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DARPA develops Testbed to test space warfare strategies integrated with air, cyber, land, and maritime domains

There has been exponential growth of space objects, including orbital debris that has increased the in-orbit collision risk. NASA estimates there are 21,000 objects orbiting Earth that are larger than 10 cm, 500,000 between 1 and 10 cm, and more than 100 million that are less than 1 cm. Orbital debris of even 1cm size, travelling at an average speed of about 11 km/sec can cause partial or complete destruction of satellite. Space agencies in the US and Russia track thousands of pieces of space junk larger than 10cm but estimate there could be trillions of smaller pieces.

Space is also becoming another domain of conflict due to enhanced militarization and weaponization of space. China continues to develop a variety of capabilities designed to limit or prevent the use of space based assets by adversaries during a crisis or conflict, including the development of directed-energy weapons and satellite jammers. “As China’s developmental counterspace capabilities become operational, China will be able to hold at risk U.S. national security satellites in every orbital regime,” says 2015 Report to Congress.

As the space domain has become more congested, the potential for intentional and unintentional threats to space system assets has increased. To mitigate these threats, the Department of Defense (DOD) has undertaken a variety of initiatives to enhance its network of sensors and systems to provide space situational awareness (SSA)—the current and predictive knowledge and characterization of space objects and the operational environment upon which space operations depend.

“The Department of Defense (DoD) has developed superior capabilities over decades in the physical domains of land, sea, air, and space. Space is increasingly important as a domain of strategic interest; however, nations and geo-political entities are developing the ability to exploit potential vulnerabilities and threaten U.S. freedom of action in space”, writes DARPA.

DARPA is seeking to develop a testbed for measuring, understanding, and integrating the complete spectrum of systems and capabilities to ensure stability, security, and operational dominance in space. The goal of Hallmark Software Testbed is to develop comprehensive and effective set of space command and control (C2) capability technologies that can be spiraled into the Joint Space Operations Center and/or the Joint Inter-Agency Combined Space Operations Center.

When called upon, the U.S. military must have superior capabilities to rapidly plan, assess, and execute space operations in support of the full spectrum of military actions. Because the space domain enables and supports military operations in the land, sea, and air domains, space operations must also be integrated with existing and future military and intelligence operations in those domains.

The program has completed initial research and awarded Phase 1 contracts to 11 organizations, which both augment existing commercial technologies and pursue entirely new capabilities. Hallmark has released a Broad Agency Announcement seeking additional technologies for potential inclusion.

 DARPA’s  Space Situational Awareness goals

DARPA’s “OrbitalOutlook” (O2) program was launched in 2014 to improve the United States Space Surveillance Network (SSN) by adding more data more often from more diverse sources to increase space situational awareness to determine when satellites are at risk from colliding with space junk. SSN is a worldwide network of 29 space surveillance sensors (radar and optical telescopes) that observes and catalogs space objects, including 1,200 operational satellites and over 500,000 pieces of man-made space debris orbiting Earth at 17,000 miles per hour.

DARPA recently reported its O2 network now comprises more than 100 sensors around the world, making it the largest space situational network ever assembled. O2 can also completely change how the U.S. military and the global space-debris-monitoring community collect and use space situational awareness data.

O2 consists of three elements: the inclusion of new telescopes and radar from diverse locations providing diverse data types; a central database for this newly extended network of telescopes and radar and a validation process to ensure the data is accurate. O2 also seeks to demonstrate the ability to rapidly include new instruments to alert for indications and warnings of space events.


DARPA to develop space command and control testbed

DARPA launched the Hallmark project in 2016 to support military efforts to hone space war-fighting skills.

“Military commanders responsible for situational awareness and command and control of assets in space know all too well the challenge that comes from the vast size of the space domain,” DARPA said in a statement. “The volume of Earth’s operational space domain is hundreds of thousands times larger than the Earth’s oceans. It contains thousands of objects hurtling at tens of thousands of miles per hour. The scales and speeds in this extreme environment are difficult enough to grasp conceptually, let alone operationally.”

Current space awareness tools and technologies were developed when there were fewer objects in space. Only a few nations could even place satellites in orbit, and those orbits were easily predictable. “That situation has changed dramatically in the past decade with a developing space industry flooding once lonely orbits with volleys of satellite constellations,” noted DARPA. Against this backdrop, “commanders with responsibility for space domain awareness often rely on outdated tools and processes — and incomplete information — as they plan, assess, and execute operations in space.”

