Category Archives: Space

CERES space system

The CERES space system (Capacité de Renseignement Electromagnétique Spatiale or Space-based Signal Intelligence Capability) satellites designed and built by Airbus Defence and Space and Thales for the French Armament General Directorate (DGA) have been successfully launched from the European spaceport in French Guiana, on-board a Vega launcher.

CERES
CERES reconnaissance space system designed by Airbus and Thales successfully launched

«We are ready to go with the next generation of space surveillance capability for France: CERES! Entrusting Airbus with the construction and full space system responsibility is a ringing endorsement of our expertise and the quality of our technology, acquired in particular from the ESSAIM and ELISA demonstrators», said Jean Marc Nasr, Head of Space Systems at Airbus. «The three CERES satellites will provide France with its first satellite system for signal intelligence, thus confirming our ability to act as prime contractor for French space-based intelligence systems», he continued.

CERES is designed to detect and geo-locate electromagnetic signals from radio communication systems and radars from areas where surface sensors cannot reach. From its low Earth orbit, CERES is free from airspace overflight constraints and can operate in all types of weather. The system will provide in-depth information to support military operations for the French Armed Forces, thus improving situational awareness.

«CERES will complete the French strategic and tactical defence intelligence capability with its first signal intelligence (SIGINT) satellite system. DGA trusts Thales to be in charge of the CERES end-to-end mission performance, for which we rely on our experience of more than 20 years in space-based SIGINT, especially with ESSAIM and ELISA, our unique know-how in satellite payloads and user ground segments, and our wide knowledge in SIGINT and electronic warfare in all environments», said Philippe Duhamel, Executive Vice-President, Defence Mission Systems at Thales.

The system includes the space segment consisting of a swarm of three identical satellites carrying the SIGINT payload, as well as the user and ground control segments.

Airbus Defence and Space and Thales are co-contractors for the full end-to-end system. Airbus is responsible for the global system integration and the space segment comprising the three satellites, while Thales is responsible for full mission chain and system performance, going from on-board payload to user ground segment. In addition, Thales Alenia Space acted as a subcontractor to Airbus in supplying the satellites’ platforms. The French space agency, CNES, as assisting partner to the DGA, procured the launch services and the ground control segment.

CERES draws on Airbus and Thales’ experience acquired from the ESSAIM (communications intelligence) and ELISA (electronic intelligence) micro-satellite demonstrators launched in 2004 and 2011 respectively. The technical and operational lessons learnt from these systems were key to enabling the very high performance in electromagnetic detection and compatibility, demanded by this mission.

Space Sensor

Northrop Grumman Corporation recently completed the critical design review of the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) prototype for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA). The review establishes the company’s technical approach for precise, timely sensor coverage to defeat ballistic and hypersonic missiles.

HBTSS
Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor satellites will provide continuous tracking and handoff to enable targeting of enemy missiles launched from land, sea or air

HBTSS satellites will provide continuous tracking and handoff to enable targeting of enemy missiles launched from land, sea or air. They are a critical part of the Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) multi-layered constellation of satellites, which can sense heat signatures to detect and track missiles from their earliest stages of launch through interception.

«When it comes to national safety, there’s no room for error», said Sarah Willoughby, vice president, OPIR and geospatial systems, Northrop Grumman. «This critical design review puts Northrop Grumman on track to deliver a vital component of our missile defense architecture to keep the U.S. and its allies safe against hypersonic threats».

HBTSS satellites are also designed to track threats with near global reach when prompted by other OPIR systems, well before they come into view of U.S. ground-based defenses.

Northrop Grumman received a $153 million contract from the MDA earlier this year for the Phase IIB portion of the HBTSS program and is on schedule to deliver the HBTSS prototype in 2023. After the HBTSS prototype is delivered, the company will conduct an on-orbit test to demonstrate its ability to continuously track and rapidly process its observations of hypersonic threats, as well as its ability to effectively hand off the information so the missile is intercepted.

Northrop Grumman is a technology company, focused on global security and human discovery. Our pioneering solutions equip our customers with capabilities they need to connect, advance and protect the U.S. and its allies. Driven by a shared purpose to solve our customers’ toughest problems, our 90,000 employees define possible every day.

Orbit space station

Nanoracks, in collaboration with Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin, has formed a team to develop the first-ever free flying commercial space station. The space station, known as Starlab, will be a continuously crewed commercial platform, dedicated to conducting critical research, fostering industrial activity, and ensuring continued U.S. presence and leadership in low-Earth orbit. Starlab is expected to achieve initial operational capability by 2027.

Starlab
Starlab, a commercial low-Earth orbit space station is being planned for use by 2027

To meet U.S. government, international space agency, and commercial needs in space, these industry leaders will develop Starlab specifically to enable the growing space economy and meet pent-up customer demand for space services such as materials research, plant growth, and astronaut activity. Together, these companies bring unparalleled experience in commercial space utilization, engineering design and performance, technology innovation, and investment strategy.

«Since the beginning, Nanoracks has sought to own and operate a private space station to fully unlock market demand», says Jeffrey Manber, CEO and Co-Founder of Nanoracks. «Our team has spent the last decade learning the business of space stations, understanding customer needs, charting market growth, and self-investing in private hardware on the ISS like the Bishop Airlock. Nanoracks and our team are excited to work with NASA and our friends across the world as we move forward with Starlab».

NASA recently announced the Commercial Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) Destination (CLD) project to support the development of private space stations. CLD will stimulate a multifaceted LEO economy and provide science and crew capabilities in LEO before the International Space Station (ISS) retires.

Nanoracks will prime the Starlab development effort leveraging over a decade of experience as the pathfinder of and global leader in commercial ISS utilization. Voyager Space, the majority shareholder in Nanoracks, will lead strategy and capital investment and Lockheed Martin, a leader in developing and operating complex spacecraft, will serve as the manufacturer and technical integrator.

The basic elements of the Starlab space station include a large inflatable habitat, designed and built by Lockheed Martin, a metallic docking node, a power and propulsion element, a large robotic arm for servicing cargo and payloads, and a state-of-the-art laboratory system to host a comprehensive research, science, and manufacturing capability.  Starlab will be able to continuously host up to four astronauts for conducting critical science and research.

«We’re excited to be part of such an innovative and capable team—one that allows each company to leverage their core strengths», said Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager, Commercial Civil Space at Lockheed Martin. «Lockheed Martin’s extensive experience in building complex spacecraft and systems, coupled with Nanoracks’ commercial business innovation and Voyager’s financial expertise allows our team to create a customer-focused space station that will fuel our future vision. We have invested significantly in habitat technology which enables us to propose a cost-effective, mission-driven spacecraft design for Starlab».

Nanoracks’ Starlab business model is designed to enable science, research, and manufacturing for global customers, and bring added value to long-duration sovereign astronaut missions. Starlab will also serve tourism and other commercial and business activities.

«Voyager Space is highly confident in the Starlab business model and its ability to be commercially sustainable and well capitalized», says Dylan Taylor, Voyager Space Chairman & CEO. «Voyager Space sees numerous synergies leveraging the capabilities across our organization’s operating businesses, as well as within the Lockheed Martin ecosystem. We see this partnership as just the beginning of our work together».

Module for Orion

The second Airbus-built European Service Module (ESM) for NASA’s Orion spacecraft is ready for delivery from the Airbus site in Bremen, Germany. An Antonov cargo aircraft will fly the ESM-2 to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected Airbus as the prime contractor for the development and manufacture of six ESMs with the first ESM soon to fly on NASA’s Artemis I mission.

European Service Module (ESM)
Airbus delivers second European Service Module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft

The ESM is a key element of Orion, the next-generation spacecraft that will transport astronauts beyond low Earth orbit for the first time since the end of the Apollo programme in the 1970s. The module provides propulsion, power and thermal control and will supply astronauts with water and oxygen on future missions. The ESM is installed underneath the crew module and together they form the Orion spacecraft.

