Air Force wants industry ideas on balloon-based radio relay system

KIRTLAND AFB, N.M., 2 March 2006. U.S. Air Force researchers are approaching industry for ideas on developing a balloon-borne integrated communications repeater system to extend radio communications beyond line-of-sight.

Mar 2nd, 2006

KIRTLAND AFB, N.M., 2 March 2006. U.S. Air Force researchers are approaching industry for ideas on developing a balloon-borne integrated communications repeater system to extend radio communications beyond line-of-sight.

The project, called the Near Space Operational System, is under supervision of the Air Force Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP) at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

The Near Space Operation System would fly in atmospheric regions between 12 and 62 miles in altitude. These "near-space" regions typically are too high for most military aircraft, and too low for orbiting satellites. These regions most often are above the weather and out of the reach of most ground-based weapons.

Tests have demonstrated that lifting line-of-sight radio equipment to high altitudes aboard balloons can increase their ranges from about 10 miles to 400 miles, which holds out broad potential for improving close-air-support operations, as well as persistent reconnaissance, surveillance, and intelligence gathering.

This increased coverage of VHF and UHF radios will help improve battlespace awareness and integrate space capabilities with communications and intelligence. Once established, this repeater will be able to provide a voice or low-rate data link, encrypted or unencrypted, between points on the ground.

At this early stage of the program, Air Force officials are asking industry for statements of capabilities of potential sources, which are due to the Air Force by March 17.

The system will be designed to launch from a remote location and controlled via a portable command-and-control (C2) system.

The communications repeater also will support secondary payloads, Air Force officials say, by sending and receiving commands to and from a secondary payload.

Air Force officials want companies to send in statements of interest and capabilities by March 17. Submit response to SMC Det 12/PKN , Attn: Raynie R. Vanderford (raynie.vanderford1@kirtland.af.mil), or Mel G. Pearson, (mel.pearson@kirtland.af.mil) at 3548 Aberdeen Ave. SE, Kirtland AFB, N.M. 87117-5776.

For technical questions contact Air Force 1st Lt. Kellie Turner by phone at 505-846-3115 or by e-mail at kelie.turner @kirtland.af.mil. The solicitation number is FA8818-06-R-0001.

More information is available online at http://www.fbodaily.com/archive/2006/03-March/02-Mar-2006/FBO-00996181.htm.

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