Special Report: The USA’s Transformational Communications Satellite System (TSAT)
As video communications is integrated into robots, soldiers, and UAVs, and network-centric warfare becomes the organizing principle of American warfighting, front-line demands for bandwidth are rising faster than the US military can add it. The Transformation Communications Satellite (TSAT) System is part of a larger effort by the US military to address that need, and close the gap.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record – and TSAT is certainly significant. The final price tag on the entire program has been quoted at anywhere from $14-25 billion through 2016, including the satellites, the ground operations system, the satellite operations center and the cost of operations and maintenance. Lockheed Martin and Boeing each won over $600 million in risk reduction contracts to develop key TSAT SS satellite system technologies, and TSAT’s $2 billion TMOS ground-based network operations contract was already underway.
The TSAT constellation’s central role in next-generation US military infrastructure makes it worthy of in-depth treatment – but its survival was never assured. There was always a risk that outside events and incremental competitors could spell its end, just as they spelled the end of Motorola’s infamous Iridium project. This FOCUS article examines that possibility, even as it offers an overview of the US military’s vision for its communications infrastructure, how TSAT fits, the program’s challenges, and complete coverage of contracts and significant events.
The latest developments revolve around the end of the program. Despite a positive recent report from the GAO, TMOS/TSAT are being canceled outright as part of the program’s planned termination:
- Key Background – Why TSAT Is Thought to be Necessary
- Key Background – The Big Picture: TSAT and the Transformational Communications Architecture
- Briefing – What Is TSAT?
- Briefing – TMOS: TSAT’s Ground Component
- Briefing – TSAT: Issues & Decisions
- Briefing – The AEHF Alternative, and Lessons Learned for TSAT
- Briefing – TSAT: Program
- Analysis – TSAT’s Competitors – and Its Fate
- News – TSAT: Timeline and Ongoing Developments [updated]
- Appendix A – Additional Readings & Sources
Why TSAT Is Thought to be Necessary
During 1991’s Desert Storm operations, the U.S. military discovered that not only were they lacking in raw communications capacity, the systems they did have didn’t connect very well. After September 11, experts learned that tremendous amounts of available information within and beyond the Defense Department required adequate connections among its various providers and users. Operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other battlefields of the Global War on Terror have further demonstrated the U.S. military’s increasing reliance on high-tech communications and real-time data from UAVs, naval assets, and soldiers on the ground.
If bandwidth is becoming an important bottleneck in battle, went the question, what is the U.S. military to do?
Very shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) initiated a Transformational Communications Study to accelerate the delivery of advanced communications capabilities with state-of-the art technology. The study was led by the National Security Space Architect (NSSA), and used the NSSA’s Mission Information Management Communications Architecture as a springboard. It looked at many options, and assessed current plans.
The study concