Much of the focus in the past few years for U.S. Department of Defense space planners has been on getting more powerful and resilient satellites into orbit. Now the DoD is turning its attention to the ground operations, as evidenced by a recent contract award to Kratos Defense & Security Solutions Inc. to help define the next generation of resilient ground architecture. Kratos’ RT Logic subsidiary will undertake a Wideband Communications Architecture Study (WCAS) aimed at defining the overall ground architecture; identifying flexible and efficient mechanisms to provide wideband transport including both SATCOM and ground resources; and determining the operations management requirements needed to facilitate system control and situational awareness. Kratos is supported on this effort by a world-class team of satellite operators to execute the study, including Intelsat and One-Web. The WCAS is part of an overall review known as the Analysis of Alternative (AoA), an internal study expected to shape the DoD’s day-to-day satellite communications needs for decades to come. The AoA is critical to identifying new ways government and the commercial space industry can collaborate, saving money and ensuring that commercial satellites provide a constant stream of innovative technology to the DoD. Innovation is required because after decades of relative tranquility, space is going through a period of profound change. Commercial innovation is introducing next-generation technology in space, while other countries around the world look to enhance their space capabilities. The DoD needs to look for ways to take better advantage of commercial capabilities by reducing the time it takes to move new technologies from prototypes to operational systems. IGC President Skot Butler highlighted this point in a recent interview with C4ISRNet magazine. Responding to a question regarding the ongoing AoA for future wideband Satcom needs, Butler talked about how technological development is driven by a clear understanding of the customer’s priorities:
“It would be a lot easier for me to make an argument, to make investments that might be specifically targeted at government-military sorts of users, if I could point to an architecture and say, ‘see this is demonstrable here that this is what they’re planning on.’ Again, there may be some contractual pieces that ultimately come along with that too. Particularly if they wanted us to accelerate our technology deployment in some way. There are things that are in our technology roadmap that could be beneficial to them, maybe that we have now in our roadmap in the 5- to 10-year timeline, and there’s no reason we couldn’t accelerate those sooner if we thought there was a return on that investment.”Working closely with the rest of the Kratos team, IGC looks forward to making the WCAS a success. The Air Force is already working on some innovative approaches to infrastructure – we’ve written previously about Enterprise Ground Services, a new approach to satellite ground infrastructure to support the space operations vision of General John Hyten, head of the U.S. Strategic Command. Challenges in space will only increase in pace and sophistication. In order to maintain capabilities second to none, the DOD must address fundamental issues preventing it from being agile and innovative. The Kratos study will play an important role in defining a new road forward for next generation space architecture.