NASA is responding to criticism that it has become insular in its technology investments by opening its future plans for public debate. Core to these discussions are 14 space technology road maps that the National Research Council is vetting. NASA also is asking other government entities, industry and academia to weigh in to determine if or how the agency’s ideas will benefit all stakeholders.
The end of the space shuttle program is the signal for NASA to turn to the private sector for human access to orbit. The space agency that built a series of manned spacecraft to blaze a trail to the moon now is placing its bets on several commercial space technology companies to provide entry for humans into low earth orbit.
This new direction for the government space agency has several goals. First, it seeks to establish a domestic manned orbital capability to reach the International Space Station. After the shuttle program ends this year, the only way for spacefarers to reach the space station for the next few years will be through Russian space agency launches.
NASA has awarded a sole-source contract to Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Greenbelt, Maryland, for Systems Engineering for In-Space Servicing. This 18-month contract has a value of $31 million. Lockheed Martin will provide systems and discipline engineering support to develop and execute two demonstrations to test and verify new robotic servicing capabilities using the Dextre robot aboard the International Space Station.
The Sky Map app from Google turns Android phones into a stargazing tool with the click of a button. And a new "time travel" feature lets you see images of the sky from the past and the future.
A multitude of changes underway at U.S. Strategic Command are revolutionizing the U.S. Defense Department’s place in space. In addition to the three Wideband Global SATCOM satellites currently in orbit, the command is discussing how the commercial sector can continue to support its missions, and its Joint Space Operations Center is undergoing not just a facelift but what can be considered a total remodeling. In addition, the command is boosting its outreach through the influence it now has with its authority over the Commercial and Foreign Entities Program.
Throughout time, humans have explored their surroundings, crossing oceans and landmasses in pursuit of knowledge and glory. This thirst for knowledge also turned eyes skyward, causing the curious to try to understand the vastness of existence around the planet Earth. As technology advanced, the desire to venture into the cosmos became increasingly possible, until man walked on the moon and equipment traveled much farther away. Fortunately for those who are still on terra firma, gathering information about the universe is much easier than launching on a rocket ship. People can learn and discover more about deep space through adventures in cyberspace without the need for oxygen tanks or special suits.
NASA's Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio, has awarded a one-year contract option to ASRC Aerospace Corporation of Greenbelt, Maryland, for technical, engineering and scientific services in the areas of aeronautics, microgravity science, space exploration and related science and technology activities in support of Glenn's Lewis Field and Plum Brook Station, Sandusky, Ohio. The option has a value that will not exceed $50 million and increases the value of the contract to $260 million.
After years of discussion, some military experts still disagree about the next step for the Operationally Responsive Space concept. While many believe the time for study and analysis is over, others say questions remain about the details of the capability's benefits for warfighting. Despite these differences, all agree that the time to move forward is now and that funding remains one of the biggest impediments to progress.
A high-resolution global elevation map soon will allow warfighters to develop and use a variety of navigation, communications and engineering applications. Twice as accurate as previous geographic data systems, it can generate detailed topographies of 80 percent of the planet's surface, government scientists say.
The proliferation of space technologies around the world poses a threat to the space assets on which the U.S. military is relying to ensure battlespace supremacy in the 21st century. These technologies, once available only to a select few, now are opening the door to both the widespread exploitation of space and the denial of U.S. space systems during times of crisis.
A simulation tool that creates a virtual satellite allows ground personnel to rehearse satellite communications and operations disciplines without tying up valuable orbiters. The new system enables warfighters to train on, assess and certify orbital communications links without interrupting ongoing satellite operations.
The United Kingdom is turning to the aerospace industry, the telecommunications sector and the banking community to establish a new web of military communications satellites based on commercial technologies. Under a novel acquisition approach, the Ministry of Defence is seeking a contractor that will be a service provider rather than a hardware deliverer.
Researchers are adapting voice over Internet protocol technology to establish communication between Earth and spacecraft, satellites, and, perhaps someday, other planets. Using modified commercial approaches, scientists will design space-based and mobile Internet standards that provide access to science mission data and interactive communication with inhabited and uninhabited spacecraft. These technologies also will become the connection to a future Mars-based communications infrastructure.
The final frontier is about to become home to another layer of military capabilities with the launch of TacSat-1 and lift-off of a new concept for space-based assets. The launch, which is scheduled for late this month, is the first step toward tactically exploiting space and represents a dramatic change of the entire business model for designing and purchasing space-based systems. Providing warfighters with operationally responsive satellite communications, the scheme will enable military commanders to act more quickly and effectively in battle.
The NATO Consultation, Command and Control Agency is exploring the use of digital video broadcast technology in both satellite and terrestrial versions. The technology would support the organization's requirement for a system that can distribute large volumes of information to strategic, deployed and mobile nodes simultaneously at very high transfer rates.
More than 10 years after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. Defense Department is shedding old constructs from that period that have been hindering the department's new thrust into space. A major component of these changes places the primary responsibility for acquiring and launching military space systems in the hands of the U.S. Air Force. Within the service, new commands and offices also are being established to interface with homeland security efforts and joint organizations such as the U.S. Northern Command.
The newly independent U.S. Air Force Space Command is focusing on integrating exo-atmospheric operations with lower altitude activities, including ground campaigns. These operations in space, which range from communications to precision guiding of munitions, are becoming less of a separate warfighting aspect and more of a united element of high-technology network-centric warfare.
The French military is enhancing its global communications capabilities with a new generation of dedicated satellites designed to simultaneously link several theaters of operation. The spacecraft features multiple antennas operating on different radio frequencies that can be aimed to provide highly focused, secure links to mobile and fixed groundstations.
Military space activities increasingly are resembling their more terrestrial counterparts as their presence grows in military operations. The aboveworldly realm now has its own specific communications networks, surveillance and reconnaissance sensors and even weather reports. Soon, it may feature new reusable transport systems and weapons designed to maintain supremacy in the highest frontier.
The U.S. Defense Department's new generation of military communications satellites will be both forward-looking and backward compatible. They will introduce state-of-the-art capabilities with flexibility for upgrades, and they will be able to interoperate seamlessly with existing Milstar satellites.