Category Archives: Space

Habitation Outpost

Northrop Grumman Corporation has successfully completed its initial Preliminary Design Review (PDR) event for the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO). The module will serve as living quarters for astronauts at the Gateway during lunar exploration missions.

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

The design for HALO is based on Northrop Grumman’s flight-proven Cygnus spacecraft, a human-capable vehicle that delivers supplies, equipment and experiments to the International Space Station. Design upgrades for HALO include command and control systems, as well as environmental control and life support systems.

«By basing the HALO module on Cygnus, we are able to deliver an affordable and reliable flight-proven product on an accelerated timeline», said Steve Krein, vice president, civil and commercial satellites, Northrop Grumman. «Maturing HALO through its preliminary design marks a major milestone in the module’s production».

The HALO module is key to NASA’s Lunar Gateway, serving both as a crew habitat and docking hub for vehicles navigating between Earth and the moon. With NASA’s Orion spacecraft docked, HALO will be able to sustain up to four astronauts for up to 30 days as they travel to and from the lunar surface.

Northrop Grumman’s work on HALO is a follow-on to the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships 2 (NextSTEP-2) program, where the company used virtual reality and 3-D printed models to support rapid prototyping of the NextSTEP-2 habitat modules.

In addition to HALO, Northrop Grumman is partnering on the Blue Origin-led human landing system team to develop the Human Landing System (HLS) for the Artemis program. Northrop Grumman will provide the Transfer Element vehicle that lowers the landing system into low lunar orbit. The company is also responsible for delivering boosters for the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion Ascent Abort System.

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.

GPS III Satellite

The fourth Lockheed Martin-built Global Positioning System III (GPS III) satellite is now headed to orbit under its own propulsion. Following a successful launch earlier this evening, GPS III Space Vehicle 04 (GPS III SV04) separated from its rocket and is now using onboard power to climb to its operational orbit, approximately 12,550 miles above the Earth.

GPS III SV04
The fourth Lockheed Martin-built GPS III space vehicle (GPS III SV04) is now headed to orbit under its own propulsion

About 89 minutes after a 6:24 p.m. EST liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, U.S. Space Force and Lockheed Martin engineers at the company’s Denver Launch & Checkout Operations Center declared GPS III SV04 «separated» from its SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and «flying» under their control.

In the coming days, GPS III SV04’s onboard liquid apogee engine will continue to propel the satellite towards its operational orbit. Once it arrives, the engineers will send the satellite commands to deploy its solar arrays and antennas, and prepare GPS III SV04 for handover to Space Operations Command.

GPS III SV04 is the latest next-generation GPS III satellite Lockheed Martin designed and built to help the U.S. Space Force modernize today’s GPS satellite constellation with new technology and capabilities. GPS III satellites will provide significant capability improvements over previous GPS satellites, including:

  • Three times better accuracy;
  • Up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities; and
  • A new L1C civil signal, which is compatible with international global navigation satellite systems, like Europe’s Galileo, to improve civilian user connectivity.

GPS III SV04 will also be the 23rd Military Code (M-Code) signal-enabled GPS space vehicle on orbit, continuing the Space Force’s plan to fully field the more-secure, harder-to-jam and spoof GPS signal for military forces.

«With GPS III we are focused on rapidly fielding the best capabilities to the Space Force’s Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) Mission», said Tonya Ladwig, Lockheed Martin’s Acting Vice President for Navigation Systems. «We are proud of our industry-government team on the launch of GPS III SV04. GPS III SV05 is already ‘available for launch’ and just waiting to be called up».

In early July, the Space Force also declared that the GPS III Follow On (GPS IIIF) program had fulfilled Milestone C, allowing the program to enter its production phase. GPS IIIF satellites will add even more capabilities, including:

  • A Regional Military Protection Capability, which will increase anti-jam support in theater to ensure U.S. and allied forces cannot be denied access to GPS in hostile environments;
  • An accuracy-enhancing laser retroreflector array;
  • A fully digital navigation payload; and
  • A new search and rescue payload.

«So many people rely on GPS every day. Continuing to invest in GPS by adding new capabilities like those coming with GPS III/IIIF will ensure GPS remains the world’s ‘gold standard’ for PNT and just makes sense», Ladwig added.

GPS is part of the U.S.’s critical national infrastructure, driving an estimated $300 billion in annual economic benefits and responsible for $1.4 trillion since its inception. Globally, more than four billion military, civil and commercial users depend on GPS’ positioning, navigation and timing signals.

