What does shooting down ballistic missiles have to do with disaster relief operations? Plenty, according to the Missile Defense Agency. It seems that technology that was developed for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense element has been used to support recent hurricane relief operations. Under a contract with MDA, a small business known as Ground Antenna Transmit/Receive has developed a device that utilizes lightweight, inflatable satellite antennas for possible use in GMD communications. When it became apparent that the storm had knocked out most communications along the entire Gulf Coast, the White House Communications Agency asked Paul Gierow, owner of GATR, to provide 200 antennas. He only had one, but he donated his time and set up the antenna in Woolmarket, Miss., providing within about an hour the only Internet connection in Harrison County.
Unlike nearly every other innovative technology throughout history, Maj. Gen. DeAnna M. Burt believes the space enterprise emerged backward. “Every other domain started with an entrepreneur who built something,” Burt, the special assistant to the Chief of Space Operations, told an audience at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference.