Briefs

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  Space News Business

Briefs

posted: 06 November 2006
03:16 pm ET


USAF Creating Command To Protect Cyberspace


U.S. Air Force leaders will begin detailed planning Nov. 16 for the creation of a new cyberspace command, according to Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne.

“The aim is to develop a major command that stands alongside Air Force Space Command and Air Combat Command as the provider of forces that the president, combatant commanders and the American people can rely on for preserving the freedom of access and commerce, in air, space and now cyberspace,” Wynne said.

The “center of mass” for the new command will come from the 8th Air Force, which is led by Lt. Gen. Robert Elder, Wynne said in an article posted Nov. 2 on the U.S. Air Force Web site . Elder also currently leads U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Functional Component Command for Global Strike Integration.

Officials from Air Combat Command, Air Force Space Command and Air Force Materiel Command are assisting with the plans to develop the new Cyberspace Command, Wynne said. Air Force personnel specialists developing educational plans and career paths for the command’s staff, he said.


More Consolidation Seen For Inmarsat Distributors

Consolidation of Inmarsat Mobile satellite services distributor Stratos Global said there is room for more consolidation among Inmarsat distributors and did not reject the idea of a merger between Stratos and Apax Partners.

Stratos’ stock, which had reversed a months-long decline in late October following news of Apax’s purchase of Telenor’s mobile satellite business, posted another huge gain Nov. 3 following remarks company officials made during a conference call with investors.

Stratos Chief Executive Jim Parm said Stratos’ purchase of rival Xantic in 2005 promises to deliver substantial synergies as the combined company eliminates duplication. Bethesda, Md.-based Stratos accounts for about 47 percent of London-based Inmarsat’s revenue. Apax, with its Telenor purchase combined with its earlier acquisition of France Telecom’s mobile satellite division, has a 37 percent share.

“Maybe it could be a catalyst to further consolidation,” Parm said of the Apax-Telenor deal, adding that he saw no way that Inmarsat could block even the merger of its two largest distributors. “There is a good logic for consolidation in this industry.”

Stratos also announced that as of Sept. 30, it was providing service to 1,350 activated BGAN terminals, a figure the company said gave it the biggest share of BGAN customers. BGAN, or Broadband Global Access Network, is Inmarsat’s newest mobile communications offering. It provides nearly 500 kilobits per second of data transmissions through laptop-sized units.

Globecomm’s Quarterly Revenue Dips 13 Percent

Satellite communications company Globecomm Systems Inc. saw its revenue for the first quarter of its 2007 fiscal year dip by 13 percent. Hauppauge, N.Y.-based Globecomm brought in $25.7 million during the quarter, which ended Sept. 30, compared to $29.6 million during the same period the year before.

In a Nov. 2 press release, Globecomm attributed the decline to its ground segment and enterprise solutions business, saying that some major contract bookings in the unit were delayed until the next quarter.

Revenue in the company’s data communications services business unit, however, increased, from $6.6 million to $8.3 million, due to government services sales and business with an industry customer that the company declined to name.

Globecomm’s net income was relatively flat, coming in at $900,000 compared to $800,000 during the same time the previous year.

Recent highlights for Globecomm included a contract to provide satellite communications terminals for the U.S. Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, as well as being selected for the U.S. Army Worldwide Satellite Systems, a program with a $5 billion ceiling through which six companies will compete.

SES Americom’s Helfgott To Be DataPath’s COO

David Helfgott has left his position as president and chief executive officer of Americom Government Services (AGS) to become chief operating officer (COO) at DataPath Inc.

Helfgott will be charged with shaping the company’s strategic direction in his new role, according to a Nov. 1 press release from Duluth, Ga.-based DataPath.

Monica Morgan, director of marketing and communications for SES Americom, of which McLean, Va.-based AGS is a subsidiary, said Robert Demers, AGS’s vice president of sales development, will serve as interim president and chief executive officer of the company. A search is being conducted for a permanent replacement for Helfgott, she said.

“David’s arrival coincides with an exciting period for our company as we execute our federal market strategy,” Andy Mullins, chief executive officer of DataPath, said in the release. “His expertise in developing, marketing and delivering satellite communications to satisfy government requirements will be invaluable as we continue to leverage prime-contracting opportunities.”