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 U.S. 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.

Logistic Lander

Airbus has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) as one of the two primes for the definition phase of the European Large Logistic Lander (EL3). In this study (phase A/B1), Airbus will develop the concept of a large multi-role logistic lander able to transport up to 1.7 tons of cargo to any location on the lunar surface. EL3 flights are set to begin in the late 2020s, with a cadence of missions over the following decade and more.

Artemis Basecamp Cargo
Artemis Basecamp Cargo

Europe is already contributing to the Global Exploration Roadmap agreed by 14 space agencies around the world, in which Airbus is also playing its part. European participation includes international missions to Mars, substantial elements for crewed space stations – the International Space Station and the Lunar Gateway – and the Orion European Service Module (ESM) which will power Artemis, the next human mission to the lunar surface.

With EL3, ESA and its member states will make a further substantial European contribution to the international effort to establish sustainable exploration of the Moon. EL3 will be designed as a fully independent European lunar surface logistics mission capability, including European launch capability with Ariane 6. ESA anticipates flying three to five EL3 missions over a 10 year time frame.

Surface Science Package with Rover
Surface Science Package with Rover

Andreas Hammer, Head of Space Exploration at Airbus, said: «We are extremely thrilled to be starting the definition phase of EL3, Europe’s large Moon lander. Last year in Seville, Europe’s space ministers agreed that the European Space Agency should start preparing a vehicle to fly scientific and logistics cargo to the Moon. Airbus is 100% behind this ambition, as it will enable Europe to play a critical role in the next phase of human exploration of the Moon, and will further strengthen ESA’s status as an invaluable partner in the international space community».

Based on a generic plug-and-play landing element, the EL3 could support a range of lunar activities including: logistics support for crewed missions on the Moon (Artemis base camp), scientific missions with rovers and static payloads, or a sample return mission.

To achieve sustained human presence on the Moon, considerable logistical infrastructure will be needed – whether testing critical technologies or prospecting for lunar resources, starting in-situ production and storage of products like propellant, drinking water or oxygen, or even creating a long term settlement.

Sample Return LAE & Rover
Sample Return LAE & Rover

 

EL3’s journey: an independent, all-European solution

EL3, launched on an Ariane 64 from Kourou as a single payload of up to 8.5 tons, can be put on a direct trajectory to the Moon, similar to the trajectory flown by Apollo 50 years ago.

After roughly four days of barbecue-like travel (i.e. slow and constant rotation to optimise the thermal control of the spacecraft), insertion into a Low Lunar Orbit (LLO) will be achieved by EL3’s own propulsion system. Depending on the launch window and the landing site on the Moon, EL3 might remain for up to 14 days in LLO, waiting for the right point in time and space to initiate landing.

European Large Logistic Lander (EL3)
European Large Logistic Lander (EL3)

EL3 Airbus concept will use vision based navigation techniques, first developed by Airbus for the ATV ISS resupply vehicle during the elliptical descent orbit and powered descent to achieve unprecedented landing precision. What’s more, EL3 will be equipped with an autonomous hazard detection and avoidance system. This system will scan the landing site for potential hazards (small rocks, craters, or local slopes) which are too small for identification by remote sensing satellites. Based on this autonomous hazard assessment, the safest landing spot in reach will be identified and the lander will be guided to this location.

The study will be led by the lunar exploration team in Bremen, Airbus’ hub for space exploration activities and will involve more than 20 engineers from five Airbus sites in Germany, France, and the UK. Airbus will be working with six companies and one research institute from seven different countries across Europe.

EL3 European Large Logistic Lander

Wideband SATCOM

Boeing and the U.S. Space Force successfully completed the first major engineering design review for the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS)-11+ communications satellite. This successful review demonstrates that Boeing is ready to proceed to the final system design phase. Production will begin next year at Boeing’s El Segundo factory, with delivery scheduled for 2024.

Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS)
This artist rendering shows the WGS-11+ satellite, which is being built in El Segundo, California, and will be delivered to the U.S. Space Force in 2024 (Boeing illustration)

WGS-11+ features a modern digital payload that performs at twice the operational capability of its predecessors, increasing the availability of military-grade communications. Leveraging advances in Boeing commercial technologies, it will provide secure communications to connect U.S. and allied forces globally.

The current WGS constellation, consisting of 10 satellites, is the backbone of the U.S. military’s global communications system, providing flexible, high data-rate connectivity. Users include all U.S. military services, the White House Communications Agency, the U.S. State Department and international partners.