The goal of Hallmark Software Testbed is to develop comprehensive and effective set of space command and control (C2) capability technologies that can be spiraled into the Joint Space Operations Center and/or the Joint Inter-Agency Combined Space Operations Center.

While existing technology can provide elements of situational awareness, indications and warnings, command, control and communications, there is currently no satisfactory capability to evaluate new technologies for their impact on space command and control capabilities. Using a testbed approach (including playback and simulation capabilities), research and development activities, experiments, explorations, and exercises can occur without detrimental impact to operational space domain systems.”

“We envision a system that would fuse information from diverse sources and vastly reduce the overall time required to make and execute decisions and observe results,” said Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, which oversees Hallmark.

Further, Hallmark-ST personnel will be integral to the actual integration of external space C2 tools, capabilities, and data as well as execution of a number of anticipated tests and scenario-based exercises.

“For example, an intuitive user interface incorporating 3-D visualization technology would present complex information in novel ways and provide commanders with unprecedented awareness and comprehension,” Tousley said. Such a testbed “would significantly facilitate research and development activities, experiments and exercises to evaluate new technologies for their impact on space command and control capabilities,” he added.

 Hallmark Software Testbed Architecture

The objective of the Software Testbed portion of the Hallmark program (Hallmark-ST) is to design, develop, and maintain a state-of-the-art enterprise software architecture for the integration of multiple tools and capabilities for supporting space enterprise command and control. The architecture shall be based on scalable and flexible service- oriented enterprise architecture. It is anticipated that tools and capabilities to be integrated will include those in the areas of space situational awareness, indications and warning, modeling and simulation, course of action generation, decision/action determination, and damage assessment.

It is anticipated that the architecture will need to support modeling and simulation of current and future SSA, space C2 tools, capabilities, subsystems and systems, as well as external capabilities and interfaces to support air, cyber, land, and maritime environments.


DARPA TTO office is also interested in:

  1. Technologies and concepts of operations that enable twenty-four hours/seven days a week (24/7) space situational awareness, from search/detect/track to initial/in-depth object characterization, in all orbital regimes using multiple or new/novel phenomenologies.
  2. Development of advanced space situational awareness data fusion algorithms, enhancing the nation’s ability to effectively respond to threats to our space capabilities.
  3. Development and validation of real-time space domain awareness architectures and technologies.


BAE Systems wins DARPA contract to develop 3D space warfare lab

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded BAE Systems a contract worth up to $12.8 million to develop a digital lab to help U.S. military commanders prepare for combat in outer space, the company announced Nov. 14, 2017. The task is to create a virtual space-battle zone so U.S. military leaders can better understand the space environment and the potential threats.

“Military commanders must have superior space domain awareness in order to quickly assess, plan and execute operations in this increasingly complex environment,” said Mike Penzo, director of ground resiliency and analytics at BAE Systems, in Reston, Virginia.

The technology will help the military “quickly evaluate and integrate technologies for space command and control,” Penzo said in a news release. In a virtual space war setting, commanders would learn how to gain “situational awareness” — a tough challenge when the action is happening hundreds or thousands of miles above Earth. Awareness in the space domain means tracking and managing many thousands of objects that are moving at extreme velocities.

The first phase of the Hallmark project focuses on space situational awareness and command-and-control technologies. Later DARPA wants to add new features to the system for “realistic, scenario-based exercises for testing space command-and-control technologies against sophisticated emerging threats.”

BAE will host exercises to collect metrics for Hallmark’s cognitive evaluation team, and to identify technologies for future use by the Defense Department’s Joint Space Operations Center and the National Space Defense Center.

DARPA expects this technology will give commanders “unprecedented awareness” so they can shorten the timeline required to make decisions and take action.

The next phase of the project is a “Hallmark space evaluation and analysis capability” to be located in Northern Virginia. The analysis center would be used for development, integration, modeling, simulation and realistic testing of space command-and-control software and processes.

Hallmark is also developing the Hallmark Space Ontology. This ontology will be an evolving, comprehensive, formal description of the space domain and its relationship to the other military domains of air, land, maritime, and cyber. It will serve to guide the integration of the Hallmark tools with the testbed and facilitate access and integration of both static and real-time “streaming” data sources with Hallmark.

The testbed also would allow leaders to practice “multi-domain” operations so data collected in space, on land, in the air, at sea or in cyberspace can be combined and analyzed to support simultaneous space and terrestrial missions. DARPA describes it as a “flexible, scalable, and secure enterprise software architecture that would become the backbone of technology development and experimentation.”


