Northrop completes third gate review of modular space vehicle
A Northrop Grumman-led team has successfully completed the third gate review of its first modular space vehicle (MSV) bus, which is being developed for the US Air Force's (USAF) Operationally Responsive Space-2 (ORS-2) satellite at Applied Technology Associates in Albuquerque, New Mexico, US.
Involving hardware integration and testing, the review will enable the team to perform comprehensive 'day in the life' testing of the ORS-2 bus, eventually leading to hardware acceptance by the air force's ORS Program Office.
Developed as part of a five-year contract awarded by NASA's Ames Research Center in November 2010, the MSV spacecraft design is the first to employ a modular open system approach (MOSA), using plug-and-play technology standards to enable rapid manufacturing, integration and testing.
Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems Missile Defense and Advanced Missions vice president Doug Young said the completion of test processes demonstrates that the company's design addresses ORS' programme objective requirements and brings the government closer to the launch of the vehicle that could change the way satellite are manufactured.
"We are bringing network avionics technology to spaceflight and giving the nation an affordable option to respond to rapidly changing, multi-mission needs," Young added.
Northrop Grumman MSV programme manager Phil Katz said the company has lowered integration complexity to develop a spacecraft that is more cost-effective, modular and more rapidly reconfigurable for assembly compared to other typical space vehicles in the class.
"Producing a modular open architecture commodity bus gives the government the ability to host a variety of payloads and to perform different missions at lower total mission cost," Katz added.
The plug-and-play architecture standards have been jointly developed by an industry consortium, Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the ORS Office at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, US.
Northrop's industry team includes Design Net Engineering, Applied Technology Associates, Microcosm Advanced Defense Systems, Space Dynamics Laboratory, and Utah State University.
Image: An impression of USAF's Operationally Responsive Space-2 satellite. Photo: Courtesy of the US Air Force.