«Completing this engineering design review is a key milestone and brings us one step closer to delivering this groundbreaking satellite to the warfighter in record time, significantly improving capacity and coverage to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and allies», said Colonel John Dukes, chief of the Geosynchronous/Polar Division at Space and Missile Systems Center Production Corps.

«WGS-11+ uses narrower spot beams to deliver a stronger, more reliable connection exactly where it’s needed, which means better performance and greater flexibility than ever before», said Troy Dawson, vice president of Boeing Government Satellite Systems.

In addition to U.S. military forces, the WGS constellation provides service to international partners including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Norway.

Fully Assembled

Northrop Grumman Corporation and NASA have completed environmental testing on the James Webb Space Telescope.

James Webb Space Telescope
Northrop Grumman and NASA Complete Environmental Testing on the James Webb Space Telescope

The environmental testing demonstrated Webb’s ability to withstand harsh environmental characteristics during its upcoming rocket launch and journey to reach its orbit at the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point (L2), approximately one million miles away from Earth.

«The completion of environmental testing is a major step forward in our preparations for Webb’s historic launch and a testament to the remarkable dedication of the team», said Scott Willoughby, vice president and program manager, James Webb Space Telescope, Northrop Grumman.

Webb’s environmental testing consisted of a series of rigorous acoustic and sine-vibration tests spanning several weeks. Webb was first placed in Northrop Grumman’s acoustic testing chamber where it underwent high frequency oscillating sound pressure levels above 140 decibels to simulate the effects of being launched on a rocket. The completion of the acoustic tests and analysis validated that Webb’s hardware, science instruments, structure and electronics can successfully survive the planned rocket launch in a simulated environment.

Following the completion of acoustic testing, Webb transitioned to a separate chamber where it underwent a series of sine-vibration tests on a shaker table to simulate vertical and horizontal accelerations in lower frequencies. The observatory was rigorously exposed to vibration levels on the shaker that are well above the flight environment, exciting its resonances to demonstrate its capability to withstand the flight environment with significant margins.

The next series of major milestones for Webb will require NASA and Northrop Grumman engineers and technicians to deploy the observatory’s five-layered sunshield followed by wing deployments of its primary mirror in order to fully verify Webb’s flight worthiness. Lastly, Webb will undergo a full systems evaluation before it begins preparations for its historic journey to Kourou, French Guiana for its October 2021 launch.

Northrop Grumman leads the industry team for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the largest, most complex and powerful space telescope ever built. NASA leads an international partnership that includes the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. Goddard Space Flight Center manages the Webb Telescope project, and the Space Telescope Science Institute is responsible for science and mission operations, as well as ground station development.

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.

The James Webb Space Telescope Completes its Final Environmental Tests

Space Architecture

The Space Development Agency (SDA) announced on October 5, 2020 that two companies won bids to build out Tranche 0 of the tracking layer for the National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA). Together, those contracts amount to more than $342 million.

National Defense Space Architecture
The Space Development Agency announced on Oct. 5, 2020, the award of two contracts to build satellites for the «tracking» layer of the National Defense Space Architecture

Both L3Harris Technologies, Inc., of Melbourne, Florida, and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., of Hawthorne, California, also known as SpaceX, were successful in their bids to participate in the NDSA.

Each company is expected to build four Overhead Persistent Infrared Imaging, or OPIR, satellites for the tracking layer of the NDSA. Those satellites should be ready by the end of fiscal year 2022.

«The satellites will be able to provide missile tracking data for hypersonic glide vehicles and the next generation of advanced missile threats», said Derek Tournear, the director of the Space Development Agency.

Tournear said both L3Harris and SpaceX will build satellites of their own design, but that meet criteria set by the SDA. They must all be able to do the missile tracking mission, and then also be able to communicate directly with transport layer satellites via laser communications link.

This most recent contract award is the second for development of the NDSA, Tournear said. About a month ago, he said, contracts were awarded for transport layer satellites. Those contracts went to Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems. Each of these companies will build ten satellites.

The contracts for both the tracking and transport layers are part of Tranche 0 of the NDSA. Tranche 0, he said, comprises 28 SDA satellites: 20 transport satellites and 8 tracking layer satellites. Tournear said there will be a separate solicitation to launch those 28 satellites.

«We call it ‘tracking’ because it’s missile tracking – so it provides detection, tracking and fire control formation for hypersonic glide vehicles, ballistic missiles … any of those kinds of threats», Tournear said.