DataPath recently was awarded a stake in the U.S. Army’s $5 billion World-Wide Satellite Systems Program, which has six companies competing against one another to provide terminals and services to the service.

EMS Sells Wireless Unit To Andrew For $50.5 Million

Atlanta-based EMS Technologies announced Nov. 1 that Andrew Corp. of Westchester, Ill., will buy its EMS Wireless division for $50.5 million. The deal is expected to close within 30-60 days, pending the satisfaction of closing conditions and required third-party consents.

EMS Wireless, which employs about 200 people and is based in Norcross, Ga., provides base station antennas for mobile wireless and fixed wireless applications. Andrew designs and manufactures products for the global communications infrastructure market.

“We believe EMS Wireless and its dedicated employees will have a better future as part of a larger organization, such as Andrew, that is less affected by swings in sales,” Paul Domorski, president and chief executive officer of EMS Technologies, said in a prepared statement. “For these reasons, we think Andrew Corporation is the perfect match.”

U.S. Air Force Seeks Ideas For Upgrades of RAIDRS

The U.S. Air Force has begun looking for industry input as it develops the plan for an improved version of a ground-based system for pinpointing sources of interference that might affect U.S. military and commercial satellites, according to an announcement posted on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site Nov. 1.

The Rapid Attack Identification and Reporting System (RAIDRS) is expected to begin operations in late 2007, according to a Pentagon budget document. The Air Force’s goal is to make incremental upgrades to RAIDRS taking what the service calls a spiral development approach to the project.

Integral Systems of Lanham, Md., won a $23 million contract for the first spiral in February 2005.

The Air Force expects to award one or more contracts for concept development work on the upgraded version of RAIDRS in mid-2007, according to the Federal Business Opportunities notice.

ViaSat Posts Profit, Cites Partnership with WildBlue

While ViaSat Inc. saw record-breaking increases in its overall revenue and earnings during the second quarter of its 2007 fiscal year, the quarter was particularly notable for marking a return to overall profitability in the company’s commercial segment.

The commercial segment brought in $61.5 million during the quarter, which ended Sept. 29. During a conference call with investors Nov. 2, Carlsbad, Calif.-based ViaSat’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Dankberg said the company’s partnership with satellite broadband provider WildBlue Inc. was largely the reason for the upturn in business, and expects more to come in once WildBlue launches its WildBlue-1 satellite in early December.

Overall, the company’s revenue for the quarter was $131.5 million, compared to $104.1 million during the same time period the year before. The company’s net income was up slightly, to $6.5 million in the quarter compared to $6 million during the previous year.

In the upcoming quarters, ViaSat expects continued growth on the U.S. Army’s Joint Tactical Radio Program, as well as in commercial broadband, which it expects may surpass its traditional Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) business, Dankberg said during the call.

As a future market, the company hopes to get into providing data links for unmanned aerial vehicles, Dankberg said during the call.

Lockheed Gets $49.9 Million For Additional GPS 3 Work

The U.S Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. a $49.9 million contract for continued design work on the next generation of GPS satellites, according to a Nov. 2 Pentagon contract announcement. The contract reflects additional work the Air Force requested after changing its strategy from launching a constellation of identical GPS 3 satellites to buying a series of block upgrades, according to a source familiar with the program.

Lockheed Martin is competing against Boeing Co. for the prime contract to build the GPS 3 satellites, which is expected to be awarded in May or June. The formal request for proposals for the prime contract is likely to be issued in December, the source said.

Sea Launch Successfully Lofts XM-4 Satellite




XM Satellite Radio’s XM-5 satellite will be launched aboard a Sea Launch Zenit 3SL rocket under a previously signed launch option that Washington-based XM Radio has exercised, XM officials said following the Oct. 30 launch of their XM-4 satellite, also by Sea Launch.

XM-4, weighing 5,193 kilograms, was successfully placed into geostationary transfer orbit by a Sea Launch vehicle following launch from its semi-submersible platform sailing at the equator in the Pacific Ocean.

It was the fifth launch for Long Beach, Calif.-based Sea Launch Co. this year, and the company plans a sixth launch, of SES New Skies’ NSS-8 satellite, in December.

