Category Archives: Space

OneSat

Airbus Defence and Space has won a contract for a fully reconfigurable telecommunications satellite from Australia’s second largest telecommunications company and leading satellite operator Optus. The satellite will be based on Airbus’ new standard OneSat product line and is Airbus’ first contract from the Australian operator.

Airbus signs contract with Optus for OneSat

Airbus will deliver an end-to-end solution, including design and manufacture of the Optus 11 spacecraft, as well as an advanced digital suite to manage the digital payload and operate the end-to-end satellite resources, providing Optus with a turnkey system and the ability to add hosted payloads such as SBAS.

What sets Optus 11 apart is its ability to adjust its coverage, capacity and frequency, through on board processing and active antennas with beam forming capability. It will deliver power and bandwidth dynamically to strengthen capacity and resilience of Optus fleet and enable Optus to configure and adapt the payload mission to end-user needs, taking advantage of the latest innovations in payload and resource management.

Optus 11 will deliver a combination of broadcast and broadband VHTS missions in Ku band over Australia and New Zealand, to improve Direct to Home broadcasting over the Australasia region, increase reach in the Antarctic and Pacific zones and support growth into mobile markets, helping eliminate connectivity black spots through the Australian Government’s Mobile Black Spot programme.

Airbus’ Head of Space Systems, Jean-Marc Nasr said: «We are grateful to Optus for their trust in Airbus in a region where we have ambitions to work with local industry to support space technology development in both the civil and defence sectors. OneSat is a truly disruptive product, both from a manufacturing, and operational point of view, and gives customers the flexibility they need to serve their markets. This contract from Australia’s leading satellite operator, Optus, is a ringing endorsement that our R&D strategy in developing innovative products is the right one. OneSat’s high flexibility, very compact design and accelerated production should see the satellite in orbit for Optus in 2023».

Airbus’ ‘ready-made’ OneSat satellite builds on the company’s heritage from its highly reliable Eurostar telecommunications satellites, which have clocked up more than 800 years of successful operation in orbit.

This order further strenghtens Airbus’ leadership in new generation reconfigurable telecommunications satellites and enables Optus with the option to add additional spacecraft in the near future.

The investments made by Airbus and its partners in very innovative OneSat developments are supported by the European Space Agency and national agencies, in particular the UK and French space agencies.

Radiation-Hardened
Radios

BAE Systems has delivered its first shipment of next-generation radiation-hardened software defined radios (SDR) enabled by its RAD5545 computer to Lockheed Martin Space. The radios provide spacecraft with the performance, availability, reliability and on-board signals processing capacity needed to support future space missions – from planetary exploration to communications, national security, surveillance, and weather missions.

RAD5545 software defined radios are on their way to Lockheed Martin to support future space missions

«Our RAD5545 software defined radios are ideal for any mission requiring reconfigurable radio processing», said Ricardo Gonzalez, director of Space Systems at BAE Systems. «The radios can be easily modified to address various reconfigurable processing solutions».

BAE Systems’ software defined radio is anchored by the RAD5545 Single Board Computer (SBC), providing the most advanced radiation-hardened quad core general purpose processing solution available today to address future threats on a variety of missions. The system leverages modular and standard building blocks including a SpaceVPX chassis and backplane electrical connectors, Serial RapidIO and Spacewire interfaces, and a fully supported expansion port for a custom interface card.

Adhering to industry standards, this flexible and adaptable architecture supports reconfiguration for other missions by simply swapping out SpaceVPX modules, a highly desirable feature in today’s space hardware.

BAE Systems’ next-generation software defined radios, centered around the RAD5545 computer, represent a significant advance in high reliability reconfigurable electronics systems. Increased processing power, and a radiation-hardened design combine for a product line that can enable increased mission flexibility.

The RAD5545 SBC delivers exponential improvements in size, speed, and power efficiency over its predecessor single board computers. BAE Systems also offers a suite of radiation-hardened Serial RapidIO network products that complement the RAD5545 SBC and allow the user to efficiently manage and route data through a system. Products include the RADNET 1848-PS, an 18-Port RapidIO Packet Switch, the RADNET 1616-XP Crosspoint, a protocol agnostic SerDes signal circuit switch and replicator, and the RADNET SRIO-EP, a Serial RapidIO endpoint.

