In brief

Boeing picosatellite mission to advance miniature satellite technology

A picosatellite developed by Boeing in St. Louis to evaluate miniature spacecraft technologies launched into orbit last month on an ISC Kosmotras Dnepr rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Initial system checks indicate that the CubeSat TestBed 1 (CSTB1) spacecraft is operational and ready for a series of on-orbit demonstrations that will help Boeing further develop nanosatellites weighing less than 22 pounds. During the CSTB1 demonstrations, Boeing will test several new technologies, software designs, and on-orbit operations for nanosatellite functions. Weighing a little more than two pounds, CSTB1 consists of four microcontrollers as the brains, redundant communication systems with two independent radios, two high-capacity lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, a deployable antenna, a sophisticated control system that determines the attitude of the spacecraft using sun and magnetic field sensors, a simple attitude control system using magnetic torque coils, and multifunctional boards containing sensors and electronics.

Army awards General Dynamics $31 million for combat vehicle work

The U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command in Warren, Mich., awarded General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights, Mich., more than $31 million in three contracts for work related to the Abrams tank and Stryker eight-wheeled combat vehicle. A $9.1 million contract for long-lead material for reset of battle damaged M1A2 Abrams System Enhancement Package (SEP) tanks was awarded last month. Through the reset program, General Dynamics, in partnership with the Anniston Army Depot, will service and repair Abrams tanks to a precombat condition, apply modifications to bring the tanks to the latest configuration, and reissue them to Army units prior to their next deployments. Separately, a delivery order worth $13 million was awarded as part of a $189.2 million contract for contractor logistics support for the Stryker’s remote weapon station. A $9.1 million contract for interior and exterior driver-enhancement kits for the Stryker family of vehicles was also awarded.

United Kingdom awards Lockheed Martin Trident missile-support contract

The U.S. Navy is awarding Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, Calif., a one-year, $14.2 million contract for continued program management and engineering services for the United Kingdom’s Trident II D5 Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) program. The Royal Navy’s Trident II D5 missiles, which are built by Lockheed Martin, are deployed aboard British-built Vanguard-class Trident ballistic-missile submarines. Under this contract, Lockheed Martin is providing program management and planning support to the Royal Navy, as well as technical support related to integration and operations for U.K. reentry systems, missiles, and support systems. Spare parts also will be provided. Lockheed Martin is performing work at facilities in the United States and the United Kingdom for this contract.

Raytheon demonstrates new DCGS web-portal capabilities to improve intelligence sharing

Raytheon IIS in Garland, Texas, demonstrated new key Web-portal capabilities, much like the Internet, that will improve intelligence sharing across the military services and intelligence agencies and facilitate closer collaboration. After the 9/11 Commission stressed that the military services need to collaborate more closely through improved technologies, Raytheon demonstrated to program officials in various scenarios an industry-first hybrid version of its Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS) Block 10.2. In the demonstration, Raytheon showed how appropriate personnel could easily access and view real-world operational mission data. When completely fielded, DCGS Block 10.2 will be a worldwide distributed, network-centric enterprise architecture that enables sharing, discovery, and collaborative intelligence operations and production.

Tests demonstrate functionality of TSAT next-generation processor router

U.S. government experts have demonstrated the Next Generation Processor Router (NGPR) component of the future Transformational Satellite Communications (TSAT), according to members of the Lockheed Martin/Northrop Grumman TSAT team. Using high-speed optical communications, Internet Protocol network routing, and communications-on-the-move capability, TSAT will increase connectivity, speed, and mobility for the future warfighter. The NGPR combines features common to terrestrial network routers with TSAT-unique processing functions, providing anti-jam radio frequency (RF) waveforms, military quality of service features, and flexible optimization of capacity via Dynamic Bandwidth Resource Allocation (DBRA) processing. In the NGPR-2 tests, the team demonstrated the high-data-rate, protected TSAT waveforms through integrated end-to-end threads, as well as network functionality of the NGPR under planned scenarios defined by the U.S. Air Force. The tests, conducted from November 2006 through February 2007 at Northrop Grumman, were performed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory (MIT/LL) using its suite of test and verification equipment. The Aerospace Corp., which provides technical support to the Air Force on the TSAT program, also participated in the test execution.

