Mar 02, 2016 00:19 UTC
The USAF has awarded
over $161 million in contracts to develop homegrown rocket-booster engines as part of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV
) program. The effort aims at ending reliance
on Russian RD-180 engines for US space launches. Two contracts will see $115.3 go to Aerojet Rocketdyne to develop a prototype of its liquid oxygen/kerosene-fueled AR-1 booster engine while United Launch Alliance will receive $46.6 million for the purposes of developing prototypes of its Vulcan BE-4 booster stage engine, and its Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage (ACES), an upper-stage engine for the program.
Boeing Delta IV Heavy
The EELV program was designed to reduce the cost of government space launches through greater contractor competition, and modifiable rocket families whose system requirements emphasized simplicity, commonality, standardization, new applications of existing technology, streamlined manufacturing capabilities, and more efficient launch-site processing. Result: the Delta IV (Boeing) and Atlas V (Lockheed Martin) heavy rockets.
Paradoxically, that very program may have forced the October 2006 merger of Boeing & Lockheed Martin’s rocket divisions. Crosslink Magazine’s Winter 2004 article “EELV: The Next Stage of Space Launch” offers an excellent briefing that covers EELV’s program innovations and results, while a detailed National Taxpayer’s Union letter to Congress takes a much less positive view. This DID Spotlight article looks at the Delta IV and Atlas V rockets, emerging challengers like SpaceX and the new competition framework, and the US government contracts placed since the merger that formed the United Launch Alliance.
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Feb 09, 2016 00:19 UTC
The final block of the USAF's Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF satellite has been launched
, finally paving the way for the start of the next generation's long overdue GPS III. The GPS IIF-12 satellite will join dozens of other satellites launched over the last 27 years as part of the GPS Block II program. News of the launch follows days after Lockheed Martin was awarded a $94 million contract modification, providing contingency operations for GPS III satellites, ahead of the USAF’s Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX
) program being put in place. With no announced schedule to have GPS III satellites launched in the near future, air force officials have said the GPS IIF-12 is expected to bridge gaps and improve on existing capabilities. Back in December
, Air Force Space Commander Gen. John Hyten called the OCX program "a disaster" after reports of cyber-security concerns, ballooning costs and constant delays.
GPS IIIA concept
GPS-III satellites, in conjunction with their companion OCX ground control, system are the Global Positioning System (GPS) future. They offer big advantages over existing GPS-II satellites and GCS, but most of all, they have to work. Disruption or decay of the critical capabilities provided by the USA’s Navstar satellites would cripple both the US military, and many aspects of the global economy.
The time-based GPS service is the most-used application of Einstein’s Theories of Relativity. GPS has become part of civilian life in ways that go go far beyond those handy driving maps, including crop planting, timing services for stock trades, and a key role in credit card processing. At the same time, military class (M-code) GPS guidance can now be found in everything from cruise missiles and various precision-guided bombs, to battlefield rockets and even artillery shells. Combat search and rescue radios rely on this line of communication, and so does a broadening array of individual soldier equipment.
This DII FOCUS article looks at the existing constellation, GPS-III improvements, the program’s structure, its progress through contracts and key milestones, and extensive PTN (Positioning, Timing & Navigation)/ GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) research links.
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May 22, 2015 00:01 UTC
Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $735 million
support contract for the Air Force's Advanced Extremely High Frequency Satellites
and Defense Satellite Communications System III
. The company was awarded a similar contract for the latter two in 2009
The USA’s new Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites will support twice as many tactical networks as the current Milstar II satellites, while providing 10-12 times the bandwidth capacity and 6 times the data rate transfer speed. With the cancellation of the higher-capacity TSAT program, AEHF will form the secure, hardened backbone of the Pentagon’s future Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) architecture, with a mission set that includes nuclear command and control. Its companion Family of Advanced Beyond-line-of-sight Terminals (FAB-T) program will give the US military more modern, higher-bandwidth receiving capabilities, and add more flexibility on the front lines. The program has international components, and partners currently include Britain, Canada, and the Netherlands.
This article offers a look at the AEHF system’s rationale and capabilities, while offering insight into some of the program’s problems, and an updated timeline covering over $5 billion worth of contracts since the program’s inception.
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Mar 03, 2015 00:03 UTC
Latest updates[?]: The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center finished a three-day test of the Increment 2 ground control system for SBIRS. The Increment 2 system features a single control center to operate all three types of satellite, and includes a backup system.
The Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS)-High satellite program is a key component of the USA’s future missile alert system, designed to give maximum warning and monitoring of ballistic missile launches anywhere in the world. The new satellites will replace the existing Defense Support Program (DSP) fleet. Their infrared sensors have 3x the sensitivity of DSP and 2x the revisit rate, while providing better persistent coverage.
Unfortunately, the program has been beset by massive cost overruns on the order of 400%, technical challenges that continue to present problems, and uncertainties about performance. Despite these problems, the U.S. Air Force is proceeding with the program, and has terminated potential alternatives and supplements. However, as part of a January 2015 effort to institute cost reforms, the Air Force will weaken requirements for the program, and at least three other major procurement programs.
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Sep 10, 2014 16:13 UTC
Latest updates[?]: US military receiver tracks & receives Galileo signal - why does this matter?; Satellite status update from August's failed launch.
The USA’s Global Positioning System service remains free, but the European Union is spending billions to create an alternative under their own control. In addition to civilian GPS (the Open Service), services to be offered include a Safety of Life Service (SoL) for civil aviation and search and rescue, a paid Commercial Service with accuracy greater than 1 meter, plus a Public Regulated Service (PRS) for use by security authorities and governments. PRS/SoL aims to offer Open Service quality, with added robustness against jamming and the reliable detection of problems within 10 seconds.
Organizational issues and shortfalls in expected progress pushed the “Galileo” project back from its originally intended operational date of 2007 to 2014/15. After a public-private partnership model failed, the EU gained initial-stage approval for its plan to finance the program with tax dollars instead of the expected private investments. Political issues were overcome in 2007 by raiding other EU accounts for the billions required, but by 2011, it became clear that requests for billions more in public funds were on the way. Meanwhile, doubts persist in several quarters about Galileo’s touted economic model. Security concerns regarding China’s early involvement, and its potential Beidou-2/Compass projects, have been equally persistent, and there is good reason to expect that the constellation has a military purpose. On a European political and contractual level, however, Galileo is now irreversible.
This article offers background, players, developments, contracts, and in-depth research links for Galileo, as well as linked EU programs like GIOVE and EGNOS.
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