Space Architecture
Agency Awards Contracts for Tracking Layer of National Defense Space Architecture

When tracking layer satellites detect a threat, such as a ballistic missile, they send that information to satellites in the transport layer.

«The transport satellites are the backbone of the National Defense Space Architecture», Tournear said. «They take data from multiple tracking systems, fuse those, and are able to calculate a fire control solution, and then the transport satellites will be able to send those data down directly to a weapons platform via a tactical data link, or some other means».

The development of the NDSA is based on two pillars: proliferation and spiral development. Ultimately, Tournear said, there will be hundreds of satellites that make up the NDSA.

«With Tranche 0 in 2022, we will provide enough capability to where people can start to experiment with what those data could do, and figure out how they could put that into their operational plans for battle», Tournear said.

Tranche 1, due in 2024, will include a couple hundred satellites in the transport layer, and a few dozen in the tracking layer. With Tranche 2, in 2026, the SDA would continue to build out the system as needed. By then, he said, the SDA would have global coverage, ensuring that the capabilities provided by the NDSA could be available to warfighters anywhere in the world.

«Every two years thereafter, we would continually spiral out and proliferate more satellites with new capabilities and, in essence, retire satellites with older capabilities as we develop new tranches», he said.

Tournear said that the NDSA is certainly based in space, its focus is mostly back on Earth – in support of service members conducting operations on land, at sea and in the air.

«Our architecture is entirely warfighter-focused for the terrestrial battlefield», Tournear said. «Our goal is to be able to provide real-time targeting data for targets, for time-sensitive targets and for missiles, so that the terrestrial warfighter can utilize space to be able to affect their mission in real time. We’re focused on making sure that we can provide capabilities from space».

Tracking Layer
Tracking Layer

Kalpana Chawla

Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Cygnus spacecraft was successfully captured by Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA using the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2 at 5:32 a.m. EDT after its launch on the company’s Antares rocket on October 2 from Wallops Island.

Cygnus CRS NG-14
Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft was successfully captured by Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA using the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2 at 5:32 a.m. EDT after its launch on the company’s Antares rocket on October 2 from Wallops Island

The S.S. Kalpana Chawla executed a series of thruster burns during its three-day journey to the station. Once Cygnus was in close range, crew members grappled the spacecraft with the station’s robotic arm. Cygnus was then guided to its berthing port on the Earth facing side of the station’s Unity module and officially installed to the space station at 8:01 a.m. EDT.

«The S.S. Kalpana Chawla has successfully completed the first part of its mission with its arrival at the International Space Station», said Frank DeMauro, vice president and general manager, tactical space systems, Northrop Grumman. «Northrop Grumman is proud to support both NASA and our commercial partners as we continue to play a critical role in support of humans living and working in space».

Cygnus will remain berthed to the International Space Station for approximately three months while more than 8,000 pounds/3,629 kg of cargo is unloaded and astronauts reload the vehicle with disposal cargo. Cygnus will then undock and complete its secondary mission of hosting both the Northrop Grumman-built SharkSat payload and the Saffire-V experiment. The SharkSat prototype payload is mounted to Cygnus and will collect performance data of new technologies in low Earth orbit. To learn more about these payloads, visit Northrop Grumman’s website.

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.

Satellite Mesh Network

The Space Development Agency (SDA) awarded a Tranche 0 contract of the Space Transport Layer to Lockheed Martin to demonstrate a mesh network of 10 small satellites that links terrestrial warfighting domains to space sensors – all launching in just two years.

Lockheed Martin to build 10 Small Satellite Mesh Network in two years

The $187.5-million contract for Transport Layer’s Tranche 0 is an initial test and demonstration phase, with two prime contractors building a total of 20 satellites. The first step toward building an interoperable, connected secure mesh network, it will help enable Joint All-Domain Operations, allowing warfighters to stay ahead of emerging threats. By linking nodes together, seamless connectivity is created between all domains, much like today’s smartphones.

«We see a world across all warfighting domains where fourth and fifth-generation fighters and tactical forces on the ground can connect seamlessly with holistic situational awareness», said Kay Sears, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Military Space. «Interoperability and battlespace connectivity are critical to staying ahead of our adversaries».

The 10 satellites, operating in Low Earth Orbit, will provide secure high-bandwidth, low-latency data links. Additionally, new Link 16 network connectivity will be introduced to space. This capability will connect to systems that include fighter aircraft like F-16, F-22, and F-35, missile defense networks like PAC-3 and THAAD, weapons systems, and Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) networks, and will provide sensor-to-shooter targeting and situational awareness for tactical land and maritime warfighters.