XM-4, like its three predecessors a BSS-702 model built by Boeing Satellite Systems International of El Segundo, Calif., will operate from 115 degrees west longitude and will add to XM Satellite Radio’s in-orbit capacity to serve its 7 million radio subscribers. It is designed to deliver 18 kilowatts of power at the beginning of its contracted 15-year service life. The electronics payload was built by Alcatel Alenia Space of France and Italy.

John Dealy, senior advisor to XM Satellite, complimented the Sea Launch team for being able to replace a defective ground component while at sea, permitting the launch to occur without a substantial delay. An Oct. 26 launch attempt was cancel ed because of the suspect component.

Dealy said XM had exercised an existing launch option with Sea Launch for the XM-5, which is under construction by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif. The satellite is scheduled for completion in 2007, with a launch late that year or in 2008.


 

ComDev Wins European Civil, Military Satellite Contracts

Canada’s Com Dev International Ltd. satellite-component manufacturer announced contracts for European government science and military telecommunications satellites.

Cambridge, Ontario-based Com Dev said Oct. 30 that it would provide the Canadian Electric Field Instrument to the European Space Agency (ESA) for ESA’s three-satellite Swarm mission. The contract is expected to generate 14 million Canadian dollars ($12.4 million) in revenues through 2008, the company said.

Com Dev Chief Executive John Keating said in a statement that the contract represents the first time a Canadian company has been selected as prime contractor for an instrument to be supplied directly to ESA. Canada is an ESA associate member and pays annual dues to the agency. The Canadian Space Agency helped finance Com Dev’s bid.

Com Dev also announced an expansion of its work with European satellite-builder Astrium as part of Germany’s Satcom Bw military telecommunications satellite program. The two Satcom Bw satellites are being built by Astrium.

Com Dev said it had received authorizations from Astrium to undertake work totaling $8.8 million, in addition to an earlier contract approval valued at $5.2 million. Com Dev, which is providing UHF microwave equipment for the satellites, said it expects a further $4 million in contracts related to the program.

China Launches First Of New Line of Comsats

China inaugurated a new, more-powerful line of telecommunications satellites with the successful Oct. 29 launch of the Sinosat-2 spacecraft aboard a Chinese Long March 3B rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) announced.

Sinosat-2, the first of China’s domestically designed and built DFH-4 platforms, will be operated from 92.2 degrees east longitude by Sinosat Communications Co. Ltd. for direct-broadcast television programming. It is China’s first direct-home television spacecraft.

Sinosat-2 carries 18 36-megahertz Ku-band transponders and four 54-megahertz Ku-band transponders. Weighing about 5,200 kilograms at launch, the satellite is designed to operate for 15 years.

CAST officials did not respond to e-mail requests for updates on the satellite’s early performance in orbit. But Sinosat-2 introduces a product that, in addition to extending television coverage to China’s rural communities, also is intended to give China a place in the global satellite-export market.

The DFH-4 platform has been sold to the Nigerian and Venezuelan governments. Those satellites are scheduled for launch in 2007 and 2008, respectively. A Sinosat-3 spacecraft also is under construction, according to CAST.

Egypt, Canada Sign Space Cooperation Agreement

The Egyptian and Canadian governments signed a space-cooperation agreement Oct. 31 that is focused on Earth observation for water-resource management and other applications, the Canadian Space Agency announced.

Meeting in Cairo, the Egyptian National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences and the Canadian Space Agency signed a memorandum of understanding as part of a Canadian government initiative to promote Earth observation applications in Africa.

The agreement also opens the possibility for a broader cooperation in space technology beyond Earth observation. Canada is participating in the European Space Agency’s Tiger Initiative, which employs Earth observation satellite data to manage water resources in Africa and has several projects ongoing in Egypt.

Lockheed Martin To Net $60 Million from ILS Sale

Lockheed Martin’s sale of its International Launch Services (ILS) commercial-launch subsidiary should result in a net profit of $60 million, but the gain will not be booked until the company’s liabilities for future Russian Proton launches have been eliminated, Lockheed Martin said in a filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin in October sold its interests in ILS and a related company, Lockheed Khrunichev Energia International Inc., to Space Transport Inc. ILS will continue to sell commercial launches of Russia’s Proton launch vehicle, which is built by Moscow-based Khrunchev.

