Friday, October 16, 2020

NASA begins work on radio transmitters for Mars Ascent Vehicle

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Ala., is soliciting information from potential sources for the manufacturing of Radio Frequency (RF) Transmitters for the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV). The space agency made the announcement in a Request For Information contract document released Thursday.

The MAV is one part of the Mars Sample Return Campaign and is a joint effort between MSFC and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The MAV is a vehicle designed to launch from the surface of Mars and will transport Mars samples taken from the Martian surface and launch the payload into orbit for rendezvous with an orbiting spacecraft. The Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) will rendezvous with and capture the payload from orbit, and bring it back to earth.

The MAV transmitter will transmit navigation and vehicle health data during the flight from launch until stage separation in order to aide in the capture of the released payload. The MAV has a downlink/transmit-only requirement for RF communications during the mission. There is currently no uplink/receive signal requirement. Therefore, only the manufacture of a device with data transmitting capabilities will be required. The transmitter will operate without any return link signal.  The transmitter will be required to operate solely in transmitting data mode during the first stage of the flight. The transmitter shall be able to switch between transmitting data mode, CW continuous mode, and CW pulse mode upon receiving a command from the flight computer.

RF Transmitter Specifications and Characteristics

  • Mode of Operation:  Transmit Data
  • Mode of Operation:  Carrier-only CW
  • Mode of Operation:  Carrier Pulses
  • Frequency:  401.585625 MHz
  • Information Rate (prior to any encoding applied):  8 kbps
  • Coded Symbol Rate (after all encoding applied):  16 kbps
  • Coding:  Convolution Coding, Rate = ½ ; Constraint Length = 7, non-inverted G2
  • PCM Data Encoding:  Bi-Phase-L (Manchester)
  • Symmetry of PCM Bi-Phase Waveform:  Mark-to-Space Ratio between 0.98 and 1.02
  • Necessary Bandwidth:  64 kHz

The RF transmitter will be required to tolerate environments of launch, 2.5 years of deep space cruise, Entry, Descent, and Landing, and a storage period of approximately one year on the Martian surface. Note that the RF transmitter will be in an unpowered state for a majority of the cruise except for short durations during health check-outs. For planning purposes, this requirement will involve the design, development, manufacture, testing, qualification, and delivery to NASA/MSFC of multiple RF transmitter units.  Due to the design configuration of the MAV, mass (minimal) is a key factor in determining the selected RF transmitter.

Organizations interested in supporting development of the RF transmitters should contact MSFC no later than Nov. 16.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

US Marshals Service shopping for a Boeing 737 aircraft

The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS), Oklahoma City operational site, is seeking information from responsible sources and commercial agencies concerning the lease, with the option to purchase, one large transport turbine powered aircraft.

The primary mission of JPATS is the safe, secure and efficient transportation of federal and non-federal prisoners and the provision of aircraft and flight crew for the support of other operational missions. Additional mission assignments include international flights in support of foreign extraditions, witness security and enforcement operations, strategic deployment of USMS and Special Operations Group personnel and equipment and other special operations assigned by the USMS or U.S. Attorney General.

JPATS says a Boeing 737-700 or 737-800, transport category, narrow body, twin-engine jet aircraft will fit the lease requirement. The aircraft will be operated primarily from the JPATS Oklahoma City operational site but may at times, based on particular mission demands, operate from the JPATS Las Vegas operational site. The period of performance under the lease will be a base period: Oct. 1, 2021 through Sept. 30, 2022, with four Option Years. JPATS will have the option to purchase the aircraft at any time during the base period or the option years.

Based on current mission flying schedules, JPATS’ estimated utilization rate for the proposed aircraft is approximately 1,290 flight hours or 900 takeoffs and landings per year. “Flight Hour” by definition is “wheels off” during takeoff to “wheels on” during landing. The actual hours and cycles will vary due to scheduling demands. JPATS will pay a monthly firm-fixed price lease rate for the aircraft through the leasing period for unlimited use of the aircraft. If JPATS elects to purchase the aircraft (at a firm-fixed price) the monthly firm-fixed price lease rate will cease on effective date of the purchase.

This is a “dry” lease, which includes the aircraft, insurance, and heavy maintenance. JPATS has determined that only the Boeing 737-700 or the Boeing 737-800 will meet our unique mission requirements.

“A solicitation is being developed and a contract may or may not result,” U.S. Marshals Service officials said in contract documents released in October. Companies interested in responding to the request should contact the U.S. Marshals Service no later than Oct. 26.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

US Customs orders two additional King Air 350CER aircraft

Textron Aviation announced Tuesday it was awarded a contract for the 26th and 27th Beechcraft King Air 350CER turboprop aircraft for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations (AMO).

The Beechcraft King Air 350CER is designed and manufactured by Textron Aviation Inc.

“These two Multi-role Enforcement Aircraft will join a fleet of King Air 350 turboprops used to safeguard the United States as part of the coordinated application of AMO’s aviation and maritime law enforcement resources,” said Bob Gibbs, vice president, Special Mission Sales. “This represents the third and fourth Beechcraft King Air 350CER ordered for AMO in 2020.”

The agency’s aircraft are equipped with a sophisticated array of technology that can be deployed for ground interdiction operations, air-to-air intercept operations and medium-range maritime patrols, including active and passive sensors and an optimized communications suite.

The Beechcraft King Air 350CER aircraft is an extended range version of the King Air 350i twin-engine turboprop aircraft. Two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-60A or optional factory installed PT6A-67A turboprop engines with Hartzell four blade propellers power the King Air 350CER aircraft.

Nearly 7,600 Beechcraft King Air turboprops have been delivered to customers around the world since 1964.