Japanese, ESA Satellites Establish Laser Comm Link

A Japanese satellite in low Earth orbit and a European satellite in geostationary orbit successfully established a two-way laser optical communications link Dec. 9 in what Japanese officials say is a world first.

Japan’s Kirari satellite, orbiting at an altitude of 600 kilometers, and the European Space Agency’s Artemis satellite, which is in a geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, exchanged communications using laser terminals mounted on each spacecraft.

The European and Japanese space agencies, as well as the German and French governments, are investing in technology demonstrators to determine whether high-speed laser communications between satellites, and from satellites to the ground, offer clear advantages over classic radio transmissions.

Laser links cause no interference, need no special licensing from international frequency authorities and can provide very high data-transmission speeds using relatively lightweight terminals. The drawbacks to laser links include the fact that they are susceptible to degradation as they traverse the atmosphere.

Europe’s Artemis satellite, operational since mid-2003, previously has received data from a laser terminal on board the French Spot 4 Earth observation satellite in low Earth orbit. But these transmissions were one-way only.

The Dec. 9 Kirari-Artemis communications was “the first bi-directional optical inter-orbit communication in the world,” the Japanese space agency, JAXA, said in a statement.

Kirari was launched in August and previously was called the Optical Inter-orbit Communications Engineering Test Satellite, or OICETS. JAXA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have a long-term cooperation agreement on intersatellite laser communications. The Kirari-Artemis tests are expected to continue through 2006.

HNS Selects Sea Launch To Orbit Spaceway 3

A Sea Launch LLC Zenit 3SL rocket will launch the Hughes Network Systems (HNS) Spaceway 3 Ka-band broadband satellite in early 2007 under a contract the two companies announced Dec. 8. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Spaceway 3, a Boeing 702 model spacecraft, is one of three Spaceway satellites built for Germantown, Md.-based HNS and its former owner, DirecTV Group. DirecTV subsequently decided to modify the first two Spaceway satellites for high-definition television broadcasts. Both have since been successfully launched. Spaceway 3 retained its original broadband purpose and is intended for the consumer, corporate and government markets.

“With the launch of Spaceway 3, HNS will enter a new era as a satellite system operator in addition to being a broadband services provider and satellite terminal manufacturer,” HNS Chairman Pradman P. Kaul said in a statement.

France To Build Altimeter For India’s Oceansat-3

France will invest 76 million euros ($89 million) to provide a Ka-band radar altimeter for India’s Oceansat-3 Earth observation satellite to be launched in 2008 following a Dec. 9 decision from the board of directors of the French space agency, CNES, the agency announced. The French Defense Ministry contributing 7.5 million euros of the CNES investment.

The AltiKa altimeter will be built by a team led by Alcatel Alenia Space including EADS Astrium and Thales. Operating aboard Oceansat-3, the altimeter will provide precise measurements of sea-surface levels. It will operate in tandem with the U.S.-European Jason-2 ocean-altimetry satellite, under construction at Alcatel Alenia and scheduled for launch by NASA in 2008. The Indian Space Research Organization is prime contractor for Oceansat-3 and will be responsible for its launch and operations.

U.S. Protests Halt Libyan Jamming of Loral Satellite

In response to U.S. diplomatic protests to the Libyan government, jamming of Loral’s Telstar 12 satellite has ceased. The jamming occurred in early October, after that satellite began relaying the signal of a U.K.-based commercial radio station, Sowt Alamel, which directs programming about human rights and free- speech issues toward Libya.

“I can tell you that, yes, there was sporadic jamming of Telstar 12,” Loral spokesman John McCarthy said Dec. 8. “We took steps to eliminate it and the interference stopped.”

The interference apparently began Sept. 19 with a different satellite that beamed signals primarily to Europe and carried “BBC World, CNN International, U.S. sports channels, cable TV networks and 23 radio stations,” according to a Dec. 3 report in The Guardian newspaper, which said the British government had filed diplomatic protests with the Libyan government.

The radio station subsequently switched its service to Telstar 12.

Iridium LLC Considering An IPO as Early as 2006

Iridium Satellite LLC could pursue an initial public offering (IPO) in 2006, according to a company executive.

“We’re in a very good position to entertain a lot of different options, and one of those is an IPO,” Ted O’Brien, vice president of market and distribution development for Iridium, said during a Dec. 8 Washington Space Business Roundtable luncheon.

O’Brien said the other options include some sort of consolidation venture or an acquisition by another company.

Iridium’s fleet of 66 satellites should be fully operational until 2014, when the company will look at replacing them with next-generation satellites at a rate of about two per year, O’Brien said. Whatever changes it makes to its spacecraft design in the future, Iridium will replace satellites with ones that are backward compatible with existing services, O’Brien said.

Top growth areas for Iridium in 2005 were its maritime services, which showed between 25- and 35-percent growth, and its data services, which showed almost 50-percent growth from the year before, O’Brien said.

The company also is seeing a lot of customer interest in “push-to-talk” technology, which allows a number of users to speak to each other on the same channel, and has applications for forest fighters, firefighters and other emergency responders, O’Brien said. The company’s equipment is being tested in the field by the Department of Defense and should be available to users by the close of 2006, he said.

JAXA Still Hoping To Get Hayabusa Back to Earth

Although Japanese engineers have not given up on getting the crippled Hayabusa (Falcon) asteroid probe back to Earth, the return trip might be for naught. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said in a Dec. 7 mission status report that new analysis shows Hayabusa may have failed to collect samples when it touched down on the surface of asteroid Itokawa Nov. 26. Hayabusa was designed to fire a projectile into Itokawa and collect the debris ejected from the asteroid’s surface.

However, JAXA engineers now have serious doubts that Hayabusa actually fired its tiny projectile. “We were not able to confirm data showing a successful discharge,” JAXA said in the status report, adding that there is a “high possibility” that the projectile did not fire.

Although Hayabusa is no longer on Itokawa’s surface, thruster glitches have kept the probe from starting its roughly 290 million-kilometer trip back the Earth. As of the Dec. 7 status report, Hayabusa was floating about 550 kilometers from Itokawa. At press time, JAXA engineers were taking steps to try to restart Hayabusa’s ion engine and chart a new course for the return trip.

MDA Taps Lockheed To Build Missile Defense Airship

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency awarded a contract worth $149 million to Lockheed Martin Corp. to build and demonstrate a new airborne missile defense sensor, according to a Dec. 8 Pentagon contract announcement.

The High Altitude Airship, which is scheduled to be flight tested by 2009, is expected to be capable of loitering over areas of interest to monitor missile launches for a month at a time. Future variants of the systems could be capable of operating for far longer periods, according to David Kier, Lockheed Martin vice president for protection.

Germany Wants Stake in Private Galileo Company

The German government will have an ownership stake in the future private company that will run Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation project under an agreement reached Dec. 5 with other participating companies and with European governments.

The agreement also resolved the contentious issue of where Galileo’s different control and operating centers would be located.

Following negotiations coordinated by Karel Van Miert, a former European commissioner, a German consortium named TeleOp will become the eighth member of the consortium now negotiating the 20-year contract to run Galileo as a business. TeleOp’s members are the German division of EADS Space; T-Systems, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom; the Foerderbank of Bavaria; and the commercial division of the German Aerospace Center, DLR.

TeleOp will join seven other organizations — Spanish air-traffic authority AENA, Alcatel of France, the pan-European EADS Space, Finmeccanica of Italy, Hispasat of Spain, Inmarsat of Britain and Thales of Britain and France — in managing the 30-satellite Galileo constellation. A contract for the 20-year concession is expected to be signed by the end of 2006.

The presence of DLR — Germany’s government aerospace agency — in the Galileo corporate shareholder mix had been resisted by other European governments. Sigmar Wittig, chairman of the executive committee of DLR, said in a Dec. 6 interview that DLR would establish a firewall between itself and its Galileo-related commercial arm.

The Dec. 5 agreement also selected Toulouse, France, as the headquarters of the future Galileo concession. The two Galileo control centers will be located in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, and in Fucino, Italy. A Galileo satellite control center will be located in London, and a center devoted to Galileo’s safety-of-life and air-traffic control services will be located in Spain .

New Texus Rocket Variant Launches From Sweden

A Brazilian suborbital sounding rocket made a successful maiden flight Dec. 1 from northern Sweden, its science experiments returning to Earth with the aid of a German parachute that will replace a U.S. system whose export to Europe has become problematic, European officials said.

