20 août 2019 | International, Aérospatial

NASA Seeks Lunar Gateway Resupply Proposals

Mark Carreau

NASA has issued a request for proposals (RFP) from U.S. companies capable of carrying out up to $7 billion in re-supply missions to its planned lunar-orbiting, human-tended Gateway.

The request asks for a service similar to how multiple commercial providers deliver pressurized and unpressurized cargo to and from the six-person International Space Station (ISS) under commercial resupply services contracts.

The major difference is that the ISS orbits in a high inclination orbit about 250 mi. from the Earth's surface. The Gateway is to orbit the Moon in a near rectilinear halo orbit, an elliptical track that comes as close to the lunar surface as 1,875 mi. (3,000 km) and as far as 43,750 mi.

Under the Gateway cargo RFP, the craft would remain parked at the Gateway for six months, followed by an automated departure and disposal.

Responses to the RFP, issued Aug. 16, are due Oct. 1.

Under the Artemis initiative unveiled by NASA earlier this year, astronauts will return to the lunar surface via the Gateway by 2024 as the agency pursues a sustainable presence by 2028 and prepares for the human exploration of Mars.

Under the RFP issued through NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), the agency is prepared to commit up to $7 billion to contract with multiple U.S. suppliers for 15 years on a fixed-price basis. Each resupply service would be assured at least two missions.

NASA is asking RFP responders to address logistics, spacecraft design, cargo mass capability, pressurized volume, power availability for payloads and transit time to the Gateway.

“We chose to minimize spacecraft requirements on industry to allow for commercial innovation, but we are asking industry to propose their best solutions for delivering cargo and enabling our deep-space supply chain,” said Mark Wiese, NASA's Gateway logistics element manager at KSC, in an Aug. 19 NASA statement. “In addition to delivering cargo, science and other supplies with these services, private industry also has the opportunity to deliver other elements of our lunar architecture with this solicitation.''

Once the initial contracts are awarded, NASA may issue additional lunar cargo contract opportunities to keep the operations competitive. With advance permission from NASA, its providers also may use mission capabilities to deliver, remove and/or return non-NASA cargo if the additional activities do not interfere with the prime mission.

In late November, NASA announced the selection of nine U.S. companies under its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, making them eligible to bid on the delivery of payloads to the lunar surface. The agency plans to invest up to $2.6 billion in CLPS over the next decade.


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  • Four companies win contracts to build the Air Force’s Skyborg drone

    24 juillet 2020 | International, Aérospatial

    Four companies win contracts to build the Air Force’s Skyborg drone

    By: Valerie Insinna WASHINGTON — Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics and Kratos will move forward in the Air Force program to build an AI-enabled drone wingman known as Skyborg. Each company Thursday was awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract worth up to $400 million, but no seed money was immediately allocated as the firms will have to compete against each other for future orders. Through the Skyborg program, the Air Force wants to field a family of unmanned aerial systems that use artificial intelligence to adapt to battlefield conditions. The Skyborg drone should be cheap enough where the loss of aircraft in combat could be sustained, yet survivable enough so that it could move into a high-end fight and function as a wingman to manned fighter jets. “Because autonomous systems can support missions that are too strenuous or dangerous for manned crews, Skyborg can increase capability significantly and be a force multiplier for the Air Force,” said Brig. Gen. Dale White, who leads the Air Force's program office for fighters and advanced aircraft. “We have the opportunity to transform our warfighting capabilities and change the way we fight and the way we employ air power.” Air Force acquisition executive Will Roper has said that Skyborg could eventually become smart enough that, like R2-D2 in the Star Wars films, it can autonomously present information and conduct tasks to help decrease fighter pilot workload. The system learns from prior experiences how best to support human pilots. But in the near term, the Air Force wants to use the Skyborg program to integrate an autonomous air vehicle with open mission systems as a way to demonstrate that it can team with a manned fighter, the service said in a statement. “Autonomy technologies in Skyborg's portfolio will range from simple play-book algorithms to advanced team decision making and will include on-ramp opportunities for artificial intelligence technologies,” said Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, the Air Force Research Laboratory commander. “This effort will provide a foundational government reference architecture for a family of layered, autonomous, and open-architecture UAS.” https://www.defensenews.com/unmanned/2020/07/23/four-companies-got-contracts-to-build-the-air-forces-skyborg-drone

  • What Do Pentagon Leaders Aim To Achieve Before Inauguration Day?

    1 décembre 2020 | International, Aérospatial, Naval, Terrestre, C4ISR, Sécurité

    What Do Pentagon Leaders Aim To Achieve Before Inauguration Day?

