There has been an 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. The large number of debris around Earth is a risk for the safety of operational satellites. Any of debris objects can cause harm to an operational spacecraft, where a collision with a 10-cm object could entail a catastrophic fragmentation, a 1-cm object will most likely disable a spacecraft and penetrate the satellite shields, and a 1-mm object could destroy sub-systems on board a spacecraft.
Space is becoming increasingly militarized many countries are developing killer microsatellites and other antisatellite weapons (ASAT) that could be used to damage other satellites. There is also thrust on space robots which can perform repair of satellites and which could also put to deorbit adversary’s satellites. They could provide complete awareness of adversary’s activities in space so that one can take counter actions.
China continues to develop a variety of capabilities designed to limit or prevent the use of spacebased 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. Since 2005, China has conducted eight anti-satellite tests. Tests conducted in 2010, 2013, and 2014 were labelled “land-based missile interception tests.”
“There have been additional tests that didn’t destroy a satellite since that time.” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado: “The testing has continued, so that is an ongoing concern, something that we are watching.” Russia is also a cause for concern, she added. In May 2014, it launched three communication satellites, along with a fourth spacecraft that is maneuvering between higher and lower orbits and sidling up to other objects.
Militaries are giving thrust on space robots which can perform repair of satellites and which could also put to deorbit adversary’s satellites. Therefore the requirement for complete awareness of adversary’s activities in space is further enhanced so that one can take counter actions.
As space has become more congested and rival nations develop weapons to target U.S. satellites, the U.S. military changed its posture regarding outer space and now considers it a domain of warfare, like air, sea or land. US President Donald Trump has launched a new Pentagon command focused on warfare in space. Trump, in a speech said that “space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air and sea. We may even have a space force. We have the Air Force; we’ll have the space force.” The primary aim of establishing a sixth armed service—the others being the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy—is to accelerate the development and deployment of new technologies for space warfighting, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told reporters.
US DOD is advancing many programs to enhance space security, it is developing microsatellites that can maintain, upgrade and resupply the satellites. It is developing capability to manipulate, servicing and assemble satellites on orbit by using highly capable robotics and end effectors handling. It is devising new ways to design satellites via cellularization, faster tempo to get the “cells” and/or low mass material to orbit, and assembling using the cell based modules or satlets. It has planned for automated on-orbit construction of very large structures and multifunctional space system components. Additive manufacturing is being perfected for On-orbit robotic assembly of satellites.
This robotic on-orbit servicing technologies, combined with on-orbit assembling technologies shall allow shaping future space system architectures. The US National Security Space Strategy had also called for acquiring improved types of space capabilities, produced in better ways e.g through “fault-tolerant” design in which single-point failure does not bring down an entire constellation, through measures including distribution of mission systems over linked satellites, and on orbit spares.
DOD has launched space protection program to counter the space capabilities of U.S. adversaries. “Last year we added over $5 billion in new investments to make us better postured,” U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said, according to a transcript of his remarks. “And then in 2017 we’re doing even more, enhancing our ability to identify, attribute and negate all threatening actions in space.”
Although much of the space protection money in last year’s budget was expected to be set aside for classified programs, Air Force officials say some of that money will go toward the space-object tracking radar known as the Space Fence and major upgrade to the Joint Space Operations Center, which manages a catalog of known space objects and unofficially serves as the world’s space traffic cop.
Space Situational Awareness
Space situational awareness (SSA) is the foundational element of space security, and it entails keeping track of all natural and artificial space objects, energy and particle fluxes and understanding how the space picture is changing over time. Space Situational Awareness entails detecting, tracking, and identifying all natural and artificial space objects, energy and particle fluxes in Earth orbit using a network of sensors and systems. SSA is a system of systems dealing with space surveillance, space weather and NEOs. Comprehensive SSA requires a networked system of radars and electro-optical sensors.
This has long been synonymous with catalog maintenance. While catalog maintenance is a part of the SSA mission set, SSA enables the continuous preparation of the battlespace in order to fight and win a war in space. Simply put, SSA is Space Battle Management. Like the air domain, there is a daily mission of air traffic control and a wartime mission of Air Battle Management. To ensure effective SSA, sensors need access to intelligence, flexible tasking, rapid decision making, and integration between platforms, says USAF.