Hallmark Tools and Capabilities 2

Hallmark-TC2 will develop new tools, technologies, and processes for enabling the full spectrum of military space enterprise C2 capabilities. These new capabilities will enhance the entire domain of space situational awareness and provide an active course-of-action generation and selection capability so that combined forces can dominate the space domain.

The focus of the Hallmark-TC2 BAA is to identify and develop modular software tools that assist military space planners to build plans and exercise C2 of strategically sound space operations. These tools will be integrated into Hallmark to complement and augment existing Hallmark tools.

Anticipated research opportunities in tool development could include, but are not limited to, the following categories:

Indications and Warnings (I&W) Functions

 Integration and fusion of multi-domain information.

Effective I&W requires that multiple sources of space situational awareness information be combined with historical analysis to determine potential anomalies. It is highly advantageous that I&W incorporate data from domains other than space.

 I&W Modeling and Simulation Tools.

I&W is inherently a predictive function that serves to identify and alert the command structure of a potential threat. Modeling and simulation (M&S) tools need to integrate and fuse multiple sources of information and project (or model) the situational state into the future. M&S tools may also predict the effectiveness
of I&W measures in a simulated situation.

Course of Action (COA) Generation, Selection, Customization, and Evaluation

 Course of Action generation.

When faced with unexpected events, space operators and decision makers would greatly benefit from the presentation of “boundary case” COAs that frame the space of possible responses. Using artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to create new COAs, present COA rationale (the “why is this appropriate to the situation?”) and generate recommendations would further benefit space operators and decision makers.

Course of Action representation.

In order to integrate multiple COA functions into a comprehensive C2 system, flexible representations need to be developed that are both human- and machine-readable. Multiple steps, triggers, dependencies, confidences and uncertainty, decision points, authorization chains and thresholds, and risks and mitigation steps may all need to be part of a comprehensive COA representation. Proposers are encouraged to build on lessons learned from COA representations and processing in other domains to inform rapid development.

 COA M&S tools.

Modeling and simulation tools should support the generation of courses of action of sufficient detail for commanders to decide which COA to pursue, and should include explicit confidences and human-understandable  explanations of their output for commanders. Extensions could include “hypothesis-based tasking,” where commanders could interactively explore new COAs and get feedback on their potential impacts on the space situation.

 COA combination, customization, and evaluation techniques.

Starting from a “catalog” of pre-computed COAs, it is advantageous to be able to combine and customize COAs (e.g., amount of data, potential classification of data, format of data, required metadata, delivery schedule, and any other details needed by the Government team (or its proxies) to deliver the appropriate data at the appropriate time.


The JSpOC Mission System upgrade

The Air Force has made an initial investment in building the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center (JICSpOC) which is designed to ensure the national security space enterprise meets and outpaces advances in space threats. To act on information provided by SSA architecture, JICSpOC will provide resilient, responsive, and interoperable C2 capabilities to provide the ability to respond once a threat is known.

Additionally, the Air Force is investing in C2 tools such as Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) Mission System (JMS), which will provide modernized hardware and software solutions to better synthesize the increased volume of SSA data. Improved SSA data coupled with a mission-ready JICSpOC ensures future implementation of Space Enterprise Vision (SEV)  principles to their greatest degree of survivability in a war that extends into space, ultimately supporting joint warfighters across land, air and sea to maintain the operational advantage.

The Joint Space Operations Center (JSPOC), which is responsible for space surveillance, collision avoidance and launch support, is undergoing a three-phased hardware and software upgrade, under a program known as the JSpOC Mission System with an eye toward providing more precise and timely orbital information, among other goals. Strategic Command’s Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), receives data from the Space Surveillance Network, a combination of terrestrial and space-based sensors, both optical and radar. The Air Force has been undergoing a broad modernization of the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), the processing center of U.S. military space operations headquartered at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

JMS Program is a Space Command and Control (C2) capability for the Commander, Joint Functional Component Commander for Space (JFCC SPACE). The JMS program is predominately a software effort that will produce an integrated, net-centric Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and the necessary software applications to accomplish required missions. Analysis workloads increasing with added JMS capabilities and are expected to continue increasing as more objects are cataloged and tracked.

The program will provide a collaborative environment that will enhance and modernize space situational awareness (SSA) capabilities; create decision-relevant views of the space environment; rapidly detect, track and characterize objects of interest; identify / exploit traditional and non-traditional sources; perform space threat analysis; and enable efficient distribution of data across the Space Surveillance Network (SSN).


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