    Jen DiMascio November 30, 2020 What does the current Pentagon leadership team want to achieve with the time it has remaining before the Biden administration takes office in January? Aviation Week Executive Editor for Defense and Space Jen DiMascio answers: Pentagon Editor Lee Hudson put this question to Ellen Lord, the Pentagon's acquisition chief, during the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Ascend conference on Nov. 18. According to Lord, she is focused on protecting the supply chain and helping the acquisition system adapt to acquire software. Lord is working to protect the supply chain in two primary ways: • One is to protect companies critical to national technologies from investment by adversaries. • The other is to protect the supply of rare metals used to make microelectronics. The Pentagon has been working with the U.S. government's Committee on Foreign Investment, which reviews foreign transactions in the U.S. for national-security implications to “block or undo a lot of transactions” in which adversaries are buying critical U.S. technologies or real estate adjacent to military installations, Lord says. Rather, the Pentagon is trying to partner with companies that can help the U.S. increase its technological and economic security. To that end, the Defense Department is building an electronic marketplace that Lord compares to a dating app—to match clean investors with companies building defense technologies. “We've practiced this in some different one-off events,” Lord says, “but we are literally just going through federal paperwork right now to launch this in December.” A related matter is lessening the U.S. dependence on countries like China for rare minerals such as those used in the microelectronics industry. “COVID has shown us that we cannot have dependencies on non-allies and partners and makes sure that we get the supplies we need when we need them,” Lord says. The Pentagon has a real need for radiation-hardened micro-electronics for its space-industrial base and nuclear enterprise. “Although we developed over 50% of the intellectual property around micro-electronics domestically, the bulk of manufacturing and almost all packaging and testing are conducted offshore. That just does not lead us in a place where we have a secure and resilient microelectronics industrial base,” she explains. And finally, Lord aims to continue to roll out tools for the acquisition workforce to incorporate iterative software development into the way it works. “We know that, if you do software correctly, it's a constant iteration of development, production and sustainment,” she adds. “We don't want to be constrained by different budgets and get into too much [of an] administrative hurdle. We've tried to be very innovative on the business side.” https://aviationweek.com/defense-space/budget-policy-operations/what-do-pentagon-leaders-aim-achieve-inauguration-day

  • DARPA: Training AI to Win a Dogfight

    9 mai 2019 | International, Aérospatial, Autre défense

    DARPA: Training AI to Win a Dogfight

    Artificial intelligence has defeated chess grandmasters, Go champions, professional poker players, and, now, world-class human experts in the online strategy games Dota 2 and StarCraft II. No AI currently exists, however, that can outduel a human strapped into a fighter jet in a high-speed, high-G dogfight. As modern warfare evolves to incorporate more human-machine teaming, DARPA seeks to automate air-to-air combat, enabling reaction times at machine speeds and freeing pilots to concentrate on the larger air battle. Turning aerial dogfighting over to AI is less about dogfighting, which should be rare in the future, and more about giving pilots the confidence that AI and automation can handle a high-end fight. As soon as new human fighter pilots learn to take-off, navigate, and land, they are taught aerial combat maneuvers. Contrary to popular belief, new fighter pilots learn to dogfight because it represents a crucible where pilot performance and trust can be refined. To accelerate the transformation of pilots from aircraft operators to mission battle commanders — who can entrust dynamic air combat tasks to unmanned, semi-autonomous airborne assets from the cockpit — the AI must first prove it can handle the basics. To pursue this vision, DARPA created the Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program. ACE aims to increase warfighter trust in autonomous combat technology by using human-machine collaborative dogfighting as its initial challenge scenario. DARPA will hold a Proposers Day for interested researchers on May 17, 2019, in Arlington, Virginia. “Being able to trust autonomy is critical as we move toward a future of warfare involving manned platforms fighting alongside unmanned systems,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Javorsek (Ph.D.), ACE program manager in DARPA's Strategic Technology Office (STO). “We envision a future in which AI handles the split-second maneuvering during within-visual-range dogfights, keeping pilots safer and more effective as they orchestrate large numbers of unmanned systems into a web of overwhelming combat effects.” ACE is one of several STO programs designed to enable DARPA's “mosaic warfare” vision. Mosaic warfare shifts warfighting concepts away from a primary emphasis on highly capable manned systems — with their high costs and lengthy development timelines — to a mix of manned and less-expensive unmanned systems that can be rapidly developed, fielded, and upgraded with the latest technology to address changing threats. Linking together manned aircraft with significantly cheaper unmanned systems creates a “mosaic” where the individual “pieces” can easily be recomposed to create different effects or quickly replaced if destroyed, resulting in a more resilient warfighting capability. The ACE program will train AI in the rules of aerial dogfighting similar to how new fighter pilots are taught, starting with basic fighter maneuvers in simple, one-on-one scenarios. While highly nonlinear in behavior, dogfights have a clearly defined objective, measureable outcome, and the inherent physical limitations of aircraft dynamics, making them a good test case for advanced tactical automation. Like human pilot combat training, the AI performance expansion will be closely monitored by fighter instructor pilots in the autonomous aircraft, which will help co-evolve tactics with the technology. These subject matter experts will play a key role throughout the program. “Only after human pilots are confident that the AI algorithms are trustworthy in handling bounded, transparent and predictable behaviors will the aerial engagement scenarios increase in difficulty and realism,” Javorsek said. “Following virtual testing, we plan to demonstrate the dogfighting algorithms on sub-scale aircraft leading ultimately to live, full-scale manned-unmanned team dogfighting with operationally representative aircraft.” DARPA seeks a broad spectrum of potential proposers for each area of study, including small companies and academics with little previous experience with the Defense Department. To that end, before Phase 1 of the program begins, DARPA will sponsor a stand-alone, limited-scope effort focused on the first technical area: automating individual tactical behavior for one-on-one dogfights. Called the “AlphaDogfight Trials,” this initial solicitation will be issued by AFWERX, an Air Force innovation catalyst with the mission of finding novel solutions to Air Force challenges at startup speed. The AFWERX trials will pit AI dogfighting algorithms against each other in a tournament-style competition. “Through the AFWERX trials, we intend to tap the top algorithm developers in the air combat simulation and gaming communities,” Javorsek said. “We want them to help lay the foundational AI elements for dogfights, on which we can build as the program progresses.” AFWERX will announce the trials in the near future on its website: https://www.afwerx.af.mil/. For ACE Proposers Day registration details, please visit: https://go.usa.gov/xmnMn https://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2019-05-08

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