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May 22, 2019 | International, Aerospace, C4ISR

Eutelsat, Maxar Selected for NASA Study


Maxar Technologies and Eutelsat were selected to participate in NASA's Space Relay Partnership and Services Study. This studies future systems that could revolutionize NASA's space-based communications architecture through innovative technologies and commercial partnerships. The future architecture would be used for scientific and human exploration missions in Earth orbit, at the Moon, and throughout the solar system beginning in the mid-2020s. NASA's Space Communications and Navigation Program currently offers space-based radio frequency communications services for all of the agency's space communications activities via its Space Network. The Space Network consists of a constellation of geosynchronous satellites called TDRS and ground systems that operate as a relay system between satellites.

Leveraging current and planned commercial communication and navigation infrastructure, Maxar will study concepts to augment the Space Network with more advanced optical communications capabilities and enhanced radio frequency services. Maxar will also study a framework that allows for a transition from government-owned and managed space services to commercially developed and operated services. This future architecture could unlock the promise of human exploration, new and greater scientific discovery, and reduce development and operations costs for future missions through improved communication and navigation services.

More specifically, Eutelsat was selected for NASA's Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2) as part of the NASA Space Relay Partnership and Services Study. The NextSTEP-2 program seeks to establish partnerships with U.S. companies to evaluate the incorporation of commercial elements into the future space relay services that will be provided by the agency's Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Networks.

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    February 11, 2022 | International, Aerospace

    Top Pentagon officials met with industry executives about hypersonics. What comes next?

    Experts say the Pentagon's call for progress on hypersonic weapons development must be backed up with fiscal 2023 investments in much-needed testing infrastructure.

  • Boeing preps for next test of US Navy’s future aerial tanker drone

    August 6, 2020 | International, Aerospace, Naval

    Boeing preps for next test of US Navy’s future aerial tanker drone

    By: David B. Larter WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier-borne tanker drone, the MQ-25 Stingray, is preparing to head into the fall resuming test flights, this time with the crucial fuel store pod attached. The store pod — the same one integrated into the Navy's stalwart F/A-18 Super Hornet for aerial refueling — was recently integrated into the MQ-25 test article under the wing. “When we resume flight testing later this year, we'll have the opportunity to gather test points about the aerodynamics of that pod and the software commands that control it — all happening well before we deliver the Navy's first MQ-25 jet with the same pod,” MQ-25 program director Dave Bujold said in a statement from the aircraft's manufacturer, Boeing. “That early testing and early software development is a big part of supporting the Navy's goal to get MQ-25 to the fleet as quickly as possible,” he added. The engineers will primarily observe the aerodynamics of the pod mounted on the Stingray test article, then seeing how the hose and drogue behave while being dragged behind the airframe. Possible delays In June, Defense News reported that the MQ-25 could face a three-year testing delay if it doesn't get its designated test ships through the required modernizations on time, a possibility the Navy said was remote. Two carriers — Carl Vinson and George H.W. Bush — have limited windows to complete the installation of unmanned aircraft control stations, and if operational commitments intervene, the program could experience significant problems, according to Navy officials and a government watchdog report. “Program officials stated that, among other things, the Navy's potential inability to maintain its schedule commitments could require modifications to the contract that would impact the fixed-price terms,” the Government Accountability Office reported. “Specifically, the Navy faces limited flexibility to install MQ-25 control centers on aircraft carriers. “If the Navy misses any of its planned installation windows, the program would have to extend MQ-25 development testing by up to 3 years. According to officials, such a delay could necessitate a delay to initial capability and result in a cost increase.” The Navy's MQ-25 Stingray aerial refueling drone took its first flight Sept. 19, a historic step toward integrating an unmanned aircraft into the service's powerful strike arm. Navy officials say a three-year delay is “extremely unlikely”; however, the Navy has struggled in recent years to balance its modernization schedules with operational commitments, a problem that its “Optimized Fleet Response Plan” deployment rotation scheme was supposed to address. Ultimately, a delay would further push back the Navy's ability to extend its carrier air wing's range through unmanned tanking, critical to keeping the service's powerful strike arm relevant against long-range guided munitions.