«Delivery of the second European Service Module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft marks another huge step forward on the journey to return astronauts to the Moon. Working hand in hand with our customers ESA and NASA, and our industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Space, the programme is moving apace and we are ready to meet the challenges of returning to the lunar surface in 2024», said Andreas Hammer, Head of Space Exploration at Airbus.

ESM-2 underwent a comprehensive validation process prior to being readied for shipment including gimbal testing of the module’s main engine (which swivels from side to side for manoeuvring and directional control during spaceflight). This main engine is a refurbished engine from Space Shuttle Atlantis.

After completing its trans-Atlantic voyage, ESM-2 will be mated with the Orion Crew Module and undergo further extensive testing before integration with the launcher – a process that will take around two years.

The launch of the first Orion spacecraft on NASA’s new Space Launch System rocket will be uncrewed and take the spacecraft more than 64,000 kilometres beyond the Moon in order to demonstrate its capabilities. The first human spaceflight mission, Artemis II, will be powered by ESM-2.

The design of the Orion spacecraft enables astronauts to be transported further into space than ever before. The spacecraft will transport four astronauts, providing life support for the crew during the flight and enabling a safe return to Earth’s atmosphere, at extremely high re-entry speeds.

The ESM comprises more than 20,000 parts and components, from electrical equipment to engines, solar panels, fuel tanks and life support materials, as well as several kilometres of cables and tubing.

The ESM is a cylinder around four metres high and wide. Comparable to the European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV 2008 – 2015), also built by Airbus, it has a distinctive four-wing solar array (19 metres across when unfurled) that generates enough energy to power two households. The service module’s 8.6 tons of fuel can power the main engine, eight auxiliary thrusters and 24 smaller thrusters used for attitude control.

At launch, the ESM weighs a total of just over 13 tons. 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 it is docked to the crew module. Furthermore, the unpressurised service module can be used to carry additional payload.

In the longer term it is planned to dock Orion spacecraft with the International Lunar Gateway – a Moon orbiting platform that will enable a sustainable space exploration architecture extending humanity’s presence in space.

NGI program

Lockheed Martin on October 5, 2021 announced that the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) approved its Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) program’s System Requirements Review (SRR) – six months after the initial development and demonstration contract award.

Next Generation Interceptor (NGI)
Next Generation Interceptor Program Achieves Critical System Requirements Review

The MDA’s NGI program is designed to protect the United States from complex, rogue threat, ballistic missile attacks. The interceptor is an end-to-end design to detect, contain and destroy incoming threats. The SRR is a significant early program milestone, demonstrating that the company is ready to proceed with the initial system design.

«Our team has worked incredibly hard in partnership with our NGI customer team and is grateful for the opportunity to support the MDA in its mission to protect and defend the United States from intercontinental ballistic missile attacks», said Sarah Reeves, vice president of the Next Generation Interceptor program at Lockheed Martin. «We’ve invested significantly to accelerate the program to meet this national priority with increased rigor in the systems engineering expected for a capability that is critical for our collective defense».

The industry team used advanced digital engineering and model-based engineering tools for a modernized approach to the SRR, including new levels of interconnectivity. The digital tools used for the review are also used within the actual NGI program and align with the MDA’s pioneering digital engineering strategy to provide increased trust communications and transparency. This strategy will help the joint MDA and Lockheed Martin team make decisions faster, enhance security, increase affordability and integration.

The NGI will serve as a first line of a layered missile defense architecture against evolving threats from rogue nations and is critically important for the MDA and U.S. Northern Command. The first interceptor is forecasted to be fielded in 2027.

Payload for DARPA

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Blackjack program has awarded Northrop Grumman Corporation a contract for Phase 2 development of an advanced, software-defined Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) payload, with options to build units destined for space flight.

