Category Archives: Air

First Flight from LCS

Northrop Grumman Corporation’s autonomous helicopter, MQ-8C Fire Scout, took to the air for the first time from a U.S. Navy independence-class Littoral Combat ship, USS Montgomery (LCS-8). The flight took place off the coast of California during the second phase of Dynamic Interface testing, once again demonstrating Fire Scout’s stability and safety while operating around the ship.

MQ-8C Fire Scout Completes Successful First Flight from Littoral Combat Ship
MQ-8C Fire Scout Completes Successful First Flight from Littoral Combat Ship

The two week at-sea event allowed the U.S. Navy to test the MQ-8C Fire Scout’s airworthiness and ability to land and take off from a littoral combat ship throughout a broad operational envelope. The MQ-8C Fire Scout conducted its initial at-sea flight test aboard the guided missile destroyer, USS Jason Dunham (DDG-108) in December 2015.

«Fire Scout’s successful testing aboard USS Montgomery (LCS-8) and USS Dunham (DDG-108) proves its capability to fly from multiple air capable ships», said Captain Jeff Dodge, program manager, Fire Scout, Naval Air Systems Command. «We plan to have the MQ-8C Fire Scout deployed aboard multiple ships in the near future giving the fleet the persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting asset they need».

With the completion of Dynamic Interface testing, the MQ-8C Fire Scout is one step closer to Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) and full operational deployment.

«Fire Scout’s autonomous technology coupled with the range and endurance of the MQ-8C airframe is truly a game-changer», said Leslie Smith, vice president, tactical autonomous systems, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. «When the MQ-8C deploys with its advanced AESA maritime radar, the U.S. Navy will have unmatched situational awareness and the ability to provide sea control in any contested maritime environment».

The MQ-8C Fire Scout builds on the ongoing accomplishments of the MQ-8B Fire Scout program. Helicopter Squadron 23 is currently operating onboard the deployed littoral combat ship, USS Coronado (LCS-4), with two MQ-8B Fire Scouts in the South China Sea.

 

Specifications

Length 41.4 feet/12.6 m
Width 7.8 feet/2.4 m
Blades Folded Hangar 7.8×34.7×10.9 feet/2.4×10.6×3.3 m
Height 10.9 feet/3.3 m
Rotor Diameter 35 feet/10.7 m
Gross Takeoff Weight 6,000 lbs/2,721.5 kg
Engine Rolls-Royce M250-C47B with FADEC (Full Authority Digital Electronic Control)

 

Performance

Speed 140 knots/161 mph/259 km/h (maximum)
Operational Ceiling 17,000 feet/5,182 m
Maximum Endurance 14 hrs
Maximum Payload (Internal) 1,000 lbs/453.6 kg
Typical Payload 600 lbs/272 kg (11 hrs endurance)
Maximum Sling Load 2,650 lbs/1,202 kg

 

Engine Specifications

Power 651 shp/485.45 kW
Pressure ratio 9.2
Length 42.95 inch/1.09 m
Diameter 24.81 inch/0.63 m
Basic weight 274 lbs/124.3 kg
Compressor 1CF (centrifugal high-pressure)
Turbine 2HP (two-stage high-pressure turbine), 2PT (two-stage power turbine)

 

Low Rate
Initial Production

Lockheed Martin on April 4, 2017, announced the CH-53K King Stallion program successfully passed its Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) review and achieved a Milestone C decision that enables Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) funding.

U.S. Marines established the King Stallion's capability during initial operational assessment in October 2016
U.S. Marines established the King Stallion’s capability during initial operational assessment in October 2016

«This affirmative Milestone C decision validates the maturity and the robust capability of the King Stallion in meeting the United States Marine Corps mission requirements», said Doctor Michael Torok, Sikorsky vice president, CH-53K King Stallion Programs. «This establishes the CH-53K King Stallion as a production program and marks another critical step toward our goal of delivering this tremendous capability to the USMC».

