Harris will build next-generation space suit radios

Harris Corp. will provide the radio communications and navigation system for NASA's next-generation spacesuit under a seven-year contract with a potential value of $58 million.

Under NASA's new Constellation Space Suit System contract, Harris will design and build a radiation-hardened radio that is software-operated, uses a voice-only contingency radio and has low-profile antennas.

The software-defined radio has the flexibility and adaptability to accommodate evolving voice- and data-networking requirements on future lunar missions. The goal is to prepare the spacesuit's communication system for future needs, Harris officials said.

The new, modular system will include two configurations for individual crew members during missions in the Orion exploration vehicle: One for low Earth orbit and another for lunar-surface activity. This is the first new U.S. spacesuit developed since those designed for the space shuttle program.

NASA's Constellation Program goals include maintaining an American presence in low Earth orbit, establishing an outpost on the moon and laying a foundation to explore Mars and beyond during the first half of this century.

Harris is a member of the Oceaneering International Inc. team that is designing the spacesuit to help ensure astronauts' comfort and safety while providing them with the most advanced communications technology available, said Frank Van Rensselaer, vice president and senior executive account manager of NASA programs at Harris Government Communications Systems.

Harris, of Melbourne, Fla., ranks No. 13 on Washington Technology's 2008 Top 100 list of the largest federal government prime contractors.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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