As the U.S. Defense Department goes full force into managing its terrestrial digital infrastructure of interconnected systems, it faces an additional challenge: connecting the moving dots involving space-based networks. Military satellite users want commercial service providers to develop more resilient and flexible communication networks based on open architectures to streamline shifts between military and commercial resources.
U.S. Army satellite ground stations are getting a much-needed total makeover—considering that several hail from the same era as the Vietnam War, the Kennedy presidency and the space race.
Their high-tech moniker—Satellite Earth Terminal Stations, or SETS—belies the actual nature of these facilities. The structures appear to more closely resemble corrugated steel warehouses for auto parts than suitable environments for cutting-edge satellite communications (SATCOM) equipment. During the 1960s, digital SATCOM was hardly a twinkle in the eye of technologists. SATCOM speed, volume and complexity would increase by many orders of magnitude over the next five decades.
Every military operation conducted around the world is enabled by space as well as cyber operations, domains closely linked and threatened alike. “As it is with cyber, and as the world is certainly witness to, our space domain is critically important,” said Maj. Gen. Roger Teague, USAF, director of space programs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition for the U.S. Air Force.
In its enduring space race to narrow the materializing gap between the United States and peer competitors, the Air Force’s fiscal year 2017 budget emphasizes sustaining mission capabilities and improving space resilience by investing in command and control programs, situational awareness technologies, expendable launch systems and satellite communications.
Satellite communications have never been more vital to the security of our nation, or under such assault. Recent increases in aggressive and targeted interference have put the continuous connectivity of government satellite communications in question. As an example, slightly more than a year ago, the Chinese accessed a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data systems for more than 12 hours—imagine how damaging this could have been if they controlled a more critical mission asset.
The mobile craze and the shift to constant connectivity—even if it means paying steep prices for slow Internet speeds—have paid off for both airlines offering onboard Wi-Fi hot spots and satellite communications providers.
Years ago, commercial satellite providers successfully nudged their way into the military space domain, providing critical bandwidth services for platforms for which the Defense Department could not, particularly for airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (AISR) missions. More than a decade later, some companies are gambling with technological improvements in hopes of retaining that hold on the lucrative market.
Boeing Satellite Systems Incorporated, El Segundo, California, is being awarded a $317,700,000 contract modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract for Wideband Global Satellite Communications (WGS) Satellite Vehicle 10 (SV10) production, processing, launch, and on-orbit activation. The modification adds an additional satellite to the existing requirements for WGS 7-10. Los Angeles Air Force Base, El Segundo, California, is the contracting activity.