The two-stage Texus-EML rocket was launched from Sweden’s Esrange facility and reached a higher-than-expected altitude of 264 kilometers, providing six and one-half minutes of microgravitiy conditions for experiments sponsored by industry and by the German and European space agencies.

To avoid reindeer herding in eastern Norway, the rocket was oriented fa rther west than is customary at Esrange. This and the exceptionally high apogee were blamed for the fact that the payload drifted out of Sweden and 10 kilometers into Norway, Esrange officials said in a statement after the flight.

The Texus launch was the first flight of Brazil’s VSB-30 motor. Olle Norberg, head of Esrange, said in a statement that the rocket performed flawlessly. “[T]his new rocket type … will strengthen our position as one of the most important launch sites for sounding rockets in the world,” Norberg said.

The flight also featured a new parachute system designed by the German Aerospace Center, DLR. The U.S. parachutes used in the past have become caught up in U.S. technology-export rules , known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. The parachute systems, as re-entry devices, are classified as armaments under these rules, which have stiffened dramatically since 1999.

“With this flight we will no longer have to be worried about the U.S. export-control problems. We now consider the German design to be fully qualified. It worked very well,” said Wolfgang Herfs, sounding rocket project manager at the European Space Agency. Herfs said in a Dec. 1 interview that a small camera placed above the payload permitted launch teams to view the parachute’s deployment as it occurred.

The Texus flight carried a modified version of Europe’s Electromagnetic Levitator (EML) facility. In this flight, the facility was used to melt titanium and aluminum in low-gravity conditions to test their behavior.

The Texus program is part of Europe’s program to test experiment hardware that one day might be used in orbit on the international space station.

Alcatel Alenia To Build Telecom Craft for China

Alcatel Alenia Space will build a second large telecommunications satellite for China Satellite Communications Corp. under a contract signed Dec. 5 during a visit of China’s prime minister to France, the European company announced. The satellite will be devoid of components that require U.S. government approval for export — the fourth such satellite to be built by Alcatel Alenia.

Financial terms were not disclosed. Under the contract, Alcatel Alenia Space of Paris and Rome will build the Chinasat 6B satellite and deliver it to China for launch aboard a Chinese Long March 3B rocket in May 2007. An Alcatel Alenia official said the company received preliminary approval in mid-2005 to begin the work.

The satellite, expected to weigh 4,600 kilograms at launch, will carry 38 C-band transponders and will operate at China’s geostationary orbital slot at 115 degrees east longitude .

Alcatel Alenia already is under contract to Chinasat of Beijing to provide the Chinasat 9 satellite, a high-power Ku-band spacecraft set for launch in late 2007.

Like Chinasat 9, Chinasat 6B will be a Spacebus 4000 platform that is built without the use of U.S. components that need export approval. Alcatel built the Apstar 6 satellite for APT Satellite in Hong Kong and is building the Rascom satellite for Rascom organization of Africa. Both of those spacecraft are free of U.S. components.

Spacenet Inc. To Provide VSATs for State Lotteries

Spacenet Inc. will provide very small aperture terminal (VSAT) systems to support lotteries in four U.S. states under a contract with Scientific Games International of New York, Spacenet said in a Dec. 5 press release.

Under the contract, Spacenet of McLean, Va., will supply 3,000 VSAT terminals to support lotteries in Colorado, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and South Dakota, the company said. The terms of the deal, which also includes a hub station, were not disclosed..

Spacenet and its Israel-based parent company, Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd., have provided more than 32,000 VSAT terminals for state lottery programs.

European Group To Deploy Radio Telescope Antennas

A European consortium led by Alcatel Alenia Space will manufacture and install a network of 12-meter-diameter antennas for a large radio-telescope project in Chile under contract to the European Southern Laboratory, the company announced.

Under the contract, valued at 147 million euros ($172 million), the consortium will install 25 antennas in northern Chile’s Atacama desert as part of the Atacama Large Milllimeter Aray (ALMA) project, which includes the participation of Europe, the United States and Japan. The location is at an altitude of 5,000 meters.