 

Changing the Dynamics of Warfighting

This beyond-line-of-site tracking, targeting and communications will dramatically extend U.S. warfighting options and allows additional coalition and allied partners to eventually bring their capabilities into the network. Interoperability extends into space with prospective data connections to commercial satellite communications (SATCOM) and other military protected satcom systems, which will require close partnership with multiple companies across industry.

 

How Software Adds Flexibility to Missions

Each Transport Layer satellite will be fully-software defined, using SmartSat, Lockheed Martin’s software-defined platform that makes it easier to dynamically add and quickly change missions in orbit through simple app uploads. The satellites will also be fully cyber-hardened from day one using Lockheed Martin’s Cyber Resiliency Level model to identify cyber strengths and weaknesses so we can address those early in the design process.

The Transport Layer contributes to resilience in space communications. Mission resilience comes from being able to form a seamless network of networks, with network nodes spanning multiple domains and services provided via multiple tactical data links, making it much harder for an adversary to disrupt because of network diversity and node distribution.

First Qualification Test

Northrop Grumman Corporation conducted its first ground test of an extended length 63-inch-diameter/160-centimeter-diameter Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM 63XL) on August 13, 2020 in Promontory, Utah. This variation of the company’s GEM 63 strap-on booster was developed in partnership with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to provide additional lift capability to the Vulcan Centaur vehicle.

Northrop Grumman conducted the first test of its GEM 63XL rocket motor to serve the United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur on August 13 at its Promontory, Utah, facility

«Our new GEM 63XL motors leverage its flight-proven heritage while utilizing state-of-the-art manufacturing technology to enhance launch vehicle heavy-lift capabilities», said Charlie Precourt, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman. «The GEM 63XL increases thrust and performance by 15-20 percent compared to a standard GEM 63».

During today’s static test, the motor fired for approximately 90 seconds, producing nearly 449,000 pounds/203,663 kg of thrust to qualify the motor’s internal insulation, propellant grain, ballistics and nozzle in a cold-conditioned environment. This test demonstrated materials and technologies similar to the GEM 63 rocket motor that qualified for flight in October 2019.

Northrop Grumman has supplied rocket propulsion to ULA and its heritage companies for a variety of launch vehicles since 1964. The GEM family of strap-on motors was developed starting in the early 1980s with the GEM 40 to support the Delta II launch vehicle. The company then followed with the GEM 46 for the Delta II Heavy, and the GEM 60, which flew 86 motors over 26 Delta IV launches before retiring in 2019 with 100 percent success. The first flight of the GEM 63 motors will be on a ULA Atlas V launch vehicle planned for fourth quarter 2020, and GEM 63XL motors will support the Vulcan rocket in 2021.

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.

The GEM 63XL motor being prepared for static test firing in a Test Area test bay

Navigation Technology

L3Harris Technologies is on track to begin building the U.S. Air Force’s first Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3) after completing the program’s critical design review.

Signals readiness to begin building first Navigation Technology Satellite-3

L3Harris will integrate the program’s experimental payload with an ESPAStar Platform, planned for launch in 2022. The system is designed to augment space-based position, navigation and timing capabilities for warfighters.

The NTS-3 payload features a modular design and can adapt to support various mission needs. The experiment will demonstrate capabilities that can be accomplished through a stand-alone satellite constellation or as a hosted payload.

«Collaboration with our customers has enabled us to move rapidly through important milestones to design this experimental satellite», said Ed Zoiss, President, Space and Airborne Systems, L3Harris. «Our goal is to deliver new signals to support rapidly evolving warfighter missions».

Less than a year after award, the company cleared the first development hurdle in half the time similar satellite programs take. The Space Enterprise Consortium selected L3Harris for the $84 million contract in 2018 as the prime system integrator to design, develop, integrate and test NTS-3. L3Harris is combining experimental antennas, flexible and secure signals, increased automation, and use of commercial command and control assets.

Designated as one of the Air Force’s first vanguard programs, NTS-3 will examine ways to improve the resiliency of the military’s positioning, navigation and timing capabilities. It will also develop key technologies relevant to the Global Positioning System (GPS) constellation, with the opportunity for insertion of these technologies into the GPS IIIF program. The program is a collaboration with the Air Force Research Laboratory, Space and Missile Systems Center, U.S. Space Force, and Air Force Lifecycle Management Center.

L3Harris has more than 40 years of experience transmitting GPS navigation signals. The company’s technology has been onboard every GPS satellite ever launched.