SSA sensors have long operated in a relatively static tasking construct, without detailed intelligence, to give operators understanding of why they are tasked against a particular object. With proper understanding of an adversary’s satellite characteristics and capabilities, operators achieve better mission planning to engage their weapon system in characterizing, recognizing, and responding to various space threats. Being engaged also motivates and inspires operators to come up with better solutions to tactical problems.
Sensors need flexible tasking that provides the operator with the freedom to decide how to best employ their weapons system. Tasking orders need to clearly state the desired effect or objective. For example, the objective may be that an area near a high value asset needs to be cleared. Clearing is when all objects in an area of space are determined to be known. With a complete understanding of the problem set, operators can be empowered to help solve it.
Integration and working relationships between different sensor platforms optimizes Space Battle Management. Different sensors may complement each other and hand-off important target data. Combining information from several sensors enables command and control centers to make better decisions. For example, if an uncorrelated target is found by a ground-based radar, Ground Based-Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance, GEODSS, could follow up on the targets and provide additional data. Hand-offs between electro-optical sensors, radars, and on orbit platforms can ensure high priority targets aren’t lost.
US GAO characterizes 4 facets of space situational awareness (SSA)
According to US DOD, their space assets have come under risk, due to activities of adversaries that can degrade, deny or disrupt their ability to operate in space. To mitigate these threats, the Department of Defense (DOD) undertook a variety of initiatives to enhance its Space situational awareness (SSA)—the current and predictive knowledge and characterization of space objects and the operational environment upon which space operations depend. which entails keeping track of all and understanding how the space picture is changing over time.
Therefore Air Force Space Command has proposed Space Domain Awareness, SDA as the new term for what used to be SSA, or Space Situational Awareness. “The implication of space as a warfighting domain demands we shift our focus beyond the Space Situational Awareness mindset of a benign environment to achieve a more effective and comprehensive SDA, much the way the Navy works to achieve maritime domain awareness in support of naval operations and the Air Force strives for maximum air domain awareness to achieve air superiority,” Air Force Space Command’s deputy commander Maj. Gen. John Shaw stated in a memo.
The memo defines SDA as the “identification, characterization and understanding of any factor, passive or active, associated with the space domain that could affect space operations and thereby impact the security, safety, economy or environment of our nation.” SDA will require the “integration of legacy SSA-based metric observations and intelligence” needed to identify, locate and track potential threats to on-orbit space systems, the memo said. SDA must be “predictive and current,” the memo stated. That will require the integration of intelligence, metric observations and environmental monitoring to “execute space battle management” in support of military plans and operations.
As the threats against US capabilities in the space domain continue to grow, Space Battle Management becomes much more than just catalog maintenance. It is the overall understanding of what is occurring in the domain. To ensure effective weaponeering of SSA sensors, operators need to be empowered to act through the incorporation of intelligence, flexible tasking, rapid decision making, and platform integration. Space is our ultimate high ground; we must keep watch.
The U.S. government, primarily the Department of Defense, plans to spend some $6 billion on efforts to monitor the space environment in real time through 2020, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
- Detect, Track, and Identify: Search, discover, and track space objects, and monitor events to distinguish between objects and their type and use;
- Characterize: Determine strategy, tactics, intent, and activity—including characteristics, operating parameters and threats—of space objects;
- Threat Warning and Assessment: Predict and differentiate between potential or actual attacks on or from space objects; predict space weather and space system anomalies and their potential impact; provide timely status of forces; and
- Data Integration and Exploitation: Correlate and integrate multi-source data into a single common operating picture; provide decision-level SSA information to the combatant commands.
Detect, Track, and Identify Efforts
A U.S.-developed space surveillance telescope has been assembled at a new facility in Western Australia and is expected to start operating in 2022, the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center announced April 2020. The telescope, designed to track and identify debris and satellites more than 22,000 miles above Earth, was developed a decade ago by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Agency. Between 2011 and 2017 the telescope was tested at the Atom Site on White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. DARPA handed over the telescope to the U.S. Air Force in 2017.
