Director of Space RCO: Efforts to Modernize the Aging Network for Controlling Satellites On Track

ORLANDO, Fla.The Space Rapid Capabilities Office, charged with the rapid delivery of cutting-edge, often classified technologies for the Space Force, has made significant progress in its drive to modernize the aging system used to control of US government satellites, its director revealed last week.

Additionally, the secretive organization deployed threat awareness sensors in geosynchronous orbit this year that have provided intelligence on alien capabilities, director Kelly Hammett told reporters at the Space Force Associations Spacepower Conference.

Compared to the Space Forces’ other two arms, the Space Development Agency and Space Systems Command, the Space RCO reveals little about what it does. But Hammett said the size and portfolio of his organizations continues to grow as they take on new projects and improve the work of others.

Perhaps the most high-profile program for which the office is responsible is the Satellite Communications Augmentation Resource (SCAR), which will provide much-needed upgrades to the Satellite Control Network (SCN).

The SCN, which consists of 19 antennas placed around the world, from Diego Garcia Island in the Indian Ocean to the village of Oakhanger in southern England to Schriever Space Force Base, Colo., is used to track the location of satellites, collecting reports on its health and condition. , and send a signal to control its subsystems such as power supply, antenna and mechanical and thermal control.

The sun sets over the radomes and Joe English Hill at the New Boston Space Force Station, New Hampshire, Sept. 17, 2022. US Space Force photo by Paul Honnick.

But the antennas are primitive. .

SCAR will augment the SCN with electronically steerable phased array antennas that can connect multiple satellites at once, expanding communications capacity tenfold, according to SpRCO. The office awarded a $1.4 billion contract to BlueHalo in May 2022, and Hammett told reporters in Orlando that in August 2023, the program completed a one-meter demo, clearing the way for the development of bugs. -os radar.

The first radar is on track to be delivered by March 2025, Hammett added, but SpRCOs work is not slowing down while it waits.

“We’re actually working very hard right now to figure out how to deliver the SCAR system, how to modernize the SCN, and to bring together that integrated roadmap across the Space Force to modernize,” Hammett said. .

In particular, the office is working with other Space Force organizations to finalize the first location for a SCAR antenna, Hammett said, though he could not say where that might be.

Infrastructure changes at that location are ongoing, Hammett said. So they will be ready for us when we bring the first unit in 15 months compared, there is a big gap because we haven’t done all the details and we delivered the first unit and then it sits or at a vendor’s facility somewhere. We don’t want that to happen. We want these things out there to be installed and available on time.

Putting SCAR in place will be especially important for the Space Force because of the services’ increasing interest in so-called dynamic space operations, which involve satellites maneuvering within and between orbits to conduct operations that defensive and offensive.

Currently, most of the movement of satellites is defined by keeping the station, or ensuring that they stay in place in orbit. More extensive maneuvers will require stronger command and control, and that C2 will have to come out of the antennas and tell the satellite, You move here later, and you move here later, Hammett said. And all this must be done in near real time.

Space RCO is also working on a program called Rapid Resilient Command and Control (R2C2) that will provide the software needed for such control, Hammett added, with the goal of delivering working software in about three months for in demonstration projects.

Also in 2023, RCO will have its first satellite launch in January. At the time, the Space Force described two of the three launch payloads as being for improved situational awareness, but revealed little about their purpose or outcomes.

Hammett declined to offer many details about the payloads, but he said they completed testing and checkout after launch in roughly 60 days.

They fly around the GEO belt to collect data, Hammett added. And we know a lot of interesting data that I can’t go into details, but I can say that shared with the intelligence community, it changes the intelligence estimate of some alien capabilities.

Now, the Space RCO is working with the rest of the Space Force to multiply the sensors in other parts of the enterprise, Hammett said.

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