Numerous, successfully completed pre-requisites preceded the Milestone C decision. Supplier as well as prime contractor Production Readiness Reviews took place throughout 2016 to establish the program’s readiness to move into low rate initial production. Aircraft maturity was established well in advance with over 400 flight hours achieved, and the October 2016 initial Operational Assessment by the USMC fully established the ability of the CH-53K King Stallion to achieve critical mission flight and ground scenarios in the hands of active duty Marines. Overall, post evaluation interviews of aircrew, ground crew and flight surgeons revealed a high regard for the operational capability demonstrated by the CH-53K King Stallion.

«We have just successfully launched the production of the most powerful helicopter our nation has ever designed. This incredible positive step function in capability is going to revolutionize the way our nation conducts business in the battlespace by ensuring a substantial increase in logistical throughput into that battlespace. I could not be prouder of our government-contractor team for making this happen», said Colonel Hank Vanderborght, U.S. Marine Corps program manager for the Naval Air Systems Command’s Heavy Lift Helicopters program, PMA-261.

The CH-53K King Stallion provides unmatched heavy lift capability with three times the lift of the CH-53E Super Stallion that it replaces. With more than triple the payload capability and a 12-inch wider internal cabin compared to the predecessor, the CH-53K King Stallion’s increased payloads can range from multiple U.S. Air Force standard 463L pallets to an internally loaded High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) or a European Fennek armored personnel carrier, to up to three independent external loads at once. This provides extraordinary mission flexibility and system efficiency.

The CH-53K King Stallion also offers enhanced safety features for the warfighter, including full authority fly-by-wire flight controls and mission management that reduce pilot workload and enable the crew to focus on mission execution as the CH-53K King Stallion all but «flies itself». Other features include advanced stability augmentation, flight control modes that include attitude command-velocity hold, automated approach to a stabilized hover, position hold and precision tasks in degraded visual environments, and tactile cueing that all permit the pilot to focus confidently on the mission at hand.

Further, the CH-53K King Stallion has improved reliability and maintainability that exceeds 89% mission reliability with a smaller shipboard logistics footprint than the legacy CH-53E Super Stallion.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Program of Record remains at 200 CH-53K King Stallion aircraft. The first six of the 200 are under contract and scheduled to start delivery next year to the USMC. Two additional aircraft, the first LRIP aircraft, are under long lead procurement for parts and materials, with deliveries scheduled to start in 2020. The Marine Corps intends to stand up eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements.

 

General Characteristics

Number of Engines 3
Engine Type T408-GE-400
T408 Engine 7,500 shp/5,595 kw
Maximum Gross Weight (Internal Load) 74,000 lbs/33,566 kg
Maximum Gross Weight (External Load) 88,000 lbs/39,916 kg
Cruise Speed 141 knots/162 mph/261 km/h
Range 460 NM/530 miles/852 km
AEO* Service Ceiling 14,380 feet/4,383 m
HIGE** Ceiling (MAGW) 13,630 feet/4,155 m
HOGE*** Ceiling (MAGW) 10,080 feet/3,073 m
Cabin Length 30 feet/9.1 m
Cabin Width 9 feet/2.7 m
Cabin Height 6.5 feet/2.0 m
Cabin Area 264.47 feet2/24.57 m2
Cabin Volume 1,735.36 feet3/49.14 m3

* All Engines Operating

** Hover Ceiling In Ground Effect

*** Hover Ceiling Out of Ground Effect

 

F-35 Lightning II simulator

A world-leading flight engineering simulator created by BAE Systems is ready to be «flown» by F-35 Lightning II pilots for the first time as they prepare for flight trials on the UK’s new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier next year.

Pilots begin flights in new F-35 Lightning II simulator in preparation for trials on carrier
Pilots begin flights in new F-35 Lightning II simulator in preparation for trials on carrier

The refurbished simulator will test pilots’ skills to the limits as they practice landing on the deck of the new aircraft carrier in a range of difficult sea and weather conditions provided by the simulator.

The bespoke £2M simulator facility offers a 360-degree immersive experience for pilots to fly the jet to and from the UK carrier. It comprises a cockpit moved by an electronic motion platform and a full representation of the ship’s Flying Control Tower (FLYCO), where a Landing Signal Officer on board the carrier will control aviation operations.