Blackjack program
Northrop Grumman’s advanced, software-enabled positioning, navigation and timing payload has been developed to keep forces on target in difficult environments against advanced threats – even if the availability of existing satellite navigation systems are degraded or denied

The PNT payload work is led by Northrop Grumman’s Future PNT Systems Operating Unit in Woodland Hills. The team supports the DARPA Tactical Technology Office’s goal of achieving capable, resilient and affordable national security space capabilities from Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

«Northrop Grumman’s software-defined Positioning, Navigation and Timing technology will offer military users an agile new signal from LEO that is not dependent on existing satellite navigation systems», said Doctor Nicholas Paraskevopoulos, chief technology officer and sector vice president, emerging capabilities development, Northrop Grumman. «Warfighters depend on assured PNT for traditional missions like force projection and joint operations, but also for emerging autonomous and distributed missions».

The PNT payload features Northrop Grumman’s Software Enabled Reconfigurable Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Embedded Architecture for Navigation and Timing (SERGEANT) capability. The Phase 2 development effort is valued at $13.3 million if all options are exercised through emulation, critical design and build.

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.

Axiom Space Station

Thales Alenia Space, Joint Venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), and Axiom Space of Houston, Texas (USA), have signed the final contract for the development of two key pressurized elements of Axiom Space Station – the world’s first commercial space station. Scheduled for launch in 2024 and 2025 respectively, the two elements will originally be docked to the International Space Station (ISS), marking the birth of the new Axiom Station segment. The value of the contract is 110 Million Euro.

Axiom Space Station
Axiom Space Station

Axiom Station will serve as humanity’s central hub for research, manufacturing and commerce in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), expanding the usable and habitable volume of the ISS, attached to the ISS Node 2 module, built also by Thales Alenia Space. When the ISS is decommissioned, the Axiom modules will detach and operate as a free-flying, next-generation commercial space station, a laboratory and residential infrastructure in space, that will be used for microgravity experiments in-space manufacturing, critical exploration life support testing, and hosting both private and professional institutional astronauts. Axiom Space Station will be the cornerstone of a permanent, prosperous human presence and a thriving network of commercial activity in LEO, enabling new advances both on Earth and further out in space. The first two elements to be launched will accommodate up to 4 people each.

Today, in this occasion, Thales Alenia Space and the Italian Air Force have ratified a Memorandum of Collaboration, aiming to promote the access to low earth orbit in favour of institutions, the scientific community, industry and commercial operators, and the development of a research chain on strategic issues (medicine, materials, biogenetics, etc.) as well as to support the possibilities of technological development and OT&E (Operational Testing & Evaluation) in microgravity.

«The contact signed today with Axiom Space confirms the positioning of Thales Alenia Space as a leading industrial player in the New Space ecosystem, both for private and public missions», stated Massimo Claudio Comparini, Thales Alenia Space Deputy CEO and Senior Executive Vice President Observation, Exploration & Navigation business line. «With the development of more than 50% of the ISS’ habitable volume, our Company has marked the history since the origins of Orbital Infrastructures programs. Based on this unique legacy, we are pioneering the future of human presence in LEO. We are pushing back the boundaries of space exploration and setting the basis for the Lunar Gateway and the Moon’s Surfaces ecosystem that will lead manned exploration missions to the red planet by the 2030’s. Humankind’s quest of sense in space is becoming a reality and we are so proud to contribute to making it come true».

Based on its past successful experience in building modules for the International Space Station, Thales Alenia Space is responsible for the design, development, assembly and test of the primary structure and the Micrometeoroid & Debris Protection System for the two Axiom modules.

The welding activities of the primary structure of the first module will start in September 2021, with the assembly process concluding in 2022. The first module will arrive at Axiom facilities in Houston in July 2023, where Axiom will integrate and outfit the core systems and certify it for flight prior to shipping to the launch facility.

«We have convened an elite collection of expertise at Axiom to build and operate the world’s first commercial space station, and Thales Alenia Space fits right into that mold as a partner», Axiom President & CEO Michael Suffredini, who previously served as NASA’s International Space Station Program Manager from 2005 to 2015, said. «This agreement confirms the primary structures for the next-generation destination in space will be constructed with an expert touch, serving as the core of the first human-rated spacecraft to ever be assembled in Houston».

