Daily Briefing: News Snippets

The end of one era, continuation of another

After nearly three decades, it’s “prime” time for Boeing to wish the Space Shuttle Discovery a fond farewell (Figure 1). However, Boeing did not leave its NASA-sponsored progeny without assistance prior to Discovery’s final mission launch from Kennedy Space Center to the International Space Station (ISS) on November 3; rather, the company performed shuttle payload processing, comprising the Leonardo and Express Logistics Carrier 4 (ELC4) and Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM). More precisely, Boeing’s Checkout, Assembly, and Payload Processing Services (CAPPS) team, in conjunction with PMM designer Thales Alenia Space, transformed Leonardo into a permanent fixture for extra storage and spare parts; CAPPS also integrated ELC4, designed to give the orbiting complex more storage. Boeing also serves as prime for NASA’s ISS.

Figure 1: The Space Shuttle Discovery recently set out on its final mission, from Kennedy Space Center to the International Space Station (ISS). Pictured: Discovery docked to the ISS’s Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA-2), photo courtesy of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (NASA-MSFC)

Egyptian military and U.S. Navy go “mod”

A recent contract between Raytheon Co., Naval Sea Systems Command, and Egypt will likely produce its own version of “The Mod Squad” … figuratively speaking anyway. The $17 million contract calls for a pair of upgraded/refurbished Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) MK 49 Mod 3 Guided Missile Launch Systems (GMLSs) and hardware accoutrements, in addition to a brand-new Mod 3 GMLS suited to Egyptian fast missile craft. The MK 49 GMLS, along with the MK 44 guided missile round pack, is part of the NATO-inspired and -managed RAM MK 31 Guided Missile Weapon System (GMWS) developed by the U.S. and Germany to fulfill Anti-Ship Missile (ASM) needs in defense systems. If all contract options are exercised, the contract’s value could climb to $32 million. The contract delineates Egypt at 62.9 percent and the U.S. Navy at 37.1 percent of the purchase. Work will commence at Raytheon’s Tucson, Arizona locale, and a completion date of January 2013 is expected.

OWL to spot weapons threats

SRC, Inc. has been awarded a $500,000 contract for preliminary design of the Army's radar system dubbed the "Omni-Directional Weapon Location (OWL)." The multimission-savvy OWL system proffers surveillance, not just of the local area but "over a hemispherical coverage area - a capability that is not currently achievable with existing weapon location radars," according to the company. OWL is designed to be "affordable" yet state-of-the-art, locating, tracking, and detecting rocket, cannon, and mortar firing locales within a wide threat-trajectory spectrum.

Army’s network management … think “positive”

Being able to optimize and manage at-the-halt, fixed, or on-the-move networks’ performance is critical to mission success on the modern battlefield, and the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM) and an unnamed Coalition country’s military are marching closer to the goal. Specifically, Hughes Network Systems, LLC’s HX ExpertNMS network management system recently garnered “positive results from trials.” Providing the aforementioned stationary or on-the-go network optimization and management capabilities, HX ExpertNMS is a “full-featured capability” iteration of Hughes’ HX System commercial network management system (Figure 2). The military-flavor network management system is touted to render quick setup via an installation wizard, enabling the military to rapidly fulfill assignments so they can move on to the next locale. Additionally, any network issues are easily identified, thanks to HX ExpertNMS’s quick-view dashboard offering fast diagnostics of bandwidth snafus or network malfunctions.

Figure 2: RDECOM and an unnamed Coalition country’s military will benefit from the recently garnered “positive results from trials” achieved by Hughes Network Systems, LLC’s HX ExpertNMS network management system. Stock photo

No human photographic memory? No problem

In the absence of homo sapiens with 100 percent accurate photographic memories, a recent contract between EADS North America’s American Eurocopter Corporation unit and Curtiss-Wright Controls, Inc. (CW) will provide the next best thing: a video management system, aerial style. Specifically, CW will proffer the Skyquest Video Management System (VMS) to American Eurocopter, who will then suit up Security and Support (S&S)-configured versions of the U.S. Army’s UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) (Figure 3) with Skyquest, as part of the LUH Batallion Mission Equipment Package (MEP). Each S&S MEP-equipped Lakota is slated to feature the VMS processor, a double-deck DVR, and a triad of multifunction mission displays. Skyquest VMS’s job duties include enabling simultaneous viewing of several video sources. Meanwhile, work on the contract is anticipated through 2015, at which time the Army may have ordered the contract’s ceiling of 345 helicopters. The Army currently has 187 of the 345 LUHs on order.

Figure 3: Security and Support (S&S)-configured versions of the U.S. Army’s UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) will soon be equipped with the Skyquest aerial video management system. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Walker

Can the U.S. Army’s radar take the heat?

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) are once again making headlines, this time for hosting a Lockheed Martin-built Tactical Reconnaissance and Counter-Concealment-Enabled Radar (TRACER) in-flight. Accordingly, the MQ-9 UAS’s recent voyage with the TRACER Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) on its back signified the first time a fixed-wing UAS flew a penetrating radar. The impetus for the test was to ascertain the dual-band TRACER’s viability for remote operation on a high-endurance platform. Next up: TRACER is slated for a ride onboard the Predator B (Ikhana) NASA-operated unmanned aircraft. The testing mission: to gather high-res images and to find out how successfully TRACER’s external unpressurized pod can encase the radar system’s RF segment in a harsh environment.

Navy’s unmanned system-within-a-system progresses

Of course unmanned vehicles are making a huge splash on the modern mil-embedded scene, but what about unmanned systems within the system? Perhaps those will be next to go to low- or no-maintenance, per a recent contract between U.S. Navy CVN 78 aircraft carrier vendor General Atomics and “PT” (formerly “Performance Technologies”). The contract stipulates that PT provides its COTS IPnexus Application-Ready Systems to General Atomics’ Electromagnetic Systems (EMS) Division to facilitate sensor-processing capabilities on CVN 78’s modular next-gen aircraft recovery system dubbed “Advanced Arresting Gear” (AAG) (Figure 4). IPnexus renders precision information reporting and data monitoring in addition to self-diagnosis accompanied by maintenance alerts. AAG aims to supplant the CVN 78’s MK-7 linear hydraulic system, which requires manual adjustments of tension each time the aircraft lands. In contrast, AAG provides a digital control system proffering built-in diagnostics and testing, along with prognostics technology and health monitoring assessments to increase safety margins and reliability – while allowing military personnel to focus their energies elsewhere. Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman serves as CVN 78 prime.

Figure 4: The U.S. Navy’s CVN 78’s MK-7 linear hydraulic system is about to be supplanted by a modular next-gen aircraft recovery system dubbed “Advanced Arresting Gear” (AAG). Northrop Grumman photo

VPX REDI gets thumbs-up from ANSI

Now VPX developers have something new to celebrate: the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) ratification of the VPX REDI (48.0) base standard (Ruggedized Enhanced Design Implementation) and supporting dot specs: 48.1 – Mechanical Specification for Microcomputers Using Air Cooling Applied to VPX; 48.2 – Mechanical Specification for Microcomputers Using Conduction Cooling Applied to VPX; and 48.5 – Mechanical Specification Using Air Flow-through Cooling Applied to VPX. The VPX REDI embedded computing standard (Figure 5) was developed to specify 2-level maintenance and advanced cooling for VPX (VITA 46).

Figure 5: VITA’s VPX REDI (48.0) base standard and 48.1, 48.2, and 48.5 dot specs recently achieved ANSI ratification. Logo courtesy of VITA