Northrop, Israeli Aerospace, Team On Smaller, Quickly Replaced Satellites
Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] and Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) are teaming to produce and launch radar imaging intelligence satellites that will be small, low-cost and quickly replaceable, the companies announced.
Their move comes after China used a ground-based missile to destroy one of its own aging weather satellites in orbit, and “painted” a U.S. military satellite with a ground- based laser, calling into question the wisdom of orbiting very high-priced satellites that are difficult to replace.
Those Northrop-IAI sats would offer the U.S. government quickly deployable all-weather, day/night imaging capabilities in a responsive production cycle.
These satellites would yield a rapid response, low-risk and affordable space-based radar imaging system designed for 24-hour surveillance in all weather conditions from low Earth orbit.
The system is planned as an operationally responsive space initiative that can deliver critical new capabilities to users about 28 months after authorization to proceed.
Northrop Grumman Space Technology will combine its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission systems engineering and systems integration capability with IAI’s TECSAR high-resolution, synthetic aperture radar imaging satellite.
Mission assurance capabilities, including secure communications and other U.S. system requirements, will be incorporated into the spacecraft by Northrop Grumman with final integration and test at its facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Based on IAI’s TECSAR multi-mode X-band radar imaging satellite, this new system can provide significant, near-term, day/night and all-weather point and area collection capability to meet the immediate needs of warfighters in theater as well as those of the broader intelligence community.
The first TECSAR satellite is scheduled for launch this summer for the Israeli Ministry of Defence. Northrop Grumman plans to demonstrate the new rapid response capability following the launch.
“This new system provides a capability that complements both existing and U.S. military and intelligence community capabilities being developed,” said Alexis Livanos, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Space Technology. “When they want to move quickly on any given contingency, users now have an option that offers greatly reduced timelines for deploying tactical satellites at low cost and at very low risk.”
“An all-weather, day/night system like this adds an operationally responsive capability to the U.S. inventory that is critically needed,” said Jeff Grant, vice president of business development for Northrop Grumman Space Technology. “Adding a responsive radar imager to our current and planned mix of space and airborne assets will enable us to hold the high ground on a global scale when dealing with the threats we face today.”
The satellite is operated with a compact, 800-pound portable ground system that provides the flexibility to perform tasking and data dissemination from the continental U.S. or from any operational theater.
Satellites can be individually launched from a low-cost Minotaur or Falcon 1 rocket, or as a group of four or more on an EELV-class launcher.
“Space is no longer a sanctuary,” Grant said in a telephone briefing with journalists. There now is a need to be able to reconstitute lost satellite assets quickly, he said.
Grant said he couldn’t estimate at this point what the market for such a system might be, in dollars.