The RAD5545 SDR was developed at BAE Systems’ sites in Merrimack, NH, and Manassas, VA, and is produced in Manassas.

On Its Own Power

After a successful launch this afternoon, June 30, 2020, the third Lockheed Martin-built GPS III satellite is now headed to orbit under its own propulsion. The satellite has separated from its rocket and is using onboard power to climb to its operational orbit, approximately 12,550 miles above the Earth.

Lockheed Martin’s GPS III Space Vehicle 03, launched on June 30, 2020, as it appeared in the company’s cleanroom GPS III Processing Facility

GPS III Space Vehicle 03 (GPS III SV03) is responding to commands from U.S. Space Force and Lockheed Martin engineers in the Launch & Checkout Center at the company’s Denver facility. There, they declared rocket booster separation and satellite control about 90 minutes after the satellite’s 4:10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

«In the coming days, GPS III SV03’s onboard liquid apogee engines will continue to propel the satellite towards its operational orbit», said Tonya Ladwig, Lockheed Martin’s Acting Vice President for Navigation Systems. «Once it arrives, we’ll send the satellite commands to deploy its solar arrays and antennas, and prepare the satellite for handover to Space Operations Command».

After on-orbit testing, GPS III SV03 is expected to join the GPS constellation – including GPS III SV01 and SV02, which were declared operational in January and April – in providing positioning, navigation and timing signals for more than four billion military, civil and commercial users.

Lockheed Martin designed GPS III to help the Space Force modernize the GPS constellation with new technology and capabilities. The new GPS IIIs provide three times better accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities over any previous GPS satellite. They also offer a new L1C civil signal, which is compatible with other international global navigation satellite systems, like Europe’s Galileo, to improve civilian user connectivity.

GPS III also continues the Space Force’s plan to field M-Code, a more-secure, harder-to-jam and spoof GPS signal for our military forces. GPS III SV03 brings the number of M-Code enabled satellites to 22 in the 31-satellite GPS constellation.

«As a nation, we use GPS signals every day – they time-stamp all our financial transactions, they make aviation safe, they make precision farming possible, and so much more. GPS has become a critical part of our national infrastructure. In fact, the U.S. economic benefit of GPS is estimated to be over $300 billion per year and $1.4 trillion since its inception», added Ladwig. «Continued investment in modernizing GPS – updating technology, improving its capabilities – is well worth it».

Lockheed Martin is proud to be a part of the GPS III team led by the Space Production Corps Medium Earth Orbit Division, at the Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base. The GPS Operational Control Segment sustainment is managed by the Enterprise Corps, GPS Sustainment Division at Peterson Air Force Base. The 2nd Space Operations Squadron, at Schriever Air Force Base, manages and operates the GPS constellation for both civil and military users.

Thermal Vacuum Testing

The world’s most advanced missile defense satellite recently and successfully came out of almost two months of harsh simulated space environmental testing.

Lockheed Martin’s SBIRS GEO-5 satellite, the first military space satellite built on a modernized LM 2100 bus, recently completed Thermal Vacuum (TVAC) environmental testing

On June 9, the U.S. Space Force’s fifth Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite (SBIRS GEO-5) successfully completed Thermal Vacuum (TVAC) testing at Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale, California satellite manufacturing facility.

Completing TVAC was a significant milestone for the first military space satellite to be built on one of Lockheed Martin’s modernized LM 2100 satellite buses. During TVAC testing, the satellite – with its sophisticated electronics performing full operations – faced waves of heat and cold in a depressurized atmosphere similar to the drastic environmental changes experienced in space.

«The completion of TVAC can be attributed to a tremendous effort from the Air Force, Lockheed Martin, Aerospace Corporation, and supporting contractor teams», said Tucker White, SBIRS GEO-5 Assembly, Test, and Launch Operations Lead from the Government Program Office. «The teams worked around the clock and finished on schedule to their original projection. This test phase is vital to any space vehicle test regime and takes GEO-5 one step closer to providing enhanced missile detection to our warfighters».

