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By | July 2, 2007

      Atlantis Piggybacks Atop Boeing 747 Transport; Endeavour Moves To VAB

      Space Shuttle Atlantis, forced to land on the West Coast by foul weather at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), headed back to KSC from Edwards AFB, Calif., atop a modified Boeing 747 jetliner called the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

      Because space shuttles returning from space have no power of their own — they are essentially stupendously heavy gliders — they can’t fly on their own back to KSC, but must be transported on a cradle atop the 747.

      Known as a ferry-flight, the Atlantis orbiter is returning to KSC so the shuttle can lift off for its next mission to the International Space Station in December.

      (For details on the Atlantis mission, please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, June 25, 2007, page 1.)

      Meanwhile, preparations are underway for the next shuttle flight. Space Shuttle Endeavour today is moving from the Orbiter Processing Facility to the KSC Vehicle Assembly Building.

      There, crews will mate Endeavour to its external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters.

      The next milestone for Endeavour is the 3.4-mile rollout to Launch Pad 39A, planned for July 11.

      Endeavour is targeted for launch in early August. During the 11-day mission to the station, Endeavour’s crew of seven astronauts will add the Starboard 5 (S5) segment to the right side of the station’s backbone, or truss, deliver 5,000 pounds of supplies and conduct repairs.

      Inflatable Space Platform Launched, Expanded; Solar Panels Deployed

      Bigelow Aerospace launched its second inflatable spacecraft, Genesis II, and it expanded successfully, with solar panels deploying, the company reported.

      Contact was established with the spacecraft after it launched from Yasny, Russia.

      Bigelow Mission Control in North Las Vegas, Nev., reported first contact, and initial data suggests sufficient voltage powering up Genesis II batteries as well as expected air pressure.

      Later, two low-resolution pictures confirmed successful deployment of the eight solar panels prior to the start of the expansion sequence for the spacecraft

      Genesis II is the second experimental pathfinder spacecraft designed to test and confirm systems for future manned commercial space modules planned by Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace.

      The privately-funded space station module was launched atop a Dnepr rocket from the ISC Kosmotras Yasny Cosmodrome, located in the Orenburg region of Russia, and was inserted into orbit at an inclination of 64 degrees.

      The new spacecraft follows Genesis I, which was launched from Yasny on July 12 last year, and continues to successfully return data and images from Earth orbit. Genesis II is identical in size and appearance to Genesis I – approximately 15 feet (4.4 meters) in length and 6.2 feet (1.9 meters) in diameter at launch, expanding to 2.54 meters (eight feet) in diameter after expansion in orbit.

      Inside is where the differences can be seen, as Genesis II includes include a suite of additional sensors and avionics that didn’t fly on Genesis I. Moreover, while Genesis I contained 13 video cameras, Genesis II will nearly double that figure to 22 cameras located on both the inside and outside of the spacecraft.

      That said, a brief communications difficulty in Russia increased nerves in Mission Control, as there was a delay in confirming Genesis II’s separation from the Dnepr rocket.

      General Dynamics Counter-Manpads System Set For Test

      A General Dymamics Corp. [GD] shield against shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft missiles will be tested next month.

      The GD Counter Man-Portable Air Defense System (CMAPS) will be matched against a man-portable air defense system, or MANPADS, at the Naval Air Systems Command China Lake, Calif., test facility.

      CMAPS earlier detected and tracked more than 30 missiles during tests held at Tonopah Test Range, Nev., and China Lake last year. It also was tested against missiles at Camp Atterbury, Ind., in May.

      General Dynamics received $2 million from the Department of Defense through the Technical Support Working Group to conduct the full-scale demonstration. The company has received $10.4 million for development of the system to date.

      CMAPS is a ground-based system designed to protect planes from MANPADS during take-off and landing. CMAPS uses a network of sensors to detect and verify the launch of shoulder-fired missiles and tracks those missiles with great precision. High-powered infrared countermeasures are then directed to the missile, breaking the missile’s lock on the aircraft. CMAPS can protect against multiple threats, be rapidly deployed to any airfield, and operate safely in both forward deployed and urban areas.

      Precision Attack Missile Warhead Proves It Can Penetrate Fortified Bunker

      The Precision Attack Missile (PAM) warhead proved it can penetrate a fortified bunker, as required in a multi-service procurement program, according to NetFires LLC, a joint venture between Raytheon Co. [RTN] Missile Systems and Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] Missiles and Fire Control.

      The multi-target warhead and fuze were developed by General Dynamics Corp. [GD] Ordnance and Tactical Systems

      PAM is part of the Non Line-of-Sight-Launch System being developed for the Army Future Combat System and the Navy Littoral Combat Ships.

      Testing was performed at the Redstone Arsenal Technical Test Center in Huntsville, Ala., against an earth and timber bunker target.

      The missile simulation test verified that the PAM warhead will detonate upon impact and perforate the bunker wall structure as required.

      All primary and secondary test objectives were met during the test.

      It possesses both a shaped-charge capability, to defeat armored targets, and a blast fragmentation capability for use against buildings, bunkers, small boats, lightly armored vehicles and other soft targets.

      Aerojet Test Fires Large Solid Rocket Motors

      Aerojet, a GenCorp Inc. [GY] unit, recently conducted an internally funded test firing of large-scale controllable solid rocket motors, the company announced.

      This test involved using a high-powered electromechanical valve control system being developed by Aerojet to provide faster responding, smaller and more reliable controllable solids that can be used on larger scale applications, such as the Orion crew exploration vehicle.

      That is the next-generation spacecraft being developed by prime contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] for voyages to low Earth orbit, replacing the space shuttle fleet that retires in 2010, and for journeys to the moon.

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