Deployment of the antennas will continue through 2011. Once operational, the network will be used to study the origins of galaxies and the formation of stars, Alcatel Alenia of France and Italy said.

MT Aerospace’s Mainz, Germany, plant will manufacture and install the antenna mounts for the network under a subcontract to Alcatel Alenia that MT Aerospace said is valued at about 42 million euros.

Upper Stage Concerns Delay ILS Proton Launch

The launch of SES Americom’s AMC-23 communications satellite aboard a Russian Proton vehicle has been postponed until further notice, according to International Launch Services (ILS).

Pre-flight testing indicated potential problems with the flight control unit of the vehicle’s Breeze M upper stage, McLean, Va.-based ILS said in a press release Dec. 5 .

“They got a reading and they want to investigate it,” ILS spokeswoman Fran Slimmer said. She declined to speculate when ILS might be ready to launch the satellite, adding the company likely would have some idea by the week of Dec. 12.

Proton manufacturer Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center of Moscow recently halted production of Breeze-M upper stages due to potential problems detected during testing. Slimmer said that was unrelated to the AMC-23 launch delay.

The AMC-23 satellite was built for SES Americom of Princeton, N.J., by Alcatel Alenia Space of French and Italy.

Melco To Supply Batteries For ISRO’s Insat Satellites

Mitsubishi Electric Corp. (Melco) of Tokyo won a contract from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to supply satellite payload batteries, the company announced Dec. 2. The contract value and number of batteries were not disclosed.

The batteries will be capable of supplying 2,500-5,000 watts of power aboard ISRO’s Insat series of geostationary communications and weather satellites, Melco said in a press release.

Ukraine Joins European Satellite Navigation Effort

Ukraine has become the third non-European nation to join Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation project following a Dec. 1 agreement signed by Ukrainian and European government leaders, the European Commission announced.

The agreement covers satellite navigation cooperation in “science and technology, industrial manufacturing, service and market development,” the commission said. Ukraine in the past has expressed interest in using its launch vehicles to deploy a part of the 30-satellite Galileo constellation. Galileo is in development and expected to be in service around 2011.

Ukraine will have a seat at Galileo’s management table and also will get access to Europe’s Egnos navigation system, which enhances the performance of the U.S. GPS system through the use of payloads aboard geostationary satellites. Egnos is scheduled to be fully operational by 2007.

The agreement was signed by Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov; British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose government currently holds the rotating European Union presidency; and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Ukraine’s entry into Galileo follows that of China and Israel. India, Morocco, South Korea, Norway and Argentina also have begun negotiations on a Galileo role.

Cassini-Huygens Data Show Activity on Saturn Moons

Recent images and data from the Cassini-Huygens mission show evidence of geological activity on Saturn’s moon Enceladus and also indicate that rivers of liquid methane are sculpting channels in the ice continents of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, NASA and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said in separate announcements.

NASA announced Dec. 6 that its Cassini spacecraft returned images showing jets of fine, icy particles streaming from Enceladus’ south polar region that likely are due to warm fractures in the area, a clear indicator of geologic activity.

“For planetary explorers like us, there is little that can compare to the sighting of activity on another solar system body,” Carolyn Porco, the Cassini imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., said in the NASA news release. “This has been a heart-stopper, and surely one of our most thrilling results.”

The recent Enceladus images were taken to confirm the presence of the plumes and provide more detailed, 3-D pictures to better understand how they exist on such a small moon .

Meanwhile , the University of Illinois announced Dec. 5 that surface images of Titan taken by the Huygens probe show gravel-sized pieces of water ice in channels of liquid methane that resemble stones lying in a dry riverbed on Earth. The European-built Huygens probe traveled to the Saturn system with Cassini and separated to make its descent into Titan’s atmosphere last January .

Gary Parker, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the university, said while some aspects of river dynamics are the same on Earth and Titan, there are three parameters that greatly differ: acceleration due to gravity, viscosity of flowing fluid and the specific gravity of sediment.

“What this means is that for the same discharge of liquid methane as to water, the channel characteristics on Titan should be remarkably similar to those on Earth,” Parker said in the news release. “However, because of the smaller acceleration due to gravity, channel slopes on Titan should be wider, deeper and less steep than those on Earth.”