SBIRS GEO-5 will join the Space Force’s constellation of missile warning satellites equipped, with powerful scanning and staring infrared surveillance sensors, which protect our nation 24-7. These sensors collect data that allow the U.S. military to detect missile launches, support ballistic missile defense, expand technical intelligence gathering and bolster situational awareness on the battlefield.

«In SBIRS GEO-5, and our next satellite GEO-6, we’re introducing game-changing enhancements to address the needs of our nation’s space warfighting force going forward», said Tom McCormick, Vice President for Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) Missions at Lockheed Martin Space. «The threat posed by ballistic missile technology continues to spread exponentially around the world. In 2019, SBIRS detected nearly a thousand missile launches globally, which is about a two-fold increase in two years».

 

No «Ordinary» Missile Defense Satellite

SBIRS GEO-5 is the first of two new SBIRS missile defense satellites and the fourth satellite built on Lockheed Martin’s new, modernized LM 2100 satellite bus. A major investment by Lockheed Martin, the LM 2100 purposefully focuses on increasing production speed, reducing costs, adding resiliency and building in more mission flexibility. The LM 2100:

  • Drives efficiency and cost savings into satellite design and production by leveraging common components, processes and production practices across the entire satellite production line.
  • Features 26 improvements that add more power and flexibility to the company’s proven A2100 satellite platform.
  • Increases satellite resiliency, eliminates older components and utilizes modern electronics to add new capability and increase reliability.
  • Offers a configurable payload module that provides more flexibility for military missions, accommodating mass, power, propellant and volume.
  • Allows easy implementation of additional modernized sensor suites and mission payloads thru its modular design.

«As we build more military LM 2100 satellites, we gain schedule efficiencies both from suppliers and the ability to enable concurrent bus and payload testing, which shortens the single line manufacturing flow», McCormick explained.

LM 2100 is currently slated to be the baseline bus of SBIRS GEO-5, and SBIRS GEO-6, expected to be launched in 2021 and 2022 respectively; three next Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared System (Next Gen OPIR) Block 0 GEO satellites expecting to launch starting in 2025; and the future GPS III Follow On (GPS IIIF) satellites, which are expected to launch starting in 2026.

 

Upgraded SBIRS Ground

The sophisticated SBIRS ground control system has had significant upgrades. SBIRS receives and processes large amounts of data from the global coverage of the satellites’ powerful sensors and converts this data into actionable reports for defense, intelligence and civil applications.

In August 2019, the U.S. Air Force operationally accepted Lockheed Martin’s Block 20 upgrade to the SBIRS ground control system, which improves its overall performance allowing better mission planning and processing for the full constellation, as well as enhanced cyber security defenses.

The upgrade also formally completed SBIRS’ Engineering & Manufacturing Development (EMD) Phase. This let the Air Force transition their focus to SBIRS’ operations and sustainment, as well as further enhanced capabilities that will be offered by the Next Gen OPIR system, and the Future Operational Resilient Ground Evolution (FORGE) ground system.

The SBIRS development team is led by the Production Corps, Geosynchronous Earth Orbit Division, at the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California. Lockheed Martin Space, Sunnyvale, California, is the SBIRS prime contractor, with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Azusa, California, as the payload integrator.

One step closer

Raytheon Intelligence & Space (RI&S), a Raytheon Technologies business, will build two prototype sensor payloads for DARPA’s Blackjack program, under a $37M contract. Blackjack is a low Earth orbit satellite constellation program that aims to develop and demonstrate the critical elements for persistent global coverage against a range of advanced threats. It seeks to track multiple threats simultaneously for faster and earlier warning for national security.

Constellation of low earth orbit sensors to be delivered to DARPA

«Constellations offer built-in resiliency – strength in numbers», said Wallis Laughrey, Space & Command and Control communication (C2) Systems lead for Raytheon Intelligence & Space. «The entire network of satellites can continue to operate uninterrupted, even if one drops off».

RI&S is reducing integration timelines for rapid deployment, having completed Blackjack’s preliminary design review in October 2019. During preliminary design review, RI&S engaged with major subcontractors to confirm costs and ensure the team would be ready to go to production. The company is leveraging its advanced manufacturing capabilities, fast-production and commercial space programs to deliver the two sensors.