BAE Systems receives $12.6 million order for Bradley advanced training systems

BAE Systems in Orlando, Fla., received a delivery order for 17 Bradley Advanced Training Systems (BATS) from the U.S. Army Program Executive Office of Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation. The contract calls for BAE Systems to produce and install the BATS devices at U.S. Army bases. The work will be performed at BAE Systems’s Orlando facility with delivery set for December 2007 through August 2008. This work follows a $19 million contract awarded to BAE Systems in 2006 to upgrade 66 Conduct of Fire Trainer (COFT) training devices, and 24 BATS devices, build 10 new BATS devices, and add “urban operations” to the BATS and COFT training devices. “The BATS training is an important part of training for soldiers going to Iraq,” says Mark Russell, training systems manager for BAE Systems. “BATS is unique in that it offers more realism and incorporates a random target feature that better prepares the soldier for real life fighting scenarios.”

DRS Technologies to produce embedded diagnostic kits for Marine Corps battle-tank fleet

DRS Test & Energy Management in Huntsville, Ala., will produce Sidecar Embedded Diagnostic Kits for the U.S. Marine Corps’s entire fleet of battle tanks. The contract was awarded to DRS by the U.S. Army’s Tank & Automotive Command (TACOM) in Warren, Mich., on behalf of the Marine Corps. Deliveries of the kits are expected to s continue through December 2008. The Marine Corps has ordered the company’s Sidecar kits for other vehicles, but this is the first time they have been ordered for their M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks. The Sidecar kits immediately identify and isolate vehicle electronic and electrical system faults, significantly reducing maintenance time and costs. They monitor and digitize analog or discrete system signals and provide the measurements to a high-speed data bus, allowing for real-time data collection and analysis. The kits receive power via the combined data/power Sidecar cable, with no interruption or expenditure of system power. Used in conjunction with a host controller, the Sidecar Data Acquisition Units provide a complete, embedded vehicle diagnostics solution, DRS officials say.

SAIC awarded contract to support Pacific Air Forces

The U.S. Air Force, Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) awarded Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) in San Diego a contract to provide a full range of engineering and technical support services. The SAIC team will provide engineering and technical services as requested by the customer, providing maximum flexibility to allow SAIC to adapt to the evolving requirements of PACAF. These services will support systems for PACAF command, control, computers, intelligence, war-gaming, and force protection. Work will be performed primarily in Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, Japan, and Korea.

ViaSat to provide FBCB2 Blue Force Tracking network upgrades

Northrop Grumman Mission Systems selected ViaSat in Carlsbad, Calif., to develop the satellite ground equipment for the follow-on Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below Blue Force Tracking (FBCB2-BFT) satellite network upgrade. ViaSat will build a prototype network and terminals that are designed to increase network capacity and improve accuracy over the current system. Northrop Grumman is the Army’s system integrator for FBCB2. The FBCB2 network is a digital command-and-control system that provides battle-command and situational-awareness information from brigade down to the soldier/platform level using GPS navigation signals and communication satellites. ViaSat and the RF Communications Division of Harris Corp. have cooperated in winning this effort. Work under the contract is scheduled to be complete in one year, and production and delivery of FBCB2-BFT replacement terminals may begin as early as 2008.

NASA shows future space telescopes could detect Earth twin

For the first time, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., have demonstrated in the laboratory that a space telescope rigged with special masks and mirrors could snap a photo of an Earth-like planet orbiting a nearby star. This accomplishment marks a step forward for missions like the proposed Terrestrial Planet Finder, designed to hunt for an Earth twin that might harbor life, NASA officials say. Trying to image an exoplanet-a planet orbiting a star other than the Sun-is a daunting task, because its relatively dim glow is easily overpowered by the intense glare of its much bigger, brighter parent star. The challenge has been compared to looking for a firefly next to a searchlight. Two JPL researchers, John Trauger and Wesley Traub, have shown that a fairly simple coronagraph-an instrument used to “mask” a star’s glare- paired with an adjustable mirror, could enable a space telescope to image a distant planet 10 billion times fainter than its central star. In the lab demonstration, the High Contrast and Imaging Testbed overcame two significant hurdles that all telescopes face when trying to image exoplanets-diffracted and scattered light. More information on NASA’s planet-finding missions, including Terrestrial Planet Finder, is at planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov.

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