The 360-degree view for pilots is vital as potential obstacles on an aircraft carrier are often behind the pilots as they land. Over the coming months, the simulator will be used by UK and U.S. military test pilots who have experience of flying F-35s on U.S. carriers.

The pilots will practice thousands of ski jump short take-offs and vertical landings that use both the vertical thrust from the jet engine and aerodynamic lift from the wings, allowing the aircraft to take-off and land on the carrier with increased weapon and fuel loads compared to predecessor aircraft.

Peter ‘Wizzer’ Wilson, BAE Systems’ test pilot for the short take-off and vertical landing variant on the F-35 Lightning II programme, said the simulator trials will provide engineers with the data to begin flight trials on HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), the First of Class aircraft carrier in 2018.

He said: «The immersive experience is as near to the real thing as possible. The data will show us exactly what will happen when F-35 Lightning II pilots fly to and from the Queen Elizabeth carriers. The trials we can run through the simulator are far more extensive than what we will do in the actual flight trials because we can run and re-run each trial until we have all the data we need. The simulator provides greater cost efficiency for the overall programme and is extremely important to the success of the first flight trials».

Over the last 15 years, BAE Systems’ flight simulation has been used to support the design and development of the interface between the F-35 Lightning II and the UK’s next generation of aircraft carriers.

The new simulator replaces a previous version which was first built in the 1980s to develop technology for the Harrier jump-jet and the Hawk advanced jet trainer before being converted for F-35 Lightning II.

VX-1 Pioneers

The Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 1 Pioneers recently returned from a detachment at Naval Base Ventura County in Point Mugu, California, where they successfully conducted two ATM-84 Harpoon live fire missile events in the P-8A Poseidon aircraft.

Sailors from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 1 at NAS Patuxent River prepare to conduct an ATM-84 Harpoon live fire missile event in a P-8A Poseidon aircraft at Naval Base Ventura County in Point Mugu, California
Sailors from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 1 at NAS Patuxent River prepare to conduct an ATM-84 Harpoon live fire missile event in a P-8A Poseidon aircraft at Naval Base Ventura County in Point Mugu, California

The detachment was the culmination of testing, training, and data collection for the P-8A Operational Test Team performing follow-on operational test and evaluation. The successful events were a direct result of the hard work of the VX-1 aircrew, maintenance and ordnance team.

«The whole process from the simulator and captive carry events in Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, to ferrying the aircraft across the country with ATM-84s and completing the shots on the Sea Range, was an incredible combined effort from maintenance, the aircrew and the U.S. Navy Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Range Support team», said Lieutenant Michael Reynders, VX-1 project officer.

Prior to the live fire events, multiple captive carry events were flown out of Pax River, resulting in 26 missile uploads and downloads to the aircraft. The dry run events provided a way to ensure ordnance hardware and aircraft software were synchronized.

Despite complications from critical ground support equipment and the missiles themselves, the ordinance team skillfully overcame obstacles presented to them and quickly adapted.

«The Aviation Ordnanceman (AO) detachment worked together and overcame these obstacles and executed our mission flawlessly», said AO3 Cornelius Knox, from Thousand Oaks, California. The exceptional work conducted by the ordnance team supported smooth execution of all flight events.

The successful test provides new capabilities for the fleet to employ Harpoon from the P-8A Poseidon.

Atlantic Resolve

Four of the Army’s most lethal attack helicopters from Fort Bliss, Texas, arrived at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Wednesday, February 22, 2017, in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Four Apache helicopters were transported and downloaded from two C-5M Galaxy airplanes at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, February 22. The Apache helicopters came to Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve as part of the United States' commitment to the security of Europe (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Tamika Dillard)
Four Apache helicopters were transported and downloaded from two C-5M Galaxy airplanes at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, February 22. The Apache helicopters came to Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve as part of the United States’ commitment to the security of Europe (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Tamika Dillard)

The Apache AH-64 were transported there in the bellies of two U.S. Air Force C-5M Galaxy aircraft.

