The Air Force has awarded an “up-to” $532 million contract to Northrop Grumman to make improvements to the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft. The work will include enhancements to communications, navigation, surveillance, air traffic management, mobile target tracking—much in demand by ground forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom—joint tactical radio systems, advanced radar systems, and airborne networking. USAF can expend the entire amount, but officials believe the actual work will come in under the top dollar. It’s to be completed by December 2011.
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.