Tag Archives: Inc.

Multi-Band,
Multi-Mission

Lockheed Martin, Ball Aerospace, and Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. were awarded a $7.2 million prototype agreement by the Defense Innovation Unit to develop a new Multi-Band, Multi-Mission (MBMM) prototype phased array as part of a broader initiative to modernize the existing Air Force Satellite Control Network and bring new technology faster to warfighters. MBMM enables multiple satellites to simultaneously connect with a single array antenna over multiple frequencies, a significant performance improvement compared to traditional single contact parabolic dishes.

Lockheed Martin, Ball and Kratos team on Advanced Phased Array for Air Force

The Lockheed Martin team is building prototype transmit and receive Electronically Steerable Arrays (ESA). Each array uses Ball’s advanced phased array technologies and supports L- and S-band frequencies initially. Signal processing is accomplished with Kratos’ digital Intermediate Frequency (IF) technology and cloud-enabled quantumRadio.

«MBMM is a smarter way to quickly and affordably scale satellite transmission while lowering long-term maintenance costs for the Air Force», said Maria Demaree, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Mission Solutions. «Today, when a parabolic antenna goes down, it can take days to repair; with MBMM, it will take hours and won’t take the entire site offline – that’s a tremendous advantage».

Extensive industry research comparing the costs of parabolic antennas to phased arrays over time show that while parabolic antennas have a lower upfront cost, they become much more expensive to maintain. Phased arrays avoid the mechanical maintenance and keyhole effects of parabolic antennas while providing graceful degradation and electronic agility in matching aperture performance to constellation demands.

«One electronically steered antenna can replace multiple dishes, enabling better performance, connectivity and affordability», said Rob Freedman, vice president and general manager, Tactical Solutions, Ball Aerospace.

«Software modems deployed in virtual machines gives MBMM an advantage because it is easy to scale signal processing on a much faster timeline than previously», said Frank Backes, senior vice president of Kratos Federal Space.

Future operational MBMM systems will offer new cyber resilience while reducing long-term sustainment costs for the Air Force. MBMM may eventually support multiple orbits from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO) and can perform multiple missions at the same time, including Command & Control (C2), launch pad and ascent operations, radar and mission data transmission. The Lockheed Martin/Ball team is one of several teams building prototypes for the government.

GOLauncher1

The Air Force has designated the GOLauncher1 hypersonic flight research vehicle as X-60A. The vehicle is being developed by Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory, Aerospace Systems Directorate, High Speed Systems Division.

An artist's sketch of an X-60A launch (Courtesy illustration)
An artist’s sketch of an X-60A launch (Courtesy illustration)

It is an air-dropped liquid rocket, specifically designed for hypersonic flight research to mature technologies including scramjet propulsion, high temperature materials and autonomous control.

«The X-60A is like a flying wind tunnel to capture data that complements our current ground test capability», said Colonel Colin Tucker, Military Deputy, office of the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for science, technology, and engineering. «We’ve long needed this type of test vehicle to better understand how materials and other technologies behave while flying at more than 5 times the speed of sound. It enables faster development of both our current hypersonic weapon rapid prototypes and evolving future systems».

AFRL’s motivation for the X-60A program is to increase the frequency of flight testing while lowering the cost of maturing hypersonic technologies in relevant flight conditions. While hypersonic ground test facilities are vital in technology development, those technologies must also be tested with actual hypersonic flight conditions.

Utilizing new space commercial development, licensing, and operations practices, X-60A is envisioned to provide the Air Force, other U.S. Government agencies, and industry with a platform to more rapidly mature technologies.

The X-60A rocket vehicle propulsion system is the Hadley liquid rocket engine, which utilizes liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants. The system is designed to provide affordable and regular access to high dynamic pressure flight conditions between Mach 5 and Mach 8.

This is the first Air Force Small Business Innovative Research program to receive an experimental «X» designation.

Phase 1 Swarm

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) selected Northrop Grumman Corporation as a Phase 1 Swarm Systems Integrator for the Agency’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program. As part of the program, Northrop Grumman will launch its first open architecture test bed and is seeking participants to create and test their own swarm-based tactics on the platform. Northrop Grumman is teamed with Intelligent Automation, Inc. (IAI) and the Interactive Computing Experiences Research Cluster, directed by Doctor Joseph LaViola at the University of Central Florida.

Northrop Grumman Launches First Open Architecture Test Bed to Support DARPAs OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics OFFSET Program
Northrop Grumman Launches First Open Architecture Test Bed to Support DARPAs OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics OFFSET Program

As part of the DARPA OFFSET program, Northrop Grumman serves as a swarm systems integrator, tasked with designing, developing and deploying a swarm-system, open-based architecture for swarm technologies in both a game-based environment and physical test bed. The team has been tasked to produce tactics and technologies to test on the architecture and is responsible for engaging a wider development and user audience through rapid technology-development exercises known as «swarm sprints».

Approximately every six months, DARPA plans to solicit proposals from potential “sprinters” in one of five thrust areas: swarm tactics, swarm autonomy, human-swarm teaming, virtual environment and physical test bed. Participants from academia, small business and large corporations are invited to join in these swarm sprints. Sprinters will work with the integration team to create and test their own novel swarm tactics within the test bed environment. The end of each sprint will coincide with live physical test experiments with DARPA, the systems integrator team and other sprinters.

The goal of the OFFSET program is to provide small-unit infantry forces with small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) or small Unmanned Ground Systems (UGSs) in swarms of 250 or more robots that support diverse missions in complex urban environments. OFFSET seeks to advance the integration of modern swarm tactics and leverage emerging technologies in swarm autonomy and human-swarm teaming.

«Cognitive autonomy has the potential to transform all defense and security systems. OFFSET will explore a variety of applications in relevant mission scenarios», said Vern Boyle, vice president, advanced technologies, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems. «We are applying cutting-edge technologies in robotics, robot autonomy, machine learning and swarm control to ultimately enhance our contributions to the warfighter».