Category Archives: Space

Operations Center

The U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) and a consortium of tech firms led by Raytheon are modernizing and simplifying the legacy Space Defense Operations Center (SPADOC), a 1990s-era system that tracks and monitors space debris.

U.S. Air Force and Raytheon collaborate to modernize space command and control system
U.S. Air Force and Raytheon collaborate to modernize space command and control system

Dave Fuino, program director for Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services, said: «Within just a few months we brought together a team, developed the technology to modernize it, got it on contract and held a series of demos to prove it worked. We went from concept to proving the solution in less than a year, which is really remarkable».

The SPADOC system reached the end of its planned service life. The U.S. Air Force is planning to replace it with modern systems that will simplify operations and provide greater space situational awareness and collision avoidance capabilities. However, the new system won’t come online for several years.

«SPADOC provides critical space-tracking capabilities that we must sustain and maintain while we wait for new systems to come online», said Bob Taylor, U.S. Air Force Legacy Space Branch chief. «At the same time, it’s critical that we address the obsolescence risk of an aging SPADOC system. So, we came up with a really innovative, modern solution to this problem».

Raytheon and AFLCMC decided to emulate SPADOC’s capabilities with modern computer hardware. The new emulated environment, SPADOC Emulation Analysis Risk Reduction, known as SPEARR, is designed to provide a more sustainable system that requires less maintenance. The new hardware will provide the same functionality as today’s system, making it easy to learn and operate.

Additional benefits are significant reductions in power and cooling consumption. Most of these reductions are because all of SPADOC’s capabilities are now integrated into two small server racks instead of spread over 1,000 square feet/93 square meters of an aging, analog computer system.

«We used proven emulation technology to help solve our challenge, significantly reducing obsolescence risk», said Taylor. «Innovations in programmatic and technical approaches drove a smarter, better and faster solution. The next step is to evaluate options for fielding SPEARR».

«Between the experience of our North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) teammates, a.i. solutions, Zivaro and E&M Technologies, and leading emulation companies Fundamental Software and M2 Technologies, we addressed the aging SPADOC system. It’s a game changer», said Fuino.

NextSTEP Phase II

For long-duration, deep space missions, astronauts will need a highly efficient and reconfigurable space, and Lockheed Martin is researching and designing ways to support those missions. Under a public-private partnership as a part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) Phase II study contract, Lockheed Martin has completed the initial ground prototype for a cislunar habitat that would be compatible with NASA’s Gateway architecture. This habitat will help NASA study and assess the critical capabilities needed to build a sustainable presence around the Moon and support pioneering human exploration in deep space.

The Lockheed Martin Habitat Ground Test Article (HGTA) Lunar habitat prototype is designed to accommodate a variety of missions around the Moon (Photo courtesy: Lockheed Martin)
The Lockheed Martin Habitat Ground Test Article (HGTA) Lunar habitat prototype is designed to accommodate a variety of missions around the Moon (Photo courtesy: Lockheed Martin)

The full-scale prototype, or Habitat Ground Test Article (HGTA), is built inside of a repurposed shuttle-era cargo container, called a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM), at Kennedy Space Center. Using rapid prototyping and modern design tools like virtual and augmented reality, the team customized the interior making full use of the entire volume of the module to accommodate a variety of tasks like science missions and personal needs of future astronauts. The team also studied how to apply the advanced, deep space capabilities that are already built in to NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Through additional research and development funding, the NextSTEP team also applied mixed-reality technology to further refine the concept.

«Throughout the design and engineering process of this high-fidelity prototype, we have kept the diversity of missions top-of-mind», said Bill Pratt, Lockheed Martin Space NextSTEP program manager. «By building modularity in from the beginning, our design can support Lunar orbit and surface science missions along with commercial operations, all while accelerating the path to the Moon».

Over the past five months, the team used tools like virtual and augmented reality to simplify and streamline the build-up process. They also applied expertise from Lockheed Martin’s heritage of operating autonomous interplanetary robotic missions, like OSIRIS-REx and InSight, to integrate reliable robotic capabilities in to the design.

«Getting back to the Moon, and eventually Mars, is no small feat, but our team are mission visionaries», said Pratt. «They have worked to apply lessons learned from our experience with deep space robotic missions to this first-of-its-kind spacecraft around the Moon».

The Lockheed Martin team will soon transition the prototype to the NASA NextSTEP team for assessment. During the week of March 25, a team of NASA astronauts will live and work inside the prototype, evaluating the layout and providing feedback.  The NASA test team will also validate the overall design and will be able to evaluate the standards and common interfaces, like the International Docking System Standard (IDSS), and how to apply those systems for long-term missions based at the Lunar Gateway. Once NASA testing has completed, Lockheed Martin will continue to optimize and study the prototype to prepare for other Lunar efforts.

Webb Space Telescope

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Spacecraft Element (SCE) successfully completed acoustic and sine vibration testing at Northrop Grumman Corporation in Redondo Beach.

Both halves of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope are housed in Northrop Grumman’s cleanroom as they undergo ongoing testing and integration efforts
Both halves of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope are housed in Northrop Grumman’s cleanroom as they undergo ongoing testing and integration efforts

Acoustic and sine vibration testing validates the structural design and verifies the mechanical workmanship and integrity of the actual flight SCE by subjecting it to simulated rigors of the launch environment.