Parker also noted that hydrocarbons in Titan’s atmosphere could cause a certain degree of cohesion in streams not seen on Earth.

EMS To Supply Venezuela With Cospas-Sarsat Gear

EMS Satcom, an Ottawa-based division of EMS Technologies, has won a contract worth approximately $2.9 million to provide a satellite-based search and rescue (SAR) system for Venezuela’s civil aviation agency, the company announced Dec. 5.

Under the contract, EMS will provide Venezuela’s Instituto Nacional de Aviacin Civil with SARMaster rescue coordination center automation systems, low Earth orbit-satellite ground stations and the company’s OCC 200 mission control center.

EMS’s SAR system uses the international Cospas-Sarsat system to locate distress beacons worldwide. The satellite-based system operates in coordination with the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Maritime Organization and others to assist in search and rescue activities around the world, according to the Cospas-Sarsat Web site.

EMS’s ground stations receive and process distress alerts relayed by the Cospas-Sarsat satellite payloads and then forward the location of the distress signal to the operators at the mission control center.

NASA Makes Awards for Nuclear Power Studies

NASA has awarded contracts worth $30,000 each to three U.S. universities to study the potential use of nuclear-powered propulsion and other systems on missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond, the agency announced Dec. 1.

Two of the contracts will support the study of future nuclear-powered rocket components, while the third will examine the use of small nuclear-powered systems generators on Moon or Mars missions.

The research will be conducted by teams at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Oregon State University in Corvallis and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The awards were made through the Nuclear Energy Research for Space Exploration and Propulsion program, which is funded by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and administered by the Alabama Space Grant Consortium.

JAXA Solicits Ideas for Research Using Suzaku

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has made the first announcement of opportunity for research using the agency’s Suzaku X-ray imaging satellite, which recently completed initial on-orbit testing and now is performing preliminary observations.

JAXA said in a Dec. 2 news release that the announcement of opportunity was posted on the agency’s Web site Nov. 17 for researchers worldwide who are interested in using Suzaku’s X-ray instruments. JAXA, NASA and the European Space Agency are all receiving applications for the one-year research period beginning in April 2006. U.S. and European researchers are asked to submit proposals to NASA and the European Space Agency respectively, and all others are to go to JAXA.

Suzaku is JAXA’s 23rd scientific satellite and launched from the Uchinoura Space Center July 10, 2005.

Orbital Sciences Unit Wins Fleet Management Contract

Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Transportation Management Systems division won an $11.7 million contract from Foothill Transit of West Covina, Calif., to provide its SmartBus system to track and manage Foothill’s 300-vehicle public transportation fleet, Orbital of Dulles, Va., announced Dec. 5.

The SmartBus system uses Orbital’s GPS -based OrbCAD fleet management system to track and assess fleet operations, enhance passenger security through video and audio surveillance and provide communications.

NASA Rovers Still Rolling After Full Martian Year

The twin Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity have been exploring the red planet for nearly one full martian year (687 Earth days), far exceeding NASA’s original three-month mission plan, the agency announced Dec. 5.

The Spirit rover currently is descending from Husband Hill to study a platform-like structure and then will head south to position itself for maximum solar-cell output for the upcoming martian winter. Scientists were able to determine what the Husband Hill area was like long ago based Spirit’s observations.

“It was a hot, violent place with volcanic explosions and impacts. Water was around, perhaps localized hot springs in some cases and trace amounts of water in other cases,” Steve Squyres, a Cornell University investigator for the Spirit rover, said in a prepared statement.

On the other side of the planet, Opportunity has been examining bedrock exposures en route between the Endurance and Victoria craters. Data from Opportunity indicates the area may have experienced a cyclical environmental pattern from drier to wetter conditions.

The Spirit rover hit the one-martian-year mark several weeks ago, while Opportunity was slated to reach that milestone Dec. 11.

NASA, NSF Join Forces To Study Near-Space Storms

NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have combined space and weather observations to gain insight into near-space storms in Earth’s upper atmosphere where a hot gas, called plasma, builds up and disrupts radio communications and GPS navigation signals, NASA announced Dec. 5.

“People knew there was a space storm that must have disrupted their system, but they had no idea why,” Tony Mannucci, a project supervisor at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a prepared statement. “Now we know it’s not just chaos; there is cause and effect. We are beginning to put together the full picture, which will ultimately let us predict space storms.”

