Northrop Grumman completes integration of third payload module for Advanced EHF satellites

Oct. 1, 2008
Engineers at Northrop Grumman Corp. in Redondo Beach, Calif., completed integrating all electronic units of the payload module for the third Advanced Extremely High Frequency (EHF) military communications satellite.

Engineers at Northrop Grumman Corp. in Redondo Beach, Calif., completed integrating all electronic units of the payload module for the third Advanced Extremely High Frequency (EHF) military communications satellite. The company is under contract to provide three communications payloads to Advanced EHF prime contractor Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, Calif. The Advanced EHF system will provide global, secure, protected, survivable communications for warfighters operating on ground, sea, and air platforms. Integrated with Lockheed Martin’s A2100 space vehicle structure, the payload module consists of the complete set of radio-frequency, processing, routing, and control hardware and software that perform the satellite’s protected communications function. The equipment includes approximately 20 electronics units and about 500,000 lines of software code. Advanced EHF is the successor to the current Milstar system. Milstar is the only protected satellite communications system operating in geosynchronous orbit, Northrop Grumman officials say. One AEHF Satellite will provide greater total capacity than the entire Milstar constellation, while individual user data rates will be five times better. The higher data rates will permit transmission of tactical military communication such as real-time video, battlefield maps, and targeting data. Lockheed Martin will provide three Advanced EHF satellites and the Mission Control System to the U.S. Air Force Military Satellite Communications Systems Wing, located at the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif.

Boeing completes mission system flight testing for U.S. AWACS Block 40/45 upgrade

Boeing completed mission system flight testing for Block 40/45, the largest upgrade in the history of the U.S. E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) fleet. During a period from April 2007 to July 2008, Boeing and the Air Force’s Joint Test Force flew missions aboard Test System 3, an AWACS test aircraft, to complete the system design and development program. “Test data indicate the Block 40/45 system meets or exceeds all its key performance parameters and technical performance requirements,” says Stu Oliason, 40/45 system design and development program manager for Boeing. Under the Block 40/45 program, the aircraft’s legacy mainframe computer has been replaced with an open system architecture using network servers in a user-friendly operating environment. The improved computing power helps automate what is a manually intensive workload for the AWACS operators. A multisource integration capability automates the process of detecting and identifying targets to provide one-target/single-track resolution. The numerous buttons and switches around the current operator console have been replaced with a display featuring drop-down menus and rapid access to all required information. This functionality shortens the time required to execute either combat or search-and-rescue missions. The Air Force is expected to make a decision on the next step—a Block 40/45 production contract—by the end of this year.

LynxOS-178 powers Rockwell Collins next-generation avionics

Engineers at Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, selected the LynxOS-178 from LynuxWorks in San Jose, Calif., as the real-time operating system (RTOS) for the company’s Pro Line Fusion avionics system. As a next-generation avionics system, Pro Line Fusion was a strong match for an RTOS such as LynxOS-178, which helped speed the product’s development and certification process, LynuxWorks officials say. Pro Line Fusion is a scalable avionics system that offers an empowering user interface, extensive situational awareness via synthetic enhanced vision, MultiScan weather radar, head-up and head-down display synergy, and large, high-resolution displays. In addition, Pro Line Fusion offers information management that includes maintenance systems, automated database management, and wireless connectivity. LynxOS-178 is the only RTOS to be awarded a Reusable Software Component (RSC) by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), company officials say.

General Dynamics completes on-orbit checkout of NASA’s Fermi gamma-ray space telescope

General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems engineers in Gilbert, Ariz., completed the Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) of NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Fermi, previously known as the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope or GLAST, is a next-generation high-energy gamma-ray satellite designed to make observations of celestial gamma-ray sources. NASA renamed the satellite in honor of Prof. Enrico Fermi, a pioneer in high-energy physics. The LEOP is a functional checkout of the observatory which demonstrates that all the instruments and subsystems perform to meet Fermi’s mission. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is managing daily operations of the observatory. Fermi was launched this summer. As system integrator for the GLAST observatory, General Dynamics was responsible for the design and manufacture of the spacecraft bus, integration of the government-furnished instruments, full system testing, supported launch processing, and on-orbit checkout. General Dynamics assembled the spacecraft and integrated the payload at its space-systems factory in Gilbert. NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is an astrophysics and particle-physics partnership, developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, along with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the U.S. More information is available online at

AP Avionx enters into commercial aerospace market

Officials at AP Labs Inc., in San Diego, announced the launch of a business unit last October called AP Avionx at the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) Annual Conference & Exhibition in Long Beach, Calif. AP Avionx is a supplier of integrated hardware systems for the commercial aerospace industry and in-flight entertainment and communication market. AP Labs is looking to capitalize on aircraft passenger demand for access to in-flight broadband services. Company officials touted research from MultiMedia Intelligence suggesting that the market for in-flight broadband services is expected to grow to nearly $936 million in passenger revenue in 2012, up from initial revenue of $6.6 million this year. AP Avionx engineers will build and supply platform components that provide critical computing, storage, or communication capabilities to enable the broadband systems. AP Labs has been providing such capabilities to the defense market for more than 20 years, company officials say. Current product applications offered from AP Avionx include systems designs for cockpit and cabin, such as servers, media servers, wireless RF based systems, wireless access points, power solutions, and airborne wireless broadband systems for commercial aircraft.

BAE Systems demonstrates combat ID system

Engineers at BAE Systems in Greenlawn, N.Y., have demonstrated their Combat Identification System (CID) at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., which gives combat pilots a previously unavailable view of friendly forces on the battlefield and could significantly reduce “friendly fire” events during combat operations. The capability combines existing communications, combat identification, and target identification systems and gives pilots ready access to information about friendly forces in the area, BAE Systems officials say. The CID system enables pilots to inquire about friendly forces within a specified area. To do so, the system queries several sources of ground situational awareness data and reports the five most-relevant results to the pilot in less than 10 seconds. The capability, intended for use by close-air-support aircraft, such as F-15s, F-16s, F/A-18s, CF-18s, and A-10s, was demonstrated at the U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Exercise Bold Quest Plus at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. BAE Systems developed the capability in cooperation with the Joint Forces Command’s J85 Joint Fires Division to fill a gap in air-to-ground combat identification. The CID server uses service-oriented architecture—a structure that packages functions as interoperable services—to create a flexible, adaptable, and affordable approach to combat identification. The architecture allows BAE Systems to combine existing communications systems, such as Link 16 and surface-to-air data links; situational awareness systems, such as the U.S. Army’s Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below; and combat identification systems, such as radio-based combat identification and battlefield target identification devices into one identification friend-or-foe capability.

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