The United States and Australia signed an agreement to base the telescope in Australia in an effort to fill a fill a gap in the U.S. Space Surveillance Network coverage of the Southern Hemisphere. The United States shares the SSN network of ground-based sensors with key allies, including Australia. SMC said the telescope last month achieved “first light,” meaning that course alignment of the telescope optics with the wide field of view camera has been completed, allowing the first images of objects in orbit to be seen by the telescope.
The Australian government built a new dome for the telescope at the Harold E. Holt Naval Communication Station in Western Australia. The facility has a 2-megawatt central power station. The telescope will undergo tests before entering service in 2022. The Royal Australian Air Force will operate the telescope jointly with the U.S. Space Force’s 21st Space Wing.
Some of the new programs cited in the report under the Defense Department’s $5.5 billion space protection investment program — include:
Five new sensor systems are planned or in development to enhance SSA data collection:
- Operationally Responsive Space 5 (ORS-5)—Satellite to provide data on space objects as far as the geosynchronous belt.
- Space Fence—Ground-based radars to detect and track objects in low and medium Earth orbit.
- Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) Follow On—Satellite system to provide data on space objects as far as the geosynchronous belt.
- Weather Systems Follow-on (WSF) Energetic Charged Particle (ECP) Sensor—Satellite sensor to provide space weather data for SSA
- Next Generation Ionosonde (NEXION)—Ground-based radars to provide data on the particles that make up the ionosphere for SSA and other space weather analyses; installations underway and expected complete in fiscal year 2022.
In addition, two sensors are being moved to Australia to enhance view of objects in the southern hemisphere and deep space.
Space Surveillance Telescope (SST)—Ground-based optical telescope to provide data on small objects as far as the geosynchronous belt.
C-Band Radar—Ground-based radar to detect and track objects in low Earth orbit.
Space Weather Sensors
The Energetic Charged Particle sensor will monitor space radiation, to determine threats to earth and space systems due to space weather degradation. Earlier this year, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James mandated that all new satellite programs plan to include the Energetic Charged Particle sensor, prototypes of which are expected to be delivered in fiscal year 2018, the report said.
The report also highlights a $60 million Air Force program that will use ground radars to detect changes in the ionosphere. The Air Force Weather group’s Next Generation Ionosonde consists of three ground-based radars whose installation is underway and expected to be complete by 2022.
SpaceX is looking at ways it could provide weather data to the U.S. military. The company is working under a $2 million six-month study contract from the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center. Charlotte Gerhart, chief of the Space and Missile Systems Center Production Corps Low Earth Orbit Division, said in a statement to SpaceNews that SpaceX received the contract in July 2021 from SMC’s Space Enterprise Consortium. The contract is to “assess the feasibility and long term viability of a ‘weather data as a service business model,’” said Gerhart.
The contract awarded to SpaceX is part of a Space Force program called Electro-Optical/Infrared Weather System (EO/IR EWS). The consortium in June 2021 awarded $309 million in contracts to Raytheon Technologies, General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, and Atmospheric & Space Technology Research Associates to develop weather satellite prototypes and payloads.
Industry sources speculated that SpaceX could provide weather data collected by sensors hosted on its own Starlink satellites, or it could team with a weather data services company and use Starlink to distribute the data to customers.“Both NOAA and the Air Force have been evaluating commercial weather data for several years,” said John Fisher, president and chief technology officer of Brandywine Photonics, a company that develops weather payloads for small satellites
Threat Warning and Assessment Efforts
Analysis workloads increasing with added JMS capabilities and are expected to continue increasing as more objects are cataloged and tracked. Air Force Weather Wing is updating its Space Weather Analysis and Forecasting System to enhance its capabilities.
Data Integration and Exploitation Efforts
Analysis workloads changing as SSA focus expands to provide battlespace awareness information. JMS Increment 3 to add real-time alerts of jamming and other hostile actions; and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Hallmark program investigating technology to support more real-time SSA and decision-making tools.