But Space Transport Inc. did not assume Lockheed Martin’s liabilities for customer advance payments to Lockheed Martin and ILS for launches that had not occurred by the time the sale closed Oct. 11.

As of the sale date, Lockheed said it had $340 million in advance payments from customers still outstanding, of which $263 million had been transferred to Khrunichev to build the Proton vehicles. In the event Khrunichev did not perform the contracted launches, the Moscow company would have to reimburse Lockheed Martin for the corresponding advance payments. In the absence of such a reimbursement, Lockheed Martin would be legally responsible for returning the customers’ money.

Lockheed Martin said in its SEC filing, dated Oct. 27, that it expects the launches for which it has an ongoing advance-payment refund liability will occur by 2008.

6 % Growth Predicted For South Asian Transponders

Demand for direct-to-home television i n India and the neighboring region will result in a 6.1 percent annual growth in Ku- and C-band satellite transponders over South Asia during the next six years, according to a forecast by Northern Sky Research (NSR).

In its annual report on the commercial satellite telecommunications market, NSR says that worldwide demand for C- and Ku-band satellite capacity will grow by 3.2 percent per year, on average, between 2006 and 2011.

NSR projects the global supply of C- and Ku-band transponders will reach nearly 5,200 transponders in 2011, compared to around 4,300 at the end of 2005.

Demand in North America, still the world’s biggest market with about 22 percent of the total, will grow by the same 3.2 percent per year as the global average, Cambridge, Mass.-based NSR says in its report, “Global Assessment of Satellite Demand.” Annual revenues from leases of this satellite capacity will rise to $8.4 billion in 2011, from $6.7 billion in 2005.

The report’s principal author, Patrick French, said that while the growth in regional and local television stations ensures a gradual uptick in the business, there is a danger that excess capacity may undermine transponder-lease prices.

Prices have remained firm for the past year or two, with exceptions in some markets, especially those where C-band capacity dominates.

Satellite construction under way or being considered in Venezuela, Argentina, Nigeria, Vietnam and elsewhere could put downward pressure on prices in regional markets despite the consolidation and fleet-rationalization among the major satellite operators, he said.

Northrop Grumman Tests Sunshield Model For James Webb Space Telescope

Northrop Grumman is conducting tests on a full-scale engineering model of the new sunshield for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope that will ensure its design is sound and its deployment happens smoothly. Testing on the five-layer sunshield will continue into next year, according to a Nov. 1 press release from Northrop Grumman of Los Angeles.

When launched, the sunshield — designed to block solar light and keep the telescope at optimal running temperatures — will be approximately the size of a tennis court.

An international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, the space telescope is scheduled for launch in 2013 .


Raytheon Wins $8 Million Missile Defense Contract

Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems group has been awarded $8 million by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command as part of a contract modification to increase the amount of software and system engineering support services the company provides for the Patriot Air and Missile Defense program.

The money is intended to cover additional work on the Patriot’s tactical command system and its battery command post .

ViaSat To Build In-Flight Satellite Broadband Terminals

ViaSat will produce additional SKYLink broadband in-flight Airborne Integrated Satellite Communications Terminals for use in the business aircraft market, under a $12 million order from ARINC, of Annapolis, Md., according to an Oct. 30 ViaSat press release.

SRS Technologies Awarded Goddard Support Contract

SRS Technologies Newport Beach, Calif.-based small business, will provide mission assurance services to NASA under a new $75 million contract.

Under the five-year contract, SRS will support flight and ground system programs at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., according to an Oct. 30 NASA press release . SRS will be responsible analyzing hazards, testing software for bugs, and inspecting electrical and mechanical assembly practices, the release said.

More Luxury Car Makers To Offer XM, Sirius Products

Satellite radio competitors XM and Sirius each have secured new deals with luxury car companies.

Bentley Motors will now carry Sirius radios in its vehicles, according to an Oct. 30 press release from New York-based Sirius Satellite Radio.

Bentley, a subsidiary of Volkswagen , will offer the satellite radio service in some models in 2007, and will make it standard in some luxury vehicles in 2008, the release said.