  • After the US Navy’s Bonhomme Richard catastrophe, a far-reaching crackdown on fire safety

    July 28, 2020 | International, Naval

    After the US Navy’s Bonhomme Richard catastrophe, a far-reaching crackdown on fire safety

    By: David B. Larter WASHINGTON – U.S. Navy brass is telling sailors and contractors to put fire safety at the center of their work in the shipyards and on the waterfront in the wake of a catastrophic fire aboard the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard. As Naval Sea Systems Command continues its formal assessment of the damage to Bonhomme Richard, the Navy has both sailors across the organization and contractors working on the ships reviewing their procedures and ensuring they are doing everything possible to prevent a second tragedy. Adm. Michael Gilday, the chief of naval operations, said the enterprise-wide effort was to prevent a similar event from taking place, a lesson he drew from the Navy's response to a string of accidents in 7th Fleet in 2017. “Could there be another Bonhomme Richard waiting to happen? If you go back to 2017, who would have predicted we'd have had two collisions of that magnitude within a month?” Gilday said in a July 16 interview with Defense News. “So, I'm not waiting for ‘No. 2' to decide we have a trend here. In a situation like this, one incident is enough for me to determine that there could be a trend and I'm not going to leave it to chance that there might be.” In the wake of the fire, he ordered fleet commanders to send a lengthy list of requirements to the waterfront, including a mandate to do fire safety inspections of every space on every ship. So-called “zone inspections” of each space on a ship are generally spread out over months, rather than packed into a week. The orders also included reviewing maintenance records on all damage control equipment – such as fire hoses and fire main connections, fire extinguishers, fixed fire suppression systems and firefighting gear – and ensure it is 100 percent accounted for. Additionally, each in-port duty section (a rotating group of sailors from the crew designated to stay on board the ship for 24 hours) was required to undergo a formal assessment as to their proficiency in firefighting and validate that they were properly manned to be effective. Contractors and shipbuilders have also been warned by the Navy to take fire safety seriously. In the days following the Bonhomme Richard fire, two minor fires – one on board the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge at General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard and another on the Navy's future carrier John F. Kennedy at Newport News shipbuilding – have curtailed work and prompted a doubling down on safety. In a Friday letter, Navy's top acquisitions official James Geurts told shipbuilders and contractors to take Bohnomme Richard as a lesson. "Anyone who steps aboard our ships must be ever vigilant about ensuring fire safety," Geurts wrote. "I urge you to use [the recent fire] to ensure that our work spaces are clean, that unnecessary clutter is removed, that all fire safety measures are being followed and that there is unrestricted access to firefighting and damage control equipment." ‘Gutted' The safety crackdown follows the Navy's worst in-port disaster since the 2012 fire on board the attack submarine Miami, which suffered a major conflagration while in deep maintenance at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine. That incident was later determined to be arson. The Bonhomme Richard fire, which experts fear may have damaged the “big deck” amphib beyond repair, raised troubling questions about how prepared sailors are to combat one of their most fearsome enemies: a shipboard fire, a threat they are trained to deal with from their earliest days in Boot Camp. In a letter this week from Gilday to all Navy flag officers and top enlisted leaders, he detailed how a series of explosions and a 1,200-degree inferno caused “extensive damage” to 11 of Bonhomme Richard's 14 decks. “There is fire and water damage, to varying degrees, on 11 of 14 decks,” Gilday wrote. “With the flight deck as a reference, I walked sections of the ship 5 levels below and had the opportunity to examine the superstructure. “The island is nearly gutted, as are sections of some of the decks below; some perhaps, nearly encompassing the 844 ft length and 106 ft beam of the ship ([Naval Sea System Command's] detailed assessment is ongoing). Sections of the flight deck are warped/bulging.” The fire on the Bonhomme Richard broke out the morning of July 12 while it was pierside in San Diego, California, undergoing maintenance. The blaze was aided by wind and explosions, Gilday wrote. “While response from the crew and federal firefighters was rapid, preliminary reports indicate there were two main factors that contributed to the intensity, scope, and speed of the fire,” Gilday wrote. “First was wind that fueled the fire as the vehicle storage area leads to the well deck, which opens to the air at the stern gate. The second were the explosions, one in particular, reportedly heard about 13 miles away. “The explosions, some were intense, and the uncertainty of their location and timing, led to a situation, that might have been under control late Sunday night, but expanded into a mass conflagration, spreading quickly up elevator shafts, engine exhaust stacks, and through berthing and other compartments where combustible material was present.” The Navy has launched dual investigations into the fire: A safety investigation, which are generally not released to the public so that witnesses can feel free to speak openly, and a more formal administrative investigation, which generally comes with disciplinary recommendations and are releasable to the public.

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