NATO AWACS. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) awards Boeing a contract worth nearly $250 million to install digital flight decks and avionics on 13 of the alliance’s Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, according to a company statement. The new technology ensures compliance with current and future air traffic control and navigation requirements, giving the aircraft broader access to airspace around the world. The upgrades will also reduce flight deck crew from four to three. Modifications will begin in 2016 and complete by 2018. Boeing installed a new digital flight deck and avionics on one NATO AWACS aircraft under an earlier engineering manufacturing and development (EMD) contract. Flight testing begins in the fourth quarter of this year with delivery scheduled for December 2015. NATO’s AWACS aircraft are based on Boeing’s 707 commercial airliners.
Inmarsat-5 Bandwidth. Boeing is providing a U.S. government customer with military Ka-band satellite communications service from the commercial Inmarsat-5 satellite, according to a company statement. Boeing is working with ViaSat to provide an integrated satellite service to the government customer, which retains the rights to use the service on Inmarsat-5 through Sept. 30, 2015. Boeing spokeswoman Diana Ball declined to say which government customer is purchasing the bandwidth. The satellite, which entered service earlier this year, is the first of four Inmarsat-5 spacecraft being built by Boeing and is part of Inmarsat’s Global Xpress system, which Boeing calls the world’s first globally available high-speed mobile broadband service for government and commercial users. Boeing is authorized to resell Inmarsat capacity to U.S. government organizations.
Global Hawk Milestone. The Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) completes its 100th operational mission in southwest Asia and moves into the Pacific region, according to a Northrop Grumman company statement. Global Hawk has been flying early operational capability (EOC) missions since September 2013, providing the high-priority wide area surveillance ground moving target indicator (GMTI) capability in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and Africa Command (AFRICOM) regions. Full system capability will be demonstrated when the system enters initial test and operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) in the spring of next year.
SES Pathfinder. The Air Force awards SES Government Solutions an $8.2 million firm-fixed-price commercial satellite communications (COMSATCOM) Pathfinder contract, according to a company statement. The contract will provide on-orbit transponders to support Ku-band communications for AFRICOM. Pathfinder is viewed as an innovative business model available to the Defense Department for the acquisition of critical communications infrastructure. This model allows DoD to pre-commit to the use of commercial satellite transponders for multiple years and, therefore, lowers the cost when compared to the traditional operations and maintenance (O&M) leasing approach, also known as spot-market buying.
GD Space Fence. Lockheed Martin awards a contract to General Dynamics C4 Systems SATCOM Technologies to design and build the ground structures and integrate the mechanical systems for the Air Force’s Space Fence program, according to a GD statement. The ground structures will house the Space Fence radar elements and other operations related to the Space Fence ground radar system, a new advanced way the U.S. will track and detect more than 100,000 orbiting objects in space and increase the ability to prevent space-based collisions. Ground system construction will begin in mid-2015.
SpaceX Texas. Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) selects Boca Chica Beach, Texas, on the outskirts of Brownsville, for its commercial launch site, according to the Brownsville Economic Development Council (EDC). SpaceX spent three years analyzing sites in Georgia, California, Virginia, Alaska, Puerto Rico and Florida. The project earlier this month was given the green light by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as part of the federal environmental process. SpaceX plans to invest $80 million to $100 million in capital investment for a project entailing three separate components: the rocket launch site, a control command center and a ground tracking station, all within two miles of each other. The actual launch operation will be built on a five-acre footprint within the 50 acres.
Hyten AFSPC. Air Force Gen. John Hyten becomes the 16th commander of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) in a change-of-command ceremony Aug. 15, replacing Gen. William Shelton. Hyten’s career includes assignments in a variety of space acquisition and operations positions, according to an AFSPC statement. Hyten served in senior engineering positions on both Air Force and Army anti-satellite weapon system programs. Hyten becomes AFSPC chief after serving as vice commander.