«Mission success remains our focus for Webb, a first of its kind space telescope», said Scott Willoughby, vice president and program manager, James Webb Space Telescope, Northrop Grumman. «Successful environmental testing of the SCE builds further confidence in its structural design integrity, built to withstand the stresses of launch».

The SCE was subjected to acoustic noise levels of 140.7 decibels (damage to hearing starts at 85dB while speakers at a concert can be as loud as 120dB or more), which simulated the high noise levels generated from rocket engines and turbulent air flow at high Mach speeds during launch. Vibration testing simulates the vibration and shaking Webb will experience during launch. During testing, the SCE was attached to a large electrodynamic shaker, vibrating it along three orthogonal axes. This back-and-forth or «sinusoidal» vibration was applied by starting at a low, subsonic frequency of 5 hertz (cycles per second) and «sweeping» up to a medium frequency of 100 hertz in the course of just over one minute. Ultimately, the SCE was subjected to protoflight vibration levels required to simulate a rocket launch experience. Testing on the ground assures that Webb can successfully withstand the rigors of its journey to space.

The completion of acoustic and sine vibration testing advances Webb’s SCE to its final environmental test, thermal vacuum testing. Post thermal vacuum testing, Webb will return to Northrop’s clean room for full deployment and integration of the Optical Telescope Element/Integrated Science Instrument Module later this year.

The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world’s premier space science observatory of the next decade. Webb will solve mysteries of our solar system, look to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and the origins of our universe. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

National Security

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying a critical payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) denoted NROL-71 lifted off from Space Launch Complex-6 on January 19 at 11:10 a.m. PST. The mission is in support of our country’s national defense.

United Launch Alliance successfully launches NROL-71 in support of National Security
United Launch Alliance successfully launches NROL-71 in support of National Security

«Congratulations to our team and mission partners for successfully delivering this critical asset to support national security missions», said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs, «thank you to the entire team for their perseverance, ongoing dedication and focus on 100% mission success».

The Delta IV Heavy is the nation’s proven heavy lift launch vehicle, delivering high-priority missions for the National Reconnaissance Office, U.S. Air Force and NASA. With its advanced upper stage, the Delta IV Heavy can take more than 14,000 pounds/6,350 kg directly to geosynchronous orbit, as well as a wide variety of complex interplanetary trajectories.

The mission launched aboard a Delta IV Heavy, comprised of three common booster cores each powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine producing a combined total of more than 2.1 million pounds of thrust. The second stage was powered by an AR RL10B-2 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine.

NROL-71 is ULA’s first launch in 2019 and 132nd successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

ULA’s next launch is the WGS-10 mission for the U.S. Air Force on a Delta IV rocket. The launch is scheduled for March 13, 2019 from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

With more than a century of combined heritage, ULA is the world’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 130 satellites to orbit that provide Earth observation capabilities, enable global communications, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, and support life-saving technology.

Blackjack program

Airbus Defense and Space Inc. has been awarded a contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a satellite bus in support of the Blackjack program.

Airbus wins DARPA contract to develop small constellation satellite bus for Blackjack program
Airbus wins DARPA contract to develop small constellation satellite bus for Blackjack program

DARPA describes the Blackjack program as an architecture demonstration intending to show the military utility of global low-earth orbit constellations and mesh networks of lower size, weight and cost. DARPA wants to buy commercial satellite buses and pair them with military sensors and payloads. The bus drives each satellite by generating power, controlling attitude, providing propulsion, transmitting spacecraft telemetry, and providing general payload accommodation including mounting locations for the military sensors.

«Airbus has previously co-invested hundreds of millions of dollars in high-rate manufacturing technology and supply chain logistics to build large constellations of small satellites», said Tim Deaver, Director of U.S. Space Programs at Airbus Defense and Space, Inc. «Airbus is committed to growing manufacturing capability in the U.S. and our government customers can leverage this commercial capability to develop low-earth orbit constellations to complement large existing systems».

This contract positions Airbus Defense and Space, Inc., of Herndon, Virginia, and its strategic joint venture partner, OneWeb Satellites, of Exploration Park, Florida, as the ideal service providers for Blackjack.

High production rates and design-to-cost management techniques enable OneWeb Satellites to offer low cost constellation solutions for the U.S. government and current customers. Constellations of inexpensive satellites permit wide scale disaggregated architectures enhancing survivability across many different mission areas.

OneWeb Satellites is pioneering new value propositions in space. They are leading the design and manufacturing of ultra-high performing satellites at high-volumes.

«We have created a game changer with our overall design, supply chain and production system», said Tony Gingiss, CEO, OneWeb Satellites. «Our team is transforming the space industry and we are in the midst of demonstrating we can deliver on our promises».

OneWeb Satellites brings to bear capabilities which dramatically lower the cost and shorten acquisition timelines for customers thanks to a modular design and agile serial production of satellites.

The OneWeb Satellites satellite manufacturing facility in Florida is the latest step in Airbus’ continued and long-standing commitment to growth in U.S. manufacturing, job creation and investment.

This facility, which will ultimately support thousands of jobs and follows the opening of our U.S. Manufacturing Facility for A320 aircraft in Mobile, Alabama, from which we delivered our first aircraft in 2016. An A220 assembly line on the same site in Alabama will break ground in January of 2019.

With our extensive network of U.S. suppliers, Airbus is the largest consumer of U.S. aerospace and defense goods in the world – buying more than any other company or even country. Airbus invested $16.5 billion with U.S. companies in 2017, supporting 275,000 American jobs.