«Blackjack is innovative in its simplicity», said Laughrey. «We’ve incorporated mature tech like advanced algorithms and optics that allow us to go fast, but from day one, our primary design driver was manufacturing for cost».

RI&S’ Blackjack production will support the team for the constellation’s autonomous mission management system, Pit Boss. Pit Boss interconnects all of the data from the Blackjack satellite constellation, acting as the collection and processing hub to deliver data to the right person at the right time.

The RI&S contract goes through critical design review and support to the systems integrator for integration with Pit Boss and the space vehicle. It also includes launch campaign support and the on-orbit demonstration. Following Critical Design Review (CDR) in November 2020, DARPA has the option to order an additional eight or 18 sensor payloads.

NASA Gateway

Northrop Grumman Corporation has been awarded a contract by NASA to execute the preliminary design and development of the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO). It is to be deployed in lunar orbit as the first crew module of the NASA Gateway, a space station orbiting the moon providing vital support for long-term human exploration of the lunar surface and deep space. This award is a follow-on to the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships 2 (NextSTEP-2) Appendix A contract. A subsequent modification will be definitized for the fabrication, assembly, and delivery of the HALO module.

Northrop Grumman Awarded NASA Contract to Provide First Crew Module for Artemis Program Gateway

The HALO design is derived from Northrop Grumman’s highly successful Cygnus spacecraft, a human-capable vehicle that delivers supplies, spare equipment and scientific experiments to the International Space Station with 13 successful missions to date.

«The success of our Cygnus spacecraft and its active production line helps to enable Northrop Grumman to deliver the HALO module», said Steve Krein, vice president, civil and commercial satellites, Northrop Grumman. «HALO is an essential element in NASA’s long-term exploration of deep-space, and our HALO program team will continue its work in building and delivering this module in partnership with NASA».

Building off of Cygnus’ heritage pressurized cargo module, Northrop Grumman added command and control capabilities, including environmental control and life support systems, which, when coupled with NASA’s Orion spacecraft capabilities, can sustain up to four astronauts for up to 30 days as they embark on, and return from, expeditions to the lunar surface. By leveraging the active Cygnus production line, Northrop Grumman has the unique capability of providing an affordable and reliable HALO module in the timeframe needed to support NASA’s Artemis program.

The HALO module represents a critical component of NASA’s Gateway serving as both a crew habitat and docking hub for cislunar spacecraft, or spacecraft that navigate between the Earth and the moon. HALO will feature three docking ports for visiting spacecraft, including the Orion spacecraft and other lunar support vehicles.

From the first lunar lander to the space shuttle boosters, to supplying the International Space Station with vital cargo, Northrop Grumman has pioneered new products and ideas that have been put into orbit, on the moon, and in deep space for more than 50 years. As a part of NASA’s Artemis program, we are building on our mission heritage with new innovations to enable NASA to return humans to the moon, with the ultimate goal of human exploration of Mars.

Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.

Service Module

The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a contract with Airbus for the construction of the third European Service Module (ESM) for Orion, the American crewed spacecraft. The contract is worth around €250 million.

Airbus wins ESA contract to construct third European Service Module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft

By ordering this additional service module, ESA ensures the necessary continuity in NASA’s Artemis programme. The third European Service Module (Artemis III Mission) will be used to fly astronauts to Earth’s neighbour in space in 2024 – the first to land on the Moon since Apollo 17 following a hiatus of more than 50 years.

«Our know-how and expertise will enable us to continue to facilitate future Moon missions through international partnerships», said Andreas Hammer, Head of Space Exloration at Airbus. «By working together with our customers ESA and NASA as well as our industrial partner Lockheed Martin, we now have a reliable planning basis for the first three lunar missions. This contract is an endorsement of the joint approach combining the best of European and American space technologies».

David Parker, ESA Director of Human and Robotic Exploration, said: «By entering into this agreement, we are again demonstrating that Europe is a strong and reliable partner in Artemis. The European Service Module represents a crucial contribution to this, allowing scientific research, development of key technologies and international cooperation – inspiring missions that expand humankind’s presence beyond Low Earth Orbit».

The first non-crewed Orion test flight with a European Service Module (Artemis I) will fly in 2021. It is as part of the following mission, Artemis II, that the first astronauts will then fly around the Moon and back to Earth.

The ESM will provide propulsion, power, air and water for the astronauts, as well as thermal control of NASA’s new spacecraft.

More than 20,000 parts and components are used in each ESM, from electrical equipment to engines, solar panels, fuel tanks and life support supplies for the astronauts, as well as approximately 12 kilometres/7.5 miles of cables. The first service module was delivered to NASA in November 2018 and has already been mated with the Crew Module. The fully integrated spacecraft already finished the thermal-vacuum testing at NASA’s facility in Ohio, USA, and returned to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, while the second service module is now being integrated and tested by Airbus in Bremen, with delivery set for the first half of 2021.

During the development and construction of the ESM, Airbus has drawn on its experience as prime contractor for ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which provided the crew on board the International Space Station with regular deliveries of test equipment, spare parts, food, air, water and fuel.

The ESM is cylindrical in shape and about four metres in diameter and height. It has four solar arrays (19 metres/62 feet across when unfurled) that generate enough energy to power two households. The service module’s 8.6 tonnes/18,960 lbs. of fuel can power one main engine and 32 smaller thrusters. The ESM weighs a total of just over 13 tonnes/28,660 lbs. In addition to its function as the main propulsion system for the Orion spacecraft, the ESM will be responsible for orbital manoeuvring and position control. It also provides the crew with the central elements of life support such as water and oxygen, and regulates thermal control while docked to the crew module.

Microwave Satellite

The United States Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center’s Weather System Follow-on – Microwave (WSF-M) program achieved two major milestones despite facing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A conceptional drawing of the Weather System Follow-on – Microwave (WSF-M) satellite (Graphic courtesy of Ball Aerospace)

First, the WSF-M system Critical Design Review completed in April, ensuring that the WSF-M system can meet stated performance requirements within cost, schedule and risk expectations; and is ready to proceed with fabrication, demonstration and test efforts. This multi-disciplined review was successfully conducted while adhering to the current requirements for physical distancing through the extensive use of electronic tools such as web hosted meetings, voice teleconferences and various secure data exchange tools.

Second, after completion of a thorough review of program progress and the supporting statutory and regulatory requirements, Doctor William B. Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics, granted Milestone B certification and WSF-M program approval on May 15. The certification formally baselines the program execution requirements, including the establishment of cost and schedule caps, that will govern the program through launch and handover of the capability to operations.

«I am fortunate to have a dedicated team committed to providing capability on time, no matter what the obstacle», said Lieutenant Colonel Wilfredo Ruiz, WSF-M program manager.

These accomplishments demonstrate SMC’s commitment in the face of challenges to rapidly deliver Space-Based Environmental Monitoring capabilities to the warfighter. The WSF-M program is executed by the SMC Production Corps, whose mission is to continue forging the future of space by delivering next generation capabilities to our warfighters and mission partners in front of the need. The Production Corps’ agile program management techniques, smart business approach and close teaming with industry and Department of Defense stakeholders are enabling the production of advanced space-based systems to enhance warfighting weather prediction and analysis capabilities.

WSF-M is the next generation of space based passive microwave sensing technology, and will provide U.S. and Allied warfighters with essential weather data including the measurement of ocean surface wind speed and direction; ice thickness; snow depth; soil moisture; and local spacecraft energetic charged particle environment. The ocean surface wind speed measurement enables tropical cyclone intensity determination by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. The data gathered by WSF-M will be provided to meteorologists in support of the generation of a wide variety of weather products necessary to conduct mission planning and operations globally every day.

The Space and Missile Systems Center is the U.S. Space Force’s center of excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. SMC’s portfolio includes space launch, global positioning, military space vehicle communications, defense meteorological space vehicles, range systems, space vehicle control networks, space-based infrared systems, and space situational awareness capabilities.

The sixth flight

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 501 rocket carrying the United States Space Force-7 (USSF-7) mission for the U.S. Space Force lifted off on May 17, 9:14 a.m. EDT, from Space Launch Complex-41. This marks the 84th successful launch of an Atlas V rocket, 139th launch for ULA, the second launch for the U.S. Space Force and the sixth flight of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-6).

