Northrop delivers modular space vehicle to USAF

27 February 2014 (Last Updated February 27th, 2014 18:30)

Northrop Grumman has handed over the modular space vehicle (MSV) bus to the US Air Force's (USAF) Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office, located at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, US.

MSV bus

Northrop Grumman has handed over the modular space vehicle (MSV) bus to the US Air Force's (USAF) Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office, located at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, US.

Designed and built by a Northrop-led team in 30 months under a $50m contract, the MSV is a plug-and-play spacecraft bus designed with fast configuration to reduce the time needed for launching smaller, less expensive satellites.

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems Missile Defense and Advanced Missions vice-president Doug Young said the MSV bus is loaded with flexibility as it is the first to implement space plug-and-play standards with simplified, standard hardware and software interfaces.

"MSV provides ways for future development of rapid response space capabilities that will be timely, cost-efficient and flexible," Young said.

"A satellite bus contains the support structure and control subsystems that allows the payload to perform its mission."

Designed to operate in low earth, medium earth and geosynchronous orbits, the bus can accommodate payloads for a wide range of missions, such as radar imaging, missile warning, military communications and weather, and can perform on orbit anywhere from one to seven years or beyond.

"A satellite bus contains the support structure and control subsystems that allows the payload to perform its mission."

Integrated and tested at Applied Technology Associates' facility, the bus can be launched from a variety of vehicles, including the Minotaur I and IV, evolved expendable launch vehicles (EELV) and the Falcon 9, and is also compatible with the EELV secondary payload adapter-grande.

MSV's design uses a modular, rapidly reconfigurable architecture that leverages open standards plug-and-play interfaces to bring network avionics to spacecraft, and the ability to accommodate last-minute payload and bus component changes with minimal impact to cost and schedule.

Northrop's industry team also includes Design Net Engineering, Microcosm, Advanced Defense Systems and Space Dynamics Laboratory of Utah State University.


Image: An artist's concept of the modular space vehicle bus in orbit. Photo: courtesy of Northrop Grumman.

Defence Technology