Unified Data Library
The Unified Data Library is a scalable space situational awareness repository stored in a cloud and a combined effort by the Air Force Research Laboratory, Space and Missile Systems Center, and the Air Force Space Command. The database is a collection of tracking data of objects in space, from military satellites to space debris. Eventually, the library will fuse data from all types of sensors for Air Force command and control needs, with different levels of data accessible via security classification.
Historically, military data has been stored in stovepiped systems that are cut off from each other, making it difficult for a user to access all of the data needed for a mission. The UDL solves this by providing a single portal where users can access all the data that has already been collected and fused together.
In March 2021, US-based technology firm Bluestaq was contracted by the US Space Force (USSF) to expand space data catalogue. In October 2019, Bluestaq received a $37m to continue the work under a Phase 3 SBIR Advanced Command and Control Enterprise Systems and Software (ACCESS) contract. This contract was awarded by the General Services Administration (GSA). The new $280m two-year contract is an extension of the current ACCESS contract.
In Sep 2021, Kratos Defense and Security Solutions has secured a $2.8 million Department of Defense funding for prototype development effort aimed at providing commanders with quick access to space-related situational awareness data. The San Diego, California-based company said it will prototype a system for the U.S. Air Force and Space Force’s Unified Data Library by working on virtualized infrastructure software and hardware meant to send information to the cloud-based UDL for display and analysis.
Kratos’ effort will connect the military’s Common Operating Environment to radio frequency signal environment factors, signal geolocation data and other near-real-time satellite communications spectral information.”Future adversaries may interfere with large numbers of commercial SATCOM links. The UDL and RF sensor networks will help identify and address those interferers with data coming from a variety of sources including Kratos’ own global sensor network,” said Frank Backes, senior vice president at Kratos’ space federal arm.
The company is one of UDL’s sources of SA data, with the Kratos-operated global sensor network accurately measuring signals at a high speed for space domain awareness. The Space Systems Command awarded the funding.
Space Situational Awareness (SSA) / Space Domain Awareness programs
The government relies primarily on the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Intelligence Community 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—to provide critical data for planning, operating, and protecting space assets and to inform government and military operations. According to DOD, a potential of 375 sensors and systems—satellites, ground-based radars, and optical telescopes—are available to contribute to SSA across the government and commercial sectors.
To support and sustain its SSA efforts over the next 5 years and to meet the expanded mission focus of SSA, DOD plans to relocate sensor systems, develop and field several additional sensors and systems, conduct technology development, and upgrade some of its current sensors. For example:
- The Air Force’s Space Fence program, which is developing one or more ground-based radars designed to track space objects that are smaller than those identified by current sensors, is currently scheduled to begin operations in 2019;
- The Air Force’s JSpOC Mission System (JMS) program, which is developing and fielding a new space command and control system designed to maintain the catalog of space object information, is also developing new capabilities, such as providing real-time alerts of jamming and other hostile actions toward U.S. sensors;
- The Air Force Weather Group’s Next Generation Ionosonde (NEXION) program, which is developing a series of ground-based radars to provide data on the ionosphere for SSA and other space weather analyses, is currently installing radars and is expected to be complete in fiscal year 2022; and
- The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Hallmark program is investigating technology to support real-time SSA and decision-making tools.
The SSN system is not ideal and has limitations like outdated hardware and software and provides very little coverage in the Southern Hemisphere like in Asia, Africa, and South America. Space Fence program is the upgrading of current VHF-based radar system to an S-band radar system that will allow the Air Force to track microsatellites or debris, as far out as 1,900 kilometers in space. Lockheed Martin in 2020, delivered its Space Fence radar to the military. The system — which is based on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands — detects, tracks and measures space objects, primarily in LEO, though it also has visibility into medium-Earth orbit and GEO. Space Force Maj. Bryan Sanchez, director of operations, cyber and exercises at Space Delta 2 for space domain awareness, said the system has been performing well.
