Space & Missile Defense Report Feb. 14, 2011

February 14, 2011

Table of Contents

AEHF-1 Moves Toward Intended Orbit

Orbit-raising activities for the first Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellite (AEHF-1) are going according to plan, according to Air Force officials.

Shortly after the launch last August, the plan was modified as a result of an anomaly with the bi-propellant propulsion system, which was intended to place the spacecraft near its operational orbit. The new plan entails two phases: one phase using hydrazine thrusters, which is now complete; and the other using the Hall Current Thruster (HCT) electrical propulsion system.

The HCT electrical propulsion system has achieved more than 1,400 hours of successful operation and raised the satellite’s perigee to more than 13,350 km altitude, the Air Force said in a press statement released recently.

The satellite is safe, according to Air Force officials, and continues to operate as planned. It is still expected to reach geosynchronous orbit late this summer.

AEHF is designed to provide the military and other government officials with protected, high capacity, high speed communications. It is the successor to Milstar.

AEHF-1 will join five legacy satellites that make up the Milstar constellation and will provide more communications capacity than all five of those vehicles combined, according to Air Force officials. The AEHF constellation of at least four satellites is eventually expected to provide 10 times the total Milstar capacity, as well as data rates at least five times faster.

Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have participated in the development effort and will receive new capability once AEHF-1 is online, Air Force officials have said.

Prime contractor Lockheed Martin [LMT] late last year received a cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification valued at approximately $1.4 billion for production of the fourth AEHF space vehicle.

Meanwhile, AEHF-2 has completed production and is in storage until its scheduled launch in 2012. AEHF-3 is undergoing Thermal-Vacuum Testing and is on track to complete production later this year.

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U.S., France Sign Space Situational Awareness Agreement

The United States and France signed documents at the Pentagon Feb. 8 to address national security space issues, particularly to monitor space debris.

This is the first time the U.S. has signed such an agreement with a NATO ally.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the bilateral statement of principles on space situational awareness should address a key security challenge of this century–a finding by the new national security space strategy that space is increasingly “congested, contested and competitive.”

As well, more and more nations are using space for a variety of purposes, increasing the odds of accidental collision with spacecraft and manned craft or the space station.

” At the same time, space-based technologies underpin many essential civilian and defense capabilities, precision navigation, climate monitoring, secure communications and natural disaster warnings,” he said. “Space situational awareness agreements like this one help us mitigate these and other risks by sharing information and pooling our varied capabilities. This arrangement will foster safety and reduce the chances of mishaps, misperceptions and mistrust. Such cooperation is a key aspect of the national security space strategy.”

In January, Raytheon [RTN] and Lockheed Martin [LMT] each won $107 million contracts to work on space-surveillance systems for the Air Force. The follow-on contract is for the next phase of the service’s Space Fence program, which includes manned and unmanned space operations. The system is used to detect floating space debris that can damage satellites. The Air Force wants the space fence to be able to track as many as 200,000 objects in low Earth orbit, compared to the 20,000 or so tracked today.

The United States is pursuing similar space situational awareness agreements with other nations under its new space policy, most recently signing one with Australia in 2010 .

French Defense Minister Alain Juppe said he wanted to emphasize the high level of confidence he believes the two nations share in political dialogue and military cooperation. The signing of a declaration of principles, laying out the principles of a new and ambitious partnership in terms of space situational awareness, is a “symbol of this will to cooperate.”

Signing the agreement between the U.S. and another NATO country is a first, Juppe said. “Through all our space capabilities, France is a reliable partner. In a mutual interest, our two countries have decided to reinforce their defense-space cooperation in order to safeguard access and use of space with a peaceful end in view.”

Raytheon Successful In Warhead System Integration Test For SM-3 Block 1B

Raytheon [RTN] and Aerojet [GY] completed a kinetic warhead system integration test for Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IB, Raytheon said. The test verified the ability of the warhead to detect, track and intercept a moving ballistic missile target in a zero-gravity environment, the company added.

During the test, a fully operational, flight-weight kinetic warhead operated on an air-bearing test stand and performed in a high-altitude chamber at Aerojet’s Sacramento, Calif., facility. The kinetic warhead’s seeker tracked a simulated target while the guidance computer sent information to the new Throttleable Divert and Attitude Control System (TDACS). Once the TDACS received the information, the system fired its divert and attitude control thrusters and maintained aim on the target during the entire test sequence, simulating an actual flight mission.

“The test demonstrated the fire control loop of the kinetic warhead on the ground, which is a key indicator that we’re on track for the first SM-3 Block IB intercept in space this year,” said Frank Wyatt, vice president of Raytheon’s Air and Missile Defense Systems product line. “The Raytheon SM-3 team remains committed to mission assurance for this important program. Raytheon has the right people, the best supply base, the most robust production facilities and the expertise to deliver this critical capability to the fleet in 2012.”

Raytheon’s next-generation SM-3 Block IB maintains the reliability of the Block IA variant while incorporating an advanced two-color infrared seeker, an advanced signal processor and a new TDACS. SM-3 Block IB will be deployed in both sea-based and land-based modes as part of phase two of the current administration’s Phased Adaptive Approach for missile defense.

Raytheon is developing SM-3 as part of the Missile Defense Agency’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, and more than 130 SM-3s have been delivered to date. The missiles are deployed with both the U.S. and Japanese navies to defend against short- to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats in the ascent and midcourse phases of flight.

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NRO Satellite Launched Aboard Minotaur Rocket

Orbital Sciences [ORB] successfully launched a classified satellite aboard a Minotaur I rocket from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., on Feb. 6, the company said.

