Air Force works on wireless spacecraft technology

Northrop Grumman Corp. will develop a wireless spacecraft bus for the Air Force under a 21-month, $4.1 million contract.

Under the contract, Northrop Grumman employees will assemble a wireless spacecraft bus for the Air Force Research Laboratory that ultimately would be used to provide an electrical interface between the spacecraft’s equipment and payloads, company officials said March 3.

A bus is a collection of wires through which data travels from one part of a computer to another.

The wireless data bus is intended to enhance the AFRL’s electronic architecture for spacecraft known as Space Plug-n-Play Avionics (SPA). The technology incorporates modern features of automatic device recognition and fault detection similar to commercial computer interfaces. The approach enables the addition and removal of components without any software or data changes.

The challenge is to create hardware elements that manage messages and direct communications traffic in a radio frequency-rich, micro-environment with hundreds of wireless devices, the officials said. The initial phase of the project will conclude with a wireless standard, protocols and design guidelines that address security, reliability and electromagnetic emissions unique to spacecraft.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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