Porsche, on the other hand, will carry XM radios in 2007, according to an Oct. 30 press release from XM Satellite Radio of Washington. Previously, XM could be factory installed in some Porsche models, but now will be available standard in Porsche vehicles, the release said. XM also plans to develop satellite-delivered data services such as traffic information, the release said.

Lockheed Martin SelectsTeam To Bid on FAA Deal

Lockheed Martin has announced its team for the pursuit of the Federal Aviation Administration’s next-generation air transport system contract, which incorporates satellite technology for use in air traffic control.

Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin will pair with Sensis Corp. of East Syracuse, N.Y., Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla., and Honeywell International Inc. of Morristown, N.J., on the contract for the Automatic Dependent Surveillance — Broadcast (ADS-B) program, the first step in the next-generation system, according to an Oct. 30 Lockheed Martin press release .

The contract’s request for proposals likely will be released in March, with an award to follow in July of 2007, according to Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Anna DiPaola. The dollar amount for the contract has not been released, but it is expected to include a three- to five-year deployment phase and a 15-year service phase, she said.

Portugal Telecom Buys 1,000 Gilat Terminals

Portugal Telecom Group has purchased nearly 1,000 Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs) and other equipment from Gilat Satellite Networks of Petah Tikva, Israel, to serve rural subscribers and business customers.

Portugal Telecom of Lisbon, an operator serving Portugal, Brazil, Africa and other markets, will deploy Gilat’s SkyEdge VSATs to provide connectivity in the region of Algarve in southern Portugal, according to a Nov. 1 Gilat press release .

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, according to Stan Schneider of Schneider Communications, which handles public relations for Gilat.

Marlink To Sell Iridium, Inmarsat Broadband

Marlink will provide both Inmarsat- and Iridium-based broadband satellite communications services to a shipping company under a new agreement.

Olso-based Marlink will provide both Inmarsat- and Iridium-based broadband services to Valles Steamship Ltd.’s fleet of seven tankers and three bulk carrier vessels. Valles will use Inmarsat terminals and Iridium satellite phones to provide the service, according to a Nov. 1 press release from Marlink.

The system will allow Valles to conduct business operations while at sea, the release said. The network will be interconnected to the company’s networked voice over Internet Protocol telephone system, the release said.

EarthData To Provide Maps Of South America to NGA

EarthData will do mapping work in South America for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) under a $4.3 million contract.

Washington-based EarthData, an airborne remote sensing company, will use its GeoSAR radar mapping system to provide high-resolution imagery and maps for NGA to use for land and information management, according to a Nov. 1 press release from EarthData.

Trimble Posts Strong 3Q Revenue, Profit Growth

A slowdown in the residential housing market will not spell trouble for GPS equipment company Trimble Inc., despite the fact that a significant portion of its revenue comes from construction-related applications, the company’s chief executive officer said Oct. 24.

When Steven Berglund, Trimble chief executive officer, outlined the company’s financial results for the third quarter of 2006 during a conference call with investors Oct. 24, investors expressed concern about the impact the residential housing market’s woes might have on Trimble, which produces commercial GPS products for companies such as Caterpillar Construction of Peoria, Ill.

Berglund said that Trimble’s business is largely driven by large-scale commercial development and large highway projects rather than residential building. Trimble brought in $234.9 million in revenue during the quarter that ended Sept. 29, compared to $188.5 million in 2005. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company posted a net income of $25.3 million, up from $20.2 million.

Berglund said during the call that the company’s licensing agreement with wireless phone company Nokia of Espoo, Finland, which was announced in October, could bring year-end growth to between 19 and 20 percent, compared to the 12 to 15 percent growth the company originally predicted .

Trimble predicts future growth in the agricultural market as well as in potential geographic markets such as Eastern Europe and China, Berglund said.

DSCS Team Receives U.S. Air Force Excellence Award

The Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) Life Extension team has received an award from the U.S. Air Force.

The team was awarded the 2006 Chief of Staff Team Excellence Award for developing new methods to estimate and better use fuel on board the satellite constellation, according to an Oct. 19 press release from the Air Force.

