WASHINGTON — The satellite control networks, also known as the Satellite Control Network or SCN, are decades old and lack the necessary capacity to cope with projected space activity growth.
There are seven SCN sites in the United States, and elsewhere around the globe. These sites have more large dish antennas than 190 military or government satellites in multiple orbits.
The Satellite Control Network is an established system that has been around for many years. We are making multiple efforts to make sure it is ready for the future. This was Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting from the U.S. Space Operations Command. He spoke last month at the 36th Space Symposium.
The seven remote tracking stations track satellites’ positions and control propulsion, thermal, and other systems. The antennas are limited in their ability to communicate with one satellite at a given time. They can transmit and receive data, telemetry, tracking, and command data but they cannot talk to multiple satellites simultaneously.
Whiting stated that Space Force operators are working to reduce the system’s workload.
” We have worked closely with the squadrons flying the satellites to ensure they only use the network when it is absolutely necessary,” Whiting said. Whiting said that there was once a time when we had lots of capacity. “You can just go to extra’states-of-health’ on your satellites,” Whiting added.
” We’re trying to reduce the demand signal,” Whiting stated. Whiting said that new capabilities are being considered, such as phased array antennas, which would allow us to increase our capacity and partner with civil and commercial organizations to use their satellite control network . Fred Taylor, vice president for space and cyber operations at Viasat Government Systems, stated that there are only limited time slots available to use DoD satellite tracking station. It can be hard to find the aperture you need when you need it for your mission. Missing a contact can lead to serious consequences .”
Viasat is just one of many companies that offer commercial antennas and ground services as a supplement to the SCN.
Buy hardware or use commercial services Officials from the
Space Force stated that the strategy to modernize SCN will include both new hardware procurements as well as commercial services augmentation.
The Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit has been looking at ways to replace parabolic antennas by modern electronic phased arrangements that can keep contact with multiple satellites in different orbits and frequency band.
After evaluating several electronic phased array antennas, the Space Force’s Space Systems Command terminated the program. The Space Rapid Capabilities Office is currently running a new procurement. This separate organization acquires classified technology.
The Space Force-run project to evaluate phased array antennas — known as MBMM, short for multi-band multi-mission — wrapped up in February, Lt. Col. Louis Aldini, materiel leader for data transport at the Space Systems Command’s Enterprise Corps, said in a statement to SpaceNews.
During the term of the contract, MBMM demonstrated a phased-array technology for transmitting/receiving capabilities with DoD assets,” stated Aldini. “While SSC has ceased to pursue MBMM, Space RCO is continuing to partner with them to share the relevant information, knowledge, and lessons from the original MBMM effort
A spokesperson for Space RCO stated that the agency cannot comment on the plans to modernize satellite control networks.
” “We have a similar procurement, but it’s not MBMM-reincarnated,” said the spokesperson.
To increase the capacity at the SCN tracking station, the Space Force can access the Commercial Augmentation Services program (CAS).
The CAS program was established in 2016, when the Air Force Research Laboratory gave Braxton Science & Technology Group a small-business innovation contract to study how to enhance the military satellite control network using commercial antennas.
Braxton in 2019 got a $14 million contract to expand the CAS. The company in October 2020 was acquired by Parsons Corp.
Ed Baron, former president of Braxton who now runs the CAS program at Parsons, told SpaceNews that the military is not fully taking advantage of the commercial capacity available.
” “It is difficult for satellite operators to plan time on commercial systems,” said he. He said that the SCN is under-taxed, while the commercial sector is offering lower-cost services.
Baron stated that the MBMM effort was an “excellent program to invest in”, but that tapping into commercial allows them to access hundreds of antennas. Phased arrays can cost tens to millions of dollars each, so the government should look at the economic benefits of commercial services.
Parsons collaborates with commercial providers Intelsat Viasat, Kongsberg Satellite Services and Kongsberg Satellite Services for the CAS program.
One of the problems in using commercial infrastructure, is that ground control systems designed for military satellites such as GPS are not compatible with commercial antennas. Braxton created software that makes commercial antennas compatible to government systems. Baron stated that any of their ground systems could now talk to a commercial antenna and talk to the spacecraft.
Cultural resistance to commercial services
Even though Braxton solved the technology gap, the Space Force has been slow to embrace commercial capabilities, Baron said. Baron said that there is still a debate about whether CAS should be considered a traditional acquisition, where the system is tested thoroughly, or if it should be treated more as a commercial capability HTML1. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have used commercial services for many decades to control and command their satellites. Most of the ground systems the Space Force uses today were not designed to communicate with commercial, “so the protocols don’t work.”
Parsons currently has “10 antennas set up for them to use,” he said. However, demand has been slow. “We have three more coming online so there will be 13 antennas. Baron said that they haven’t allocated any time for them in almost a year.
“People often ask about commercial capabilities,” he stated. “This is one we would like to see more of, and we believe can save a lot tax dollars .”
Craig Miller of Viasat Government Systems said Parsons’ software simplified the process of scheduling commercial antennas.
Miller said that the problem isn’t just about technical incompatibility of government and commercial systems. Miller said that the biggest problem facing the Space Force is its cultural component. Miller stated that while senior leaders have acknowledged this problem, it is still a barrier to fully taking advantage of commercial capabilities .”
Despite efforts to leverage commercial capabilities, “some resistance remains because of outdated processes.”
Miller said that Atlas Space Operation offers another commercial option. They operate a global network with 30 satellite antennas and have a software platform that automates scheduling.
” “Our experience with the Air Force shows that accessing commercial systems can still be very manual and slow,” said Sean McDaniel, Atlas CEO. McDaniel stated that
Atlas was awarded a contract for small business innovation by the Air Force Research Laboratory in order to demonstrate its software platform. “We provide DoD access to not only commercial networks, ours included, but also government owned networks, civil antennas, as well as DoD antennas through a unified access platform.”
More dWeb.News Space News https://dweb.news/category/space-news/
Artificial intelligence (AI), which has seen rapid growth over the past few years, is mainly due to the development of deep neural networks and artificial intelligence computing technology. Experts believe that there will come a time when artificial intelligence will exceed human intelligence, or be able to do many tasks better than humans.