The project is currently undergoing a detailed design phase: the four radial bulkheads for the first module have been recently developed in Thales Alenia Space facilities in Turin. These bulkheads provide the structure to which radial Common Berth Mechanisms (CBMs) and hatches will attach. Together, the four bulkheads, with their accompanying hardware form a cylindrical section, providing four ports for other station elements, including docking adapters. The cylindrical protrusions seen on the bottom half of the bulkhead will serve as a connecting unit, allowing power, data, and fluids to pass from one element to another, including Axiom modules and the ISS.

 

ABOUT THALES ALENIA SPACE

Drawing on over 40 years of experience and a unique combination of skills, expertise and cultures, Thales Alenia Space delivers cost-effective solutions for telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, environmental management, exploration, science and orbital infrastructures. Governments and private industry alike count on Thales Alenia Space to design satellite-based systems that provide anytime, anywhere connections and positioning, monitor our planet, enhance management of its resources, and explore our Solar System and beyond. Thales Alenia Space sees space as a new horizon, helping to build a better, more sustainable life on Earth. A joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), Thales Alenia Space also teams up with Telespazio to form the parent companies’ Space Alliance, which offers a complete range of services. Thales Alenia Space posted consolidated revenues of approximately 1.850 billion euros in 2020 and has around 7,700 employees in 10 countries with 17 sites in Europe and a plant in the US.

First Crew Module

Northrop Grumman Corporation has finalized a contract with NASA to provide the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) module for NASA’s Gateway. Under the $935 million contract, Northrop Grumman will complete the design and development activity currently underway and will also be responsible for integrating HALO with the Power and Propulsion Element provided by Maxar Technologies.

HALO
Artist illustration of Northrop Grumman’s HALO module and the Power Propulsion Element which form the first critical component of NASA’s Gateway

HALO will 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. 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 and other lunar support vehicles.

«By leveraging our active Cygnus production line, Northrop Grumman can uniquely provide an affordable and reliable HALO module, in the timeframe needed to support NASA’s Artemis program», said Steve Krein, vice president, civil and commercial satellites, Northrop Grumman. «Our team looks forward to continuing our collaboration with NASA in order to overcome the technical challenges associated with the harsh radiation and thermal environment of lunar space, as well as the unique challenge of hosting visiting crews for extended durations in this environment».

Previously, Northrop Grumman was awarded a contract to fund work through the Preliminary Design Review of HALO. This review, completed in May, confirmed the vehicle’s design and satisfied NASA’s overall Gateway requirements for the mission, including safety and reliability.

Under the new contract, Northrop Grumman, along with its industry partners and suppliers, will be working towards a Critical Design Review in the spring of 2022 and delivery of the HALO module to the launch site in 2024.

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.

Laser Interconnect

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced on June 30, 2021 that, in partnership with the Space Development Agency (SDA), its Laser Interconnect and Networking Communications System (LINCS) satellites were successfully launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as part of the Transporter-2 mission from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. The two 12U cubesats that make up the LINCS system were successfully deployed into orbit and have begun satellite commissioning and operations. This launch marks the first successful launch of SDA payloads since the agency was established in 2019.

LINCS
General Atomics LINCS System Launched Successfully and Deployed

«Congratulations to SDA on this historic milestone. We look forward to continue supporting them over the next several months as the GA-EMS LINCS system is used to demonstrate space-based optical communication and validate its efficacy for the future national security space architecture», stated Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS. «I am extremely proud of the GA-EMS team, whose tireless work and remarkable efforts over the past few years have led to a successful launch and deployment of this important technology».

The LINCS system is comprised of two 12U cubesats each hosting a C-band dual-wavelength full duplex Optical Communication Terminal (OCT) and an InfraRed (IR) payload, with all elements internally designed and built by GA-EMS at their facilities in San Diego, CA and Huntsville, AL. In partnership with SDA, this is among the first Department of Defense contracted efforts to develop and deploy a state-of-the-art 1550 nm OCT to test capabilities to increase the speed, reliability, distance, and variability of communication in space.