Raytheon UAV System Simulates Cockpit

Raytheon Co. has designed a new cockpit-style system that it hopes the U.S. Air Force will use to control unmanned aerial vehicles from remote locations.

The company’s Universal Control System (UCS) consists of two cockpit-style pods from which two individuals can control up to four aircraft and their sensors from wherever the pods are stationed.

The company relied on technology from the gaming industry so that maneuvering the vehicles is more intuitive than the current operations for running such vehicles as Predator or Globalhawk, Mark Bigham, business development director for Raytheon’s Intelligence and Information Systems business, said during an Oct. 31 media briefing in Falls Church, Va.

The UCS automates a number of functions that currently requires a greater effort by the operators, such as equipping weapons to be fired, Bigham said.

Bigham declined to disclose the amount of money that Raytheon invested in the venture. The company hopes the U.S. Air Force will use the UCS to navigate its Globalhawk fleet, a decision they expect will be made in spring of 2007. If selected, Raytheon could provide a prototype system in approximately 9 months, Bigham said.

Raytheon Pulls Out of Two Stock Exchanges

Raytheon Co. has voluntarily de-listed from two stock exchanges.

The Waltham, Mass.-based contractor has withdrawn its stock from the NYSE Arca Inc. exchange and the Chicago Stock Exchange, according to an Oct. 27 Raytheon press release.

Raytheon spokesman John Kasle said Oct. 31 that the move was done to avoid the regulatory and administrative activities that go along with the listings. The company will still be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

“We have adequate liquidity and visibility for our shares on the New York Stock Exchange,” Kesle said.

HURT Allows Troops To Receive Live UAV Data

Northrop Grumman Corp. recently demonstrated a system that enables troops fighting in urban combat to use hand-held computers to view video feeds from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), according to a company news release.

Dismounted troops fighting in cities generally do not have access to real time surveillance data from UAVs, according to the news release.

The Heterogeneous Urban Reconnaissance, Target Acquisition Team (HURT) system, which is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, allows those troops to control a network of small UAVs. During the demonstration, which was conducted Sept. 25 through Oct. 6 at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., Marines on the ground controlled four small UAVs at a time, including different combinations of Dragon Eye, Wasp, Pointer and Raven aircraft, according to the news release.

The same technology could be used to control larger UAVs like Global Hawk, Hunter and Predator, according to the news release.

The HURT system allows troops to view surveillance imagery of their surrounding area, and request information about specific enemy positions using a touch screen, according to the news release. The system prioritizes requests from commanders and their supporting forces, and directs the most suitable UAVs to take a closer look.

During the demonstration, a Marine commander was able to use the system to override requests from his supporting forces. The HURT system also provided continuous updates of a surveillance image overlaid on a map with GPS coordinates to give troops better situational awareness, according to the news release.

The HURT system also was used to establish a “no fly zone” so that UAVs would not collide with obstacles like hills or mountains, according to the news release.

Industry Team Achieves Milestones with ABL

The industry team developing a laser-equipped aircraft designed to shoot down ballistic missiles in the boost phase of flight reached several key subsystem milestones, according to news releases from companies involved with the program.

Lockheed Martin Corp. announced Oct. 27 that the fire control system it is developing for the Airborne Laser (ABL) program performed well during ground testing. The fire control system uses two lasers — one built by Raytheon Co. that determines the distance to a target and the direction to point the high-energy laser, and a second system built by Northrop Grumman Corp. that is used to calculate how to compensate for atmospheric compensation when aiming the laser.

“The results of the testing underscore the soundness of our technical approach,” said Art Napolitano, ABL program director for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. “We functionally demonstrated ABL’s ability to locate and track a target, illuminate the target to compensate for atmospheric disturbances and then precisely focus a surrogate laser beam on the target to destroy it.”

The fire control is integrated into a modified Boeing 747 aircraft, which is scheduled to attempt to shoot down a ballistic missile for the first time during testing in 2008.

Other recent activity on the ABL program includes the installation of floor reinforcements and fuel tanks in the rear of the aircraft by Boeing Co., prime contractor for the program, and Northrop Grumman Corp., in preparation for the installation of the high-powered chemical laser next year, according to an Oct. 27 Boeing news release.