The payload is owned by the National Reconnaissance Office.

According to Air Force officials, the launch was delayed briefly due to power problems with the rocket’s safety equipment observed during the countdown on Feb. 5. After problems were resolved, the rocket took off early the next morning.

The launch was the 20th for the Minotaur family of launch vehicles since 2000, all of which have been successful, Orbital said in a press statement. Of the 20 total missions, nine have been carried out by the Minotaur I configuration.

“As we enter a period of tight government budgets, Orbital is ready to answer the Department of Defense’s call for greater affordability, accountability and reliability with the fully developed Minotaur product line,” said Ron Grabe, Orbital’s executive vice president.

He added that the company is also the Minotaur product line to the civilian space sector with the upcoming introduction of the Minotaur V high-energy launcher for NASA’s LADEE lunar mission, which is scheduled for launch in 2013.

Lockheed Martin Receives $339 Million For Fifth MUOS Satellite

Lockheed Martin [LMT] recently said it received a $339.6-million contract option from the Navy for the fifth satellite in the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) constellation.

MUOS will replace the current Ultra High Frequency Follow-On (UFO) system and provide assured communications, including simultaneous voice, video and data, for mobile warfighters.

“MUOS will provide 10 times more communications capability than the current UFO satellite system,” said Mark Pasquale, Lockheed Martin vice president and MUOS program manager. “We are committed to successfully providing our warfighters with the critical capability of real-time communications on the move, as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible.”

The first MUOS satellite now is undergoing thermal vacuum testing at Lockheed Martin’s facilities in Sunnyvale, Calif.

One of the programs most critical milestones, the test will verify spacecraft functionality and performance in a vacuum environment where the satellite is thoroughly tested at the extreme hot and cold temperatures it will experience in space.

The first MUOS satellite, along with the associated ground system, is scheduled for delivery in mid-2011.

The second satellite also is proceeding through production. The team is preparing to mate the communications system module with the satellite’s propulsion core, allowing the team to begin environmental testing of the fully integrated satellite in preparation for delivery in 2012.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the MUOS prime contractor and system integrator, leading a team that includes General Dynamics [GD] C4 Systems, Scottsdale, Ariz., and Boeing [BA] Defense, Space and Security. The Navy’s Program Executive Office for Space Systems, Chantilly, Va., and its Navy Communications Satellite Program Office, San Diego are responsible for the MUOS program.

DOD Considers Development Of Arms Control Policy As Part Of New Space Strategy

By Carlo Munoz

The United States is evaluating possible options for an international arms control policy for space, which will be one element in a larger plan to develop a “code of conduct” for operations in that domain, according to a recently released Defense Department report.

“We will consider proposals and concepts for arms control measures if they are equitable, effectively verifiable, and enhance the national security of the United States and its allies,” according to language in The National Security Space Strategy, developed by DoD in conjunction with the Office of National Intelligence. An unclassified summary of the strategy was released by the Pentagon recently.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn said the creation of such an agreement would coincide with other cooperative efforts between the United States and its allies to increase overall security in space.

“I think what we are really talking about is we think…the peaceful use of space is a very important concept,” he said during a media briefing on the new strategy at DoD Friday.

“We are looking, as part of that, to build the [international] norms up, in terms of appropriate behavior in space [and] we are looking across the gamut, like what does [an] arms control [plan] have to offer,” Lynn added.

But Lynn was quick to point out that even if a space arms control policy could be put in place, it still would not prevent the United States from launching an attack against possible threats in space.

“We still preserve our right to self-defense, to respond in whatever means we think is appropriate,” Lynn said. “We would respond to attacks in space in the same way we would respond to other attacks. It is not any different.”

The impetus for the creation of a space arms control policy was “a direct link” to the National Space Policy issued by the White House last June, Gregory Schulte, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, said during the same briefing.

“What that . . . policy said back in June, which [DoD] confirmed here, is that we are ready to consider arms control proposals,” based on a slate of criteria designed to reaffirm the “transparency and confidence-building initiatives” regarding space policy and operations detailed in the DoD report.

Verifiability, equitability “and do they serve [U.S.] national security interests” are the key parameters that any arms control proposal would be weighed against, Schulte said.

As an alternative to an arms control pact, U.S. officials at DoD and the State Department are also considering creating a pact similar to the European Union Codes of Conduct, “which tend to be voluntary, rather than legally binding,” Schulte pointed out.

“So we are ready to consider arms control…but the real focus that we have, along with the Department of State, is how do you promote responsible behavior [in space] through voluntary norms,” the space policy chief said.

As a means to promote that type of behavior in space, Lynn said the United States must begin to “rely more heavily on our partner nations, in terms of developing [space-based] capabilities.” While noting that U.S.-specific “core capabilities” must be protected, that increased international cooperation would go a long way to garnering that international backing for those space behavior norms, he added.

Along with that cooperation on space-based capabilities, Lynn and Schulte also suggested increased sharing and dissemination of intelligence and “situational awareness” gathered by U.S. and allied space assets.

“We do need to think differently about how do you share that data? In the past, there was a real need to protect [data] and increasingly we are going to have think about how do you balance that with a need to share. We are already doing that,” Schulte said. U.S. Strategic Command already issues warnings to a number of countries, when U.S. space assets detect imminent threats, such as space debris, to foreign satellites, he said.

Further, Defense Secretary Robert Gates plans to sign a space situational awareness agreement with France next week, which would be similar to an agreement inked between DoD and Australia, according to Schulte.

“We are looking at how do we increasingly share this information, both with close allies to enable coalition operations, but more broadly to promote a more safe and stable domain in space,” he added.

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