United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches the Sixth Orbital Test Vehicle for the U.S. Space Force

«The success of this mission resulted from collaboration with our customer while working through challenging, and ever changing, health and safety conditions», said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. «We were honored to partner with the U.S. Space Force to dedicate this mission to first responders, front-line workers, and those affected by COVID-19. It is truly a unique time in our history and I want to thank the entire team for their continued dedication and focus on mission success».

Along with OTV-6, this mission deployed FalconSat-8, a small satellite developed by the U.S. Air Force Academy and sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to conduct experiments on orbit. The mission also carried two NASA experiments, including a material sample plate to determine the results of radiation and other space effects on various materials, and an experiment which will assess space effects on seeds used to grow food. Another experiment sponsored by the Naval Research Laboratory will examine the ability to transform solar power into radio frequency microwave energy which could be transmitted to the ground.

This mission launched aboard an Atlas V 501 configuration rocket that included a 5-meter-diameter payload fairing. The Atlas booster was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine, and the Centaur upper stage was powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 engine.

ULA’s next launch is NASA’s Mars 2020 mission carrying the Perseverance rover on an Atlas V rocket. The launch is scheduled for July 17 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

To date ULA has a track record of 100% mission success with 139 successful launches.

With more than a century of combined heritage, ULA is the world’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully launched more than 135 missions to orbit that provide Earth observation capabilities, enable global communications, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, and support life-saving technology.

Blackjack Program

In partnership with the U.S. Space Force and Space Development Agency, DARPA’s Blackjack program is targeting flights to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) later this year and 2021. Using a series of small risk reduction satellites, the program aims to demonstrate advanced technology for satellite constellation autonomy and space mesh networks. Blackjack seeks to develop and validate critical elements of global high-speed autonomous networks in LEO, proving a capability that could provide the Department of Defense with highly connected, resilient, and persistent overhead coverage.

Blackjack artist’s concept

The upcoming demonstration flights are all planned as rideshares, catching a ride to LEO on a launch with other missions. The first demonstration, Mandrake 1, is a cubesat that will carry supercomputer processing chips. Mandrake 2 is a pair of small satellites that will carry optical inter-satellite links for broadband data. These could form the basis of future optically meshed computer networks in LEO.

The program also is targeting a risk reduction payload called Wildcard, a software-defined radio that will experiment with links from LEO to tactical radios. A data fusion experiment with the ability to host advanced third party algorithms, known as massless payloads, is intended for an upcoming Loft Orbital mission.

«It’s important that we get the design right», says Paul «Rusty» Thomas, the program manager for Blackjack. «We focused first on buses and payloads, then the autonomous mission management system, which we call Pit Boss. We anticipate we’ll begin integrating the first two military payloads next summer with launch via rideshare in late 2021, followed by the remainder of the Blackjack demonstration sub-constellation in 2022».

Blackjack aims to demonstrate sensors that are low in size, weight, and power, and that can be mass produced to fit on many different buses from many different providers, for less than $2 million per payload.

The agency is evaluating buses from Airbus, Blue Canyon Technologies, and Telesat, all of which have progressed through preliminary design review. The final selection of buses will happen in 2020. The program recently completed preliminary design review for Pit Boss, selecting SEAKR as the primary performer for the on-orbit autonomy system. The agency also awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin as the satellite integrator.

Several sensor payloads are under consideration for the Blackjack demonstration sub-constellation, including Overhead Persistent InfraRed (OPIR) from Collins Aerospace and Raytheon; radio frequency systems from Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, Trident, and Systems & Technology Research; position, navigation, and timing from Northrop Grumman; optical inter-satellite links from SA Photonics; and electro-optical/infrared from L3Harris. The program also recently completed a Small Business Innovation Research contract with Augustus Aerospace to work on an Army Space and Missile Defense Command-related payload.

Over the next few months, the program will run simulations to test payloads in virtual constellations of all types of missions. The goal is to show interoperability between the commoditized buses and the various payloads being considered.

«We need to show the constellations can move the right amount of data and support the data fusion and command and control we want from Pit Boss», Thomas said. «From there, we will start building the actual hardware. By late next spring, we will have hardware and then spend next summer focused on satellite-level qualification for launch readiness in late 2021».