CHANDLER, Ariz., 1 September 2006. The U.S. Air Force Space Command Space & Missile Systems Center's Development and Test Wing, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., is awarding a $49 million contract to Space Data Corporation to provide a near space communications system.
"Near space" is defined as 65,000 to 135,000 feet above the earth.
"Under previous Space Command contracts, the Air Force Space Battlelab carried out extensive testing of our system over the past two years," says Gerald Knoblach, chairman and CEO of Space Data.
The Battlelab tests included using the same tactical radios carried by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The results showed that ground-to-ground voice and data communications could be extended from 10 miles to more than 400 miles using Space Data's balloon-borne payloads.
Likewise, the Space Data technology improved communications between troops on the ground and pilots flying air support. Further tests were conducted this year as part of the Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment -- a biennial event sponsored by the Air Force Chief of Staff to test the latest war fighting technologies. Additional advantages identified by the military included ease of launch and the ability to quickly adapt payloads for specific warfighter needs.
The GPS-equipped platforms can be launched from the back of a Humvee,and once at altitude provide excellent communications over thousands of square miles.
The Near Space Communications System contract is a five-year "indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity" arrangement that permits the Space & Missile Systems Center to order Space Data equipment as needed. Space Data will also provide training in using the equipment for military personnel.