The new system has a maximum coverage area of 40,000 kilometers compared to 22,000 kilometers maximum of earlier system. It would track about 200,000 orbital objects and make 1.5 million observations per day, about 10 times the number made by previous the earlier Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSSS). Later in 2021, the system’s program office will deliver a “coherent integration upgrade” to the platform, which will enable greater positional accuracy at geostationary orbit, he said.
As outer space becomes more congested due to the proliferation of satellites and orbital debris, the US Space Force is investing in powerful radars and sensors for better situational awareness. The service is currently pursuing a deep-space advanced radar concept program, also known as DARC. According to the service, the platform is a ground-based radar system designed to detect, track and maintain custody of deep space objects 24/7. It will primarily track objects at geosynchronous-Earth orbit, though it could also track objects in low-Earth orbit, according to officials. President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget request included $123 million for research, development, testing and evaluation for the program.
As the effort moves forward, the Space Force is still mulling over where it wants all three of the sites to be located. “We’re looking at three geographically dispersed sites around the globe, approximately 120 degrees separated for global coverage,” Greiner said. “We are in talks with some partner nations.” There will be locations within the continental United States, European Command and Indo-Pacific Command regions, he added. Additionally, it would be preferred if they were near the equator, but that is not a requirement.
The space battle management system, JSpOC Mission System upgrade
Strategic Command’s Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, receives data from the Space Surveillance Network, a combination of terrestrial and space-based sensors, both optical and radar.
JSpOC will be the primary customer of the Space Fence data, but it’s going to be a network-centric system, so it will provide information through the Global Information Grid to any authorized users. To date, Strategic Command has announced data-sharing agreements with at least seven countries and 44 companies, but few details about those agreements have been made public. Navy Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of Strategic Command, said in a written response to SpaceNews questions. “The same type of data available now will be shared with our partners once the Space Fence is operational.”
DOD has set up a new Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, or JICSpOC, that coordinates DoD and intelligence community space operations. “Experimentation being done at the JICSpOC has highlighted the requirement for continued interagency integration and Space Battle Management and Command and Control (BMC2),” Army Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for U.S. Strategic Command, said in an email to SpaceNews. “These lessons learned are helping us understand the requirements for future BMC2 capabilities.
The Joint Space Operations Center (JSPOC), which is responsible for space surveillance, collision avoidance and launch support, is itself 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. The JSpOC Mission System (JMS), is a three-phased, $1 billion initiative to replace or upgrade the hardware and software currently used for space surveillance, collision avoidance, launch support, and providing more precise and timely orbital information.
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). 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.
JMS Program is a Space Command and Control (C2) capability for the Commander, Joint Functional Component Commander for Space (JFCC SPACE). The final set of upgrades, known as Increment 3, is expected to provide a battle management system. That program would help the Air Force prepare for threats to its satellites and bolster the Defense Department’s space-event monitoring, planning, tasking, execution and post-event assessments. Accelerating Increment 3 was a key part of the White House’s budget strategy last year to combat emerging space threats from China and Russia.
JSpOC Mission System upgrade delayed
The Air Force’s space command and control system, the Joint Mission System, faces “critical deficiencies” and needs beefier cyber defenses, according to the Pentagon’s annual Operational Test and Evaluation report.
Despite continued calls for system upgrades, the new system is currently scheduled to be launched in June 2019, almost three years later than its original schedule date of July 2016. In the GAO’s analysis of the program, the congressional watchdog was unable to obtain performance data from JMS because the program is still in an “early development” phase.
The Government Accountability Office released a report May 24 detailing the continued setbacks of the second increment of JSpOC JMS. The report says the program has been delayed by two years and 11 months and attributed the slip to the $18.9 million in funding reductions through fiscal years 2013 and 2014. JMS is not the only system affected by these delays, Robert Behler, director of OTE, writes. A key issue could be that, “while some interoperability testing has occurred, delays in the JMS Increment 2 delivery increase the risk of late discovery of integration deficiencies between JMS and Space Fence Increment 1.
