REDONDO BEACH, Calif., March 5, 2008 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) has been awarded the first phase of a four phase advanced research contract to design and build a cluster of wirelessly interconnected free flying spacecraft.

Awarded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Phase 1 of the Future, Flexible, Fast, Fractionated, Free-Flying, Spacecraft united by Information Exchange (F6) program is a 12-month study of ways to break up a typical monolithic satellite into distributed modules. In Phase 1, Northrop Grumman will develop a satellite-to-satellite wireless network, a distributed command and control system, and network protocols.

Rather than being assembled onto a monolithic bus satellite, components of the F6 are distributed onto separate spacecraft modules. By the end of the first phase, Northrop Grumman will demonstrate essential networking and communications capabilities, will present a preliminary design and will prove the business case for this strategy. An actual flight demonstration composed of multiple satellites will be developed in subsequent phases.

The functionality of a traditional satellite will be reconstituted by a cluster of wirelessly interconnected spacecraft modules that fly in approximately the same orbit while flying freely in space. In this distributed virtual satellite system, each "fractionated" module contributes a unique capability such as command and data handling, guidance and navigation, and payload functions. At the same time, virtual and distributed satellite components do not interfere with each other, do not have to be developed on the same schedule and can be replaced more cost effectively.

"We are pleased to be selected to work on such an exciting program that lays the foundation for the next generation of space systems," said Lisa Hill, Northrop Grumman F6 program manager. "The fractionated approach ushers in a new paradigm of architecting space systems, providing significant value to our existing customers and enabling new missions and capabilities. Additionally, the F6 concept offers a level of flexibility and robustness unprecedented in space."

The System F6 concept is enabled by five technology pillars: autonomous self-forming networks, wireless communications and power, cluster operations, and distributed computing. The combination of these elements represents a next generation space satellite structural design. Each module is an addressable element in a network where resources are shared and distributed. This concept benefits all space systems and end users in a way similar to how both personal computers and internet connectivity provided extraordinary benefits in information technology.

Northrop Grumman's Space Technology sector is leading a diverse team that will develop and integrate key technologies for the F6 program. This team is composed of Swales Aerospace, a division of Alliant Techsystems Inc.; NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory; L3Comm; BAE Systems; Payload Systems, a division of Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Cornell University.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $32 billion global defense and technology company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.

  CONTACT:  Erika Raney
          Northrop Grumman Space Technology 
          (310) 812-2535