surface and in the lower atmosphere of the Sun, and their travel through interplanetary space.

      Data from spacecraft instruments will allow scientists to construct the first ever three-dimensional views of the sun, providing a new perspective on Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). CMEs are violent explosions on the surface of the Sun that can propel up to 10 billion tons of sun atmosphere — at a million miles an hour — out through the corona and into space.

      The two STEREO spacecraft were launched together on a Delta II rocket Oct.25 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Both spacecraft flew by the moon taking advantage of a gravity assist that has propelled one of the observatories into an orbit “ahead” of the Earth in its journey around the sun, and the other “behind” our planet as it makes its yearly revolution. The first images are from the “ahead” spacecraft.

      BAE Geo-Location Technology

      BAE Systems demonstrated a passive geo-location capability that enables aircraft to identify enemy positions quickly and accurately in crowded radio frequency (RF) environments.

      The equipment can be deployed on any type of military aircraft.

      BAE demonstrated, for the first time, the ability to construct a geo-location solution, nearly instantaneously, without the need for multiple aircraft to receive the same pulse of an enemy radar signal simultaneously.

      The new capability, demonstrated at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake, Calif., enables aircraft to calculate geo-location with any radio frequency (RF) signal.

      The capability has already been tested in a series of flights. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II program office supported the flight testing, which was accomplished with a single T-39 aircraft and a ground station performing as a “virtual” aircraft.

      The demonstration follows BAE Systems’ successful demonstration, in November 2004, of how a single aircraft can detect and locate threat radars passively.

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