An amendment to the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act restricted all funding to the Air Force’s Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) Mission System (JMS) until the Pentagon can show Congress that the program’s contract embraces “best-in-breed” technology to fill gaps in current space situational capabilities. Finally, the service needs to make sure operators can “detect cyber attacks and mitigate their operational impacts” and make sure JMS and Space Fence can work together.
New Space BMC2 System
Air Force Space Command’s new system for command and control of battlefield space assets during conflict is “on the verge” of operational capability, says Gen. John Raymond. The Enterprise Space Management Command and Control (ESBMC2) system is one element of AFSPC’s year-old data strategy that is “already beginning to pay benefits,” said Raymond, who commands both AFSPC and the new Space Command. “A lot of the challenges we face in space are big data problems,” he said.
Raymond said the use of open-source architectures is key to ESBMC2 because it is integrated as the space system element of Air Force Multi-Domain Command and Control (MDC2). ESBMC2 replaces the canceled Joint Mission System III. It is aimed at better integrating DoD’s space situational awareness (SSA) data and satellite C2 with National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) operations, within the National Space Defense Center (NSDC) at Schriever AFB in Colorado. In particular, NSDC will integrate the warnings and indications from NRO’s spy satellites and data from military space assets, so the National Command Authority can defend all US assets in space.
ESBMC2 also will reflect the Air Force’s “pivot” on SSA away from a focus on cataloging objects in space to “a warfighting focus,” Raymond told the Mitchell Institute gathering. As space has morphed from a “benign domain” to a “warfighting domain,” Raymond said, “we do not have the luxury of just being satisfied with knowing where an object is; you have to know more than that.”
Purdy explained that the ESBMC2 effort is also affected by SMC’s reorganization, known as SMC 2.0. It now is the responsibility of SMC’s Cross Mission Ground unit, which is charged with merging the Air Force’s Enterprise Ground System (EGS) unified C2 architecture and the Future Operationally Resilient Ground Evolution (FORGE) ground system for the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) missile-warning satellite constellation.
Predictive AI based space situational awareness
The US Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) has awarded a contract to analytics company Slingshot Aerospace in April 2019 to provide an artificial intelligence (AI) solution for next-generation space situational awareness and enterprise space battle management.
Under the $6m contract, Slingshot Aerospace will prototype and deploy machine learning capabilities to augment a range of enterprise space battle management mission needs. Slingshot will use its multi-domain toolset known as Orbital Atlas to enable troops to move away from traditional space situational awareness focusing on space catalogue maintenance. The predictive space situational awareness toolset will deliver a tactical, predictive, and evidence-driven solution.
Orbital Atlas gives information about space objects that orbit the Earth. The software uses a predictive modelling engine that applies machine learning to space observation data and other contextual data streams. The system characterises patterns and predicts events to enable troops, analysts, and decision-makers to respond swiftly and make improved decisions. Slingshot is also planning to equip Orbital Atlas with geospatial intelligence in the future to give information about events on the ground such as missile launch to space operators, SpaceNews added.
According to SpaceNews, Slingshot will provide a customised version of the Orbital Atlas software for possible military use. SMC intends to leverage AI and Cloud computing to augment conventional space mission areas. The centre is using various contracting methods to tap these capabilities.
Augmented reality and virtual reality-based Visualization tools
The U.S. Air Force and the Wright Brothers Institute are offering cash prizes for creative visualization tools — such as augmented reality and virtual reality — that can enhance military space operators’ understanding and awareness of satellites and other objects in space. “The need for timely and accurate object tracking is paramount to the defense of space,” said Brig. Gen. William Liquori, Air Force Space Command Strategic Requirements, Architectures and Analysis director. He said the competition is to help “augment existing capabilities with visualization tools that enable operators to intuitively absorb and quickly navigate massive amounts of space object data.”
The Air Force wants tools that use existing data, displaying and processing it in a manner that thoroughly captures the space picture, while also facilitating “quick comprehension of changes,” the news release said. Col. Michael Kleppe, Air Force Space Command Space Capabilities Division director said it is “imperative that space operators receive up-to-date information on this rapidly evolving and highly dynamic environment.” They must also be able to “quickly process and interpret the information necessary for decisive action on compressed timelines.”
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