BMD Watch: Boeing completes SBSS tests

By MARTIN SIEFF, UPI Senior News Analyst  |  Dec. 12, 2007 at 9:14 AM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Boeing said Tuesday it had successfully completed a series of Space Based Space Surveillance system tests as part of the development of a new operational sensor for the U.S. Space Surveillance Network.

"Tests of the SBSS system's visible sensor, payload electronics and high speed gimbal further validate that the enhanced capability of SBSS will be twice as fast, substantially more sensitive and 10 times more accurate than the capabilities currently on orbit, resulting in improved detection of threats to America's space assets," Boeing said.

"The visible sensor on the SBSS satellite will be used to provide critical information vital to the protection of U.S. military and civilian satellites," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Erickson, squadron commander for the SBSS, Space Superiority Systems Wing.

"The end result is that SBSS will significantly enhance the nation's space situational awareness," said U.S. Air Force Col. J.R. Jordan, group commander for the Space Situational Awareness, Space Superiority Systems Wing.

"The recently completed SBSS milestones include recording the first image with a visible light sensor, powering up the spacecraft bus for the first time and the successful thermal vacuum testing of the visible sensor telescope," Boeing said.

"With the successful completion of these tests, we continue to meet the U.S. Air Force's requirements of producing a high-quality space situational awareness system," said Howard Chambers, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems.

Boeing said it had "overall responsibility for the SBSS system and is developing the SBSS ground segment while working with Ball Aerospace to develop the spacecraft and visible sensor. In 2006, Boeing completed a series of critical design reviews that included government and industry participants."

ATK composite tech boosts Atlas V

Alliant Techsystems said this week its composite technology played a key role in the successful firing Monday of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

"The launch placed a classified payload into orbit for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office," Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, said in a statement.

"Using advanced fiber placement and hand lay-up techniques, ATK produced the 10 feet diameter composite heat-shield and base-plate that provide essential protection for the first stage engine compartment of the launch vehicle. The heat-shield and base-plate were fabricated by ATK at its Clearfield, Utah, facility. This is the 12th Atlas V launch using ATK built composite structures," the company said.

ATK said its composite technologies "deliver superior performance for numerous space launch vehicles, including the Atlas V, Delta II and Delta IV. Composite structures are lighter weight than traditional metal alloys yet offer increased strength. The company also manufactures numerous composite components for military and commercial aircraft."

ATK described itself as "an advanced weapon and space systems company with annual revenues in excess of $4.1 billion that employs approximately 17,000 people in 21 states."

Joint Chiefs chairman talks Iran, BMD with Israeli leaders

The controversial new U.S. National intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program may have angered Israeli leaders, but it has not slowed the pace or intensity of U.S.-Israeli cooperation on ballistic missile defense at the highest level.

The Tel Yediot Aharonot newspaper and its Web site reported Tuesday that Adm. Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in Israel for a one-day visit Monday for talks with top Israeli officials including Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israel Defense Forces Chef of Staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi.

The paper said it was the first time in a decade that a serving chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs had visited the Jewish state during his term of office.

Yediot Aharonot, which has excellent sources in the Israeli defense establishment, said the talks focused on the threat Israel and Arab states continue to face from Iran.

"The discussion was centered on the mutual challenge that Israel and the United States, indeed the entire Middle East, face right now, and the shared recognition that there remains a potential for Iran to develop nuclear weapons and to threaten its neighbors," Mullen's spokesman, Capt. John Kirby, said, according to the report.

"It's important to remember that the NIE was an independent assessment," Kirby said. "He (Mullen) also is mindful that the report made it clear that Iran did have a nuclear weapons program (and) that they are still enriching uranium."

Yediot Aharonot said Kirby said Mullen's talks with top Israeli officials were "productive and candid" and left it at that. The newspaper cited the office of Defense Minister Ehud Barak as saying he and Mullen had also discussed joint Israeli-U.S. plans to develop a multi-tier missile defense system.

Barak, a former Israeli prime minister and a notable dove on ceding territory for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, is a hard-charging hawk on BMD issues. He has revitalized Israeli ballistic missile defense programs after the disorder they fell into under his inexperienced and widely criticized predecessor Amir Peretz.

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