When plasma from a solar storm blows by, it generates an electric field that is transmitted to Earth’s natural plasmasphere and ionosphere. This electric field then propels plasma from the ionosphere and the plasmasphere out into space, which disrupts radio and GPS signals.

The storms degrade GPS signals by either delaying the propagation of a signal or generating turbulence so a receiver loses the signal in an effect called scintillation.

NOAA Finishes Series of Altair UAV Demo Flights

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has completed a series of missions to test the suitability of the Altair Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for environmental and climate research, coastal mapping, nautical charting and fisheries assessment, the agency announced Dec. 5.

The flights demonstrated that the Altair UAV, built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. of San Diego, could carry integrated sensor packages to an altitude of nearly 14,000 meters. In one recent flight , the Altair collected airborne data off the U.S. West Coast for more than 18 hours, setting a duration record for the UAV.

The missions, which took place from April through November, were conducted along with NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Aerojet Nabs Grant for NASA Propulsion Studies

An Aerojet division based in Redmond, Wash., won a NASA grant worth up to $600,000 to develop advanced propulsion technologies that could support science missions beyond Earth orbit, NASA announced Dec. 6.

NASA is looking for technology that will reduce the transit time , vehicle mass and costs associated with science missions to outer planets, distant moons and other solar system destinations. The grant also supports NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration to return astronauts to the Moon by 2018 and eventually go beyond .

Boeing Demonstration Connects 17 Systems

Boeing Integrated Defense Systems recently completed a demonstration that linked live platforms and simulated systems from 17 different programs to demonstrate how better network connections can speed decision making, according to a Dec. 6 company news release.

The one-hour demonstration, which linked personnel from nine company locations, showed how U.S. and coalition forces could use network-enabled technologies to co ordinate the destruction of a surface-to-air missile site and an enemy convoy; conduct a multilingual interrogation and translation at a security checkpoint; and conduct surveillance that leads to the destruction of a fleeing high-value target, according to the news release.

Simulated assets in the experiment included the laser-linked Transformation Satellite (T-Sat) communications system and the Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS), according to the news release.

Boeing conducted similar demonstrations in 2003 and 2004.

Boeing Conducts Test of UAV in Hover Maneuvers

Boeing successfully completed a hover-flight test of an unmanned aircraft that combines the vertical takeoff and landing capability of a helicopter with the speed of a fixed-wing jet, according to a company news release issued Dec. 5.

The X-50A Dragonfly climbed about 6 meters off the ground Dec. 2 during a four-minute test at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, according to the news release. Boeing Phantom Works is developing the aircraft under contract to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The Dragonfly features a rotor that can stop turning during flight and lock into place for use as a fixed wing, according to the news release. Boeing is planning to conduct a series of flight tests with increasing sophistication that lead up to a demonstration of both rotor and fixed-wing capability in early 2006, according to Doug Kinneard, a spokesman for Boeing Phantom Works.

The Dragonfly system was redesigned after a March 2004 flight test, when the aircraft was damaged during landing, Kinneard said.

Northrop UAV Completes Critical Design Review

Northrop Grumman Corp. completed a key milestone that brings a new unmanned aircraft capable of delivering supplies, gathering intelligence and relaying communications closer to flight testing, according to a company news release dated Dec. 2.

The critical design review on the Fire Scout vehicle covered the airframe design, avionics and payload architecture, communications links, and launch and recovery capability, according to the news release.

Assembly of the vehicles is expected to begin in January at Northrop Grumman’s new manufacturing facility in Moss Point, Miss., with flight testing of the vehicles beginning in late 2006, according to the news release.

MilSpace Veteran Joins NetCentric Industry Group

Harry Raduege, former commander of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), was elected vice chair of the executive council of an industry group dedicated to promoting standards for network-centric operations.

In a Dec. 5 news release issued by the Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium, Raduege called the group a “unique undertaking that can be used to develop common understanding, recommend common standards and shorten acquisition cycles.”

Raduege, who currently serves as executive adviser for IBM’s strategic business relations team, is a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant general who also served in leadership posts at Air Force Space Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Comments: Jeremy Singer, jsinger@space.com