Missile Defense for Airliners Finds Growing Support in United States

Four companies have systems that are candidates for deployment

3 min read

Less than a year following a near-catastrophic terrorist missile attack on a packed Israeli commercial airliner, the U.S. government has taken concrete steps to provide high-tech protection to U.S. passenger jets. The Department of Homeland Security (Washington, D.C.) has unveiled plans to determine the feasibility of deploying antimissile technology on commercial passenger aircraft. A leading technology is a directed-laser device, adapted from the military, that blinds heat-seeking missiles.

Last November, a chartered Israeli commercial jet taking off at Mombasa Airport in Kenya, bound for Tel Aviv, narrowly escaped destruction when two shoulder-launched missiles that were fired at it missed. Following high-level meetings with government security officials and airline management, on 22 May the Department of Homeland Security issued a report announcing plans to develop antimissile protection technology for U.S. commercial passenger aircraft. Contracts for the antimissile systems are to be awarded in early 2004, with live-fire testing the following year.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.

NASA

For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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