«We must be able to rapidly deploy a unit at a moment’s notice to deter any potential aggressions in today’s ever-changing environment», said Brigadier General Phillip S. Jolly, U.S. Army Europe’s deputy commanding general for Mobilization and Reserve Affairs.

After transport, it takes just a short amount of time to get the helicopters mission-capable again, according to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Courtney Roundtree, the production control officer for 1st Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment.

«From the time the helicopters are downloaded from the aircraft to the time they take flight is anywhere between 24 to 48 hours», Roundtree said. «We first have to make sure that the aircraft’s blades are airworthy and that the operations systems are running properly».

Once the crews receive the green light, they will fly the helicopters to their headquarters in Illesheim, Germany. In the coming weeks, more helicopters and aviation assets will arrive through three seaports and two airports located throughout the region.

Over the next nine months, the 1st Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st Armored Division will augment the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, from Fort Drum, New York, in support of OAR missions.

Missions will include medical transport, exercise support and aviation operations throughout Europe, particularly in Romania, Latvia and Poland.

«Today’s operations demonstrated the strength of our military forces», Jolly said. «We have the world’s greatest forces enabling U.S. Army Europe to do their mission, which is to assure security to our European allies and friends».

U.S. Army Europe is uniquely positioned in its 51-country area of responsibility to advance American strategic interests in Europe and Eurasia. The relationships we build during more than 1,000 theater security cooperation events in more than 40 countries each year lead directly to support for multinational contingency operations around the world, strengthen regional partnerships and enhance global security.

An AH-64 Apache helicopter is unloaded from a C-5M Galaxy airplane at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, February 22 in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve (Photo Credit: SSG Tamika Dillard, U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs)
An AH-64 Apache helicopter is unloaded from a C-5M Galaxy airplane at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, February 22 in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve (Photo Credit: SSG Tamika Dillard, U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs)

Wind Tunnel Tests

Supersonic passenger airplanes are another step closer to reality as NASA and Lockheed Martin begin the first high-speed wind tunnel tests for the Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) X-plane preliminary design at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

Mechanical technician Dan Pitts prepares the model for wind tunnel testing (Credit: NASA)
Mechanical technician Dan Pitts prepares the model for wind tunnel testing (Credit: NASA)

The agency is testing a nine percent scale model of Lockheed Martin’s X-plane design in Glenn’s 8’ × 6’ Supersonic Wind Tunnel. During the next eight weeks, engineers will expose the model to wind speeds ranging from approximately 150 to 950 mph/241 to 1,529 km/h (Mach 0.3 to Mach 1.6) to understand the aerodynamics of the X-plane design as well as aspects of the propulsion system. NASA expects the QueSST X-plane to pave the way for supersonic flight over land in the not too distant future.

«We’ll be measuring the lift, drag and side forces on the model at different angles to verify that it performs as expected», said aerospace engineer Ray Castner, who leads propulsion testing for NASA’s QueSST effort. «We also want make sure the air flows smoothly into the engine under all operating conditions».

The Glenn wind tunnel is uniquely suited for the test because of its size and ability to create a wide range of wind speeds.

«We need to see how the design performs from just after takeoff, up to cruising at supersonic speed, back to the start of the landing approach», said David Stark, the facility manager. «The 8’ × 6’ supersonic wind tunnel allows us to test that sweet spot range of speeds all in one wind tunnel».

Recent research has shown it is possible for a supersonic airplane to be shaped in such a way that the shock waves it forms when flying faster than the speed of sound can generate a sound at ground level so quiet it will hardly will be noticed by the public, if at all.

«Our unique aircraft design is shaped to separate the shocks and expansions associated with supersonic flight, dramatically reducing the aircraft’s loudness», said Peter Iosifidis, QueSST program manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. «Our design reduces the airplane’s noise signature to more of a ‘heartbeat’ instead of the traditional sonic boom that’s associated with current supersonic aircraft in flight today».

According to Dave Richwine, NASA’s QueSST preliminary design project manager, «This test is an important step along the path to the development of an X-plane that will be a key capability for the collection of community response data required to change the rules for supersonic overland flight».

NASA awarded Lockheed Martin a contract in February 2016 for the preliminary design of a supersonic X-plane flight demonstrator. This design phase has matured the details of the aircraft shape, performance and flight systems. Wind tunnel testing and analysis is expected to continue until mid-2017. Assuming funding is approved, the agency expects to compete and award another contract for the final design, fabrication, and testing of the low-boom flight demonstration aircraft.

The QueSST design is one of a series of X-planes envisioned in NASA’s New Aviation Horizons (NAH) initiative, which aims to reduce fuel use, emissions and noise through innovations in aircraft design that depart from the conventional tube-and-wing aircraft shape. The design and build phases for the NAH aircraft will be staggered over several years with the low boom flight demonstrator starting its flight campaign around 2020, with other NAH X-planes following in subsequent years, depending on funding.

Augmentation System

Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals are critical tools for industries requiring exact precision and high confidence. Now, Geoscience Australia, an agency of the Commonwealth of Australia, and Lockheed Martin have entered into a collaborative research project to show how augmenting signals from multiple GNSS constellations can enhance positioning, navigation, and timing for a range of applications.

Second-Generation Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS)
Second-Generation Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS)

This innovative research project aims to demonstrate how a second-generation Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) testbed can – for the first time – use signals from both the Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Galileo constellation, and dual frequencies, to achieve even greater GNSS integrity and accuracy. Over two years, the testbed will validate applications in nine industry sectors: agriculture, aviation, construction, maritime, mining, rail, road, spatial, and utilities.

«Many industries rely on GNSS signals for accurate, safe navigation. Users must be confident in the position solutions calculated by GNSS receivers. The term ‘integrity’ defines the confidence in the position solutions provided by GNSS», explained Lockheed Martin Australia and New Zealand Chief Executive Vince Di Pietro. «Industries where safety-of-life navigation is crucial want assured GNSS integrity».

Ultimately, the second-generation SBAS testbed will broaden understanding of how this technology can benefit safety, productivity, efficiency and innovation in Australia’s industrial and research sectors.

«We are excited to have an opportunity to work with Geoscience Australia and Australian industry to demonstrate the best possible GNSS performance and proud that Australia will be leading the way to enhance space-based navigation and industry safety», Di Pietro added.

Basic GNSS signals are accurate enough for many civil positioning, navigation and timing users. However, these signals require augmentation to meet higher safety-of-life navigation requirements. The second-generation SBAS will mitigate that issue.

Once the SBAS testbed is operational, basic GNSS signals will be monitored by widely-distributed reference stations operated by Geoscience Australia. An SBAS testbed master station, installed by teammate GMV, of Spain, will collect that reference station data, compute corrections and integrity bounds for each GNSS satellite signal, and generate augmentation messages.

«A Lockheed Martin uplink antenna at Uralla, New South Wales will send these augmentation messages to an SBAS payload hosted aboard a geostationary Earth orbit satellite, owned by Inmarsat», explains Rod Drury, Director, International Strategy and Business Development for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. «This satellite rebroadcasts the augmentation messages containing corrections and integrity data to the end users. The whole process takes less than six seconds».

By augmenting signals from multiple GNSS constellations – both Galileo and GPS – second-generation SBAS is not dependent on just one GNSS. It will also use signals on two frequencies – the L1 and L5 GPS signals, and their companion E1 and E5a Galileo signals – to provide integrity data and enhanced accuracy for industries that need it the most.

Partners in this collaborative research project include the government of Australia. Lockheed Martin will provide systems integration expertise in addition to the Uralla radio frequency uplink. GMV-Spain will provide their ‘magicGNSS’ processors. Inmarsat will provide the navigation payload hosted on the 4F1 geostationary satellite. The Australia and New Zealand Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information will coordinate the demonstrator projects that test the SBAS infrastructure.

Lockheed Martin has significant experience with space-based navigation systems. The company developed and produced 20 GPS IIR and IIR-M satellites. It also maintains the GPS Architecture Evolution Plan ground control system, which operates the entire 31-satellite constellation.

First Flight

Northrop Grumman Corporation, in partnership with the U.S. Army Prototype Integration Facility and prime contractor Redstone Defense Systems, has successfully completed the first flight of the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.

The UH-60V Black Hawk flew for the first time on January 19 in Huntsville, Alabama
The UH-60V Black Hawk flew for the first time on January 19 in Huntsville, Alabama

Northrop Grumman provided the Integrated Avionics Suite for the UH-60V, which upgrades the U.S. Army’s UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters with a digital cockpit, under a contract awarded in 2014. The scalable, fully integrated and open architecture-based cockpit design replaces older analog gauges with digital electronic instrument displays in the upgraded aircraft. The UH-60V features one of the Army’s most advanced avionics solutions, enabling the complex missions of the army aviation warfighter.

On January 19, the UH-60V Black Hawk successfully flew for the first time with this digitized cockpit in Huntsville. This important milestone was the culmination of a cockpit design and development effort that was completed on schedule within 29 months of the original contract award. The team’s accomplishment achieves the specific timeline set by Army leadership over two years prior to the first flight.

«This UH-60V first flight accomplishment reaffirms our open, safe and secure cockpit solutions that will enable the most advanced capabilities for warfighters», said Ike Song, vice president, mission solutions, Northrop Grumman. «We remain committed to delivering an affordable, low-risk solution that provides long-term value and flexibility to customers».

The UH-60V digital cockpit solution is aligned with the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) standard and supports integration of off-the-shelf hardware and software, enabling rapid insertion of capabilities in multiple avionics platforms while reducing cost and risk for system integration and upgrades. The open architecture approach provides greater flexibility and enables upgrades to be done with or without the original equipment manufacturer’s involvement.

The UH-60V meets the standards for safety-critical software development and is designed to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency’s Global Air Traffic Management requirements, enabling the system to traverse military and civilian airspace worldwide. It is also certifiable and compliant with safety-critical avionics standards such as DO-178C.

The UH-60V Black Hawk program will modernize the Army’s fleet of UH‑60L helicopters through cost-effective cockpit upgrades. The new system is nearly identical to the UH‑60M pilot-vehicle interface, providing common training and operational employment.

The pilot and crew prepare for an initial test flight of the UH-60V Black Hawk, which successfully flew for the first time on January 19 in Huntsville, Alabama. Northrop Grumman delivered the Integrated Avionics Suite for the UH-60V, which is designed to update existing UH-60L analog gauges with digital electronic instrument displays
The pilot and crew prepare for an initial test flight of the UH-60V Black Hawk, which successfully flew for the first time on January 19 in Huntsville, Alabama. Northrop Grumman delivered the Integrated Avionics Suite for the UH-60V, which is designed to update existing UH-60L analog gauges with digital electronic instrument displays

Communications ball

While it may resemble a giant beach ball, the inflatable Ground Antenna Transmit and Receive (GATR) ball is actually the Army’s latest piece of satellite communications equipment. The technology is so new that the 369th Sustainment Brigade’s GATR ball has a serial number in the single digits.

Signal Soldiers of the 369th Sustainment Brigade practice aligning a Ground Antenna Transmit and Receive (GATR) Ball at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait on January 10, 2017. The GATR Ball is a portable satellite communications system that can be deployed to remote areas in a relatively short amount of time (Photo Credit: Sergeant Jeremy Bratt)
Signal Soldiers of the 369th Sustainment Brigade practice aligning a Ground Antenna Transmit and Receive (GATR) Ball at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait on January 10, 2017. The GATR Ball is a portable satellite communications system that can be deployed to remote areas in a relatively short amount of time (Photo Credit: Sergeant Jeremy Bratt)

Designed to be lighter and more compact than traditional, rigid satellite dishes, the GATR ball can be broken down into just a few cases and hand carried anywhere in the world. The self-contained system can then be inflated and set up in less than two hours, ready to provide a variety of communication services.