«Optical communication will significantly augment space-based communication, and the launch of the GA-EMS LINCS system is the first step in proving this critical technology in space», added Nick Bucci, vice president of Missile Defense and Space Systems. «Our next checkpoint is to establish the proper orbit, communication and control of the two spacecraft. From there, we will work with SDA and commence a series of experiments testing optical communication in a variety of operational scenarios».

Navigation Technology

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is excited to announce that the Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3) satellite navigation program is closer in the development of the spacecraft for its in-space demonstration, thanks to the delivery of its bus that will carry it to space in 2023.

Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3)
The ESPAStar-D bus that will be integrated into the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Navigation Technology Satellite-3. The bus, which will serve as the body of spacecraft, was built at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Gilbert, Arizona. NTS-3 is scheduled for launch in 2023 (Courtesy photo/Northrop Grumman)

In 2019, the U.S. Air Force designated NTS-3 as one of three Vanguard programs, which are priority initiatives to deliver new, game-changing capabilities for national defense. The NTS-3 mission is to advance technologies to responsively mitigate interference to Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) capabilities, and increase system resiliency for the U.S. Space Force’s Global Positioning System military, civil and commercial users.

Northrop Grumman Corporation recently delivered an ESPAStar-D spacecraft bus to L3Harris Technologies of Palm Bay, Florida in support of the NTS-3 mission scheduled to launch to geosynchronous orbit from Cape Canaveral in 2023.

The AFRL Transformational Capabilities Office at Wright-Patterson AFB and Space Vehicles Directorate, located at Kirtland Air Force Base (AFB) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, are in partnership with the two industry companies for the bus development and integration.

«This is the first time an ESPAStar bus has been built and delivered as a commercially-available commodity», said Arlen Biersgreen, the NTS-3 program manager. «NTS-3 is using a unique acquisition model for the ESPAStar line that fully exercises the commercial nature of Northrop Grumman’s product line, in order to provide the bus to another defense contractor for payload integration using standard interfaces».

The ESPAStar-D bus, built in Northrop Grumman’s satellite manufacturing facility in Gilbert, Arizona, includes critical subsystems such as communications, power, attitude determination and control, in addition to configurable structures to mount payloads.

A June 2021 press release from Northrop Grumman explains the company built the ESPAStar-D bus «to provide affordable, rapid access to space», and that its configuration, using an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA), allows multiple separate experimental payloads to be stacked together on one launch vehicle.

It should be noted that AFRL developed the ESPA ring – a technology that revolutionized the transport of space experiments, allowing for lower-cost and more frequent «rides» to space, for government and industry users.

«The transfer of the bus allows L3Harris to move forward building the NTS-3 spacecraft», said 2nd Lt. Charles Schramka, the program’s deputy principal investigator. «L3Harris will perform tests and begin integrating the NTS-3 PNT payload onto the bus. Together the bus and payload will form the NTS-3 spacecraft».

Following L3Harris’s work, AFRL will test the bus with the NTS-3 ground control and user equipment segments, and will perform its own integrated testing on the overall NTS-3 system architecture.

Besides the bus delivery, there are other advances in the program.

Schramka said, «This month we took delivery of an experimental receiver known as Global Navigation Satellite System Test Architecture (GNSSTA), developed by our sister AFRL unit, the Sensors Directorate at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio and Mitre Corporation. GNSSTA is a reprogrammable software defined signal receiver that allows us to receive the legacy GPS and advanced signals generated by NTS-3».

AFRL will continue its integration efforts through 2022 to ensure all parts are working together for the fall of 2023 NTS-3 launch.

«With the delivery of the bus we are entering into the next phase of payload integration», Biersgreen said. «These recent breakthroughs allow the program to continue to move forward and prepare for launch of the first U.S. integrated satellite navigation experiment in over 45 years».