Northrop Grumman has flight tested the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node—an Internet-based communications relay and information server that, flying at extremely high altitude, extends the range of line-of-sight radios to relay data to airborne and surface-based units. It can even link, via satellite, to distant command centers. USAF and Northrop flew the BACN aboard a high-flying NASA WB-57 test aircraft, acting a surrogate for USAF’s RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV. Officials plan to evaluate the system further during the Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment in April.
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.