«The portability of the GATR system is its key feature», explained Sergeant First Class Brian Horne, the information assurance supervisor for the 369th Sustainment Brigade (SB). «It can be set up and operated by a crew of three just about anywhere».

The mobile nature of the system is not the GATR ball’s only advantage. The system also provides a larger bandwidth capacity, compared to comparable older systems. With more bandwidth, operators can send more data.

In January, signal Soldiers from the 369th SB and other units were trained on the technology, receiving a combination of classroom learning on topics like the electromagnetic spectrum and signal polarization, and hands-on instruction on assembling and disassembling the system.

Sergeant Moises Orta-Castillo, a multichannel transmission systems operator/maintainer for the 369th SB, called the system simple to use and praised its capabilities. «The GATR Ball is capable of more data transfer in a smaller package compared to the traditional satellite systems», he said.

The availability of an advanced, highly mobile, easy-to-use communication system like the GATR ball allows sustainment units to rapidly deploy forces to new locations in order to supply supported forward elements.

With effective voice and data communication, commanders can remain in contact with their subordinate elements or units when they are geographically separated from the main command post.

«For the sustainment community, this means that there will only be a small lag time between when supported units become aware of a requirement and when the supporting units can begin satisfying that requirement», said Major John McBride, the signal officer of the 369th SB.

The bottom line, according to McBride, is that the system will help sustainers meet demands sooner than if they were relying on traditional communication assets.

Acceptance testing

Raytheon completed factory acceptance testing of the flight operations system for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). With seven times the light-collecting power of its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, this next-generation telescope will gather data and images of dust clouds, stars and galaxies deeper into space.

The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST or Webb) will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror
The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST or Webb) will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror

Over 800 requirements were successfully verified on the JWST ground control system during the testing conducted at Raytheon’s Aurora, Colorado, facility, bringing NASA’s next space observatory one step closer to the scheduled 2018 launch.

«The JWST flight operations system is our latest generation of mission management and command and control capabilities for satellite operations», said Matt Gilligan, vice president of Raytheon Navigation and Environmental Solutions. «Our ground control system will download data from space and fly the telescope as it penetrates through cosmic dust to unlock the universe’s secrets like never before».

JWST takes observations in the infrared spectrum to penetrate cosmic dust to reveal the universe’s first galaxies, while observing newly forming planetary systems. JWST is expected to make observations for five years, will carry enough fuel for 10 years, and is designed to withstand impacts of space debris as it orbits far beyond the Earth’s Moon.

Raytheon installed the ground control system for JWST on the campus of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, under contract to the Space Telescope Science Institute.

 

Vital Facts

Proposed Launch Date JWST will be launched in October 2018
Launch Vehicle Ariane 5 ECA
Mission Duration 5 – 10 years
Total payload mass Approximately 6,200 kg/13,669 lbs, including observatory, on-orbit consumables and launch vehicle adaptor
Diameter of primary Mirror ~6.5 m/21.3 feet
Clear aperture of primary Mirror 25 m2/269 square feet
Primary mirror material beryllium coated with gold
Mass of primary mirror 705 kg/1,554 lbs
Mass of a single primary mirror segment 20.1 kg/44.3 lbs for a single beryllium mirror, 39.48 kg/87 lbs for one entire Primary Mirror Segment Assembly (PMSA)
Focal length 131.4 m/431.1 feet
Number of primary mirror segments 18
Optical resolution ~0.1 arc-seconds
Wavelength coverage 0.6 – 28.5 microns
Size of sun shield 21.197 × 14.162 m/69.5 × 46.5 feet
Orbit 1.5 million km from Earth orbiting the second Lagrange point
Operating Temperature under 50 K/-370 °F
Gold coating Thickness of gold coating = 100 × 10-9 meters (1000 angstroms). Surface area = 25 m2. Using these numbers plus the density of gold at room temperature (19.3 g/cm3), the coating is calculated to use 48.25 g of gold, about equal to a golf ball (A golf ball has a mass of 45.9 grams)