US Navy pays $94 million to bolster space technology

Orbital Sciences to build new Navy satellites and systems

The US NRL observatory
The US Navy wants to jump start its space technology and this week awarded a $94.7 million contract to Orbital Sciences to do just that.              

The contract will require Orbital to build new satellites and systems for controlling these systems all in the name of significantly bolstering the Navy's space capabilities. 

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According to wide-ranging contract, Orbital will undertake a range of spacecraft research, analysis, prototype development, integration, test, operation, demonstration, data processing and documentation and support activities for a number of airborne and space systems.  Some of the new space systems include: 

  • Joint Millarcsecond Pathfinder Survey (JMAPS) microsatellite. According to the Navy this satellite will performs what's called a all-sky bright star survey. The mission will deliver an updated bright star catalog by 2016 and develop and fly a new class of astrometric instrumentation that will support measurement of individual star positions, the Navy said. JMAPS is currently funded for flight, with at 2012 launch date.
  • CubeSats: CubeSats are tiny satellites with dimensions of 10×10×10 centimeters, weighing a little less than 3lbs, and typically using commercial off-the-shelf electronics components.
  • Global Awareness and Data Extraction International Satellite (GLADIS): Is a Navy constellation of satellites that collect remote sensor data located in all manner of areas such as ocean fisheries to ship lanes.

The contract also requires development of unmanned helicopter technology.  The Scientific Payload Insertion Device Electric Rotor (SPIDER) unmanned helicopter is a low-cost autonomous unmanned mini-helicopter for the delivery of small sensor payloads to inaccessible areas. 

The Naval Research Laboratory, which is handling the contract, has a long history of developing space technology.  Most recently, lab scientists issued a report on how large galaxies in space merge.  NRL scientists have also been studying the giant Sun eruptions of plasma, known as coronal mass ejections produce solar energetic particles that cause spacecraft anomalies and communication interruptions, and can have significant adverse effects on Global Positioning Systems. 

NASA's new Solar Dynamics Observatory also  spacecraft also has as one of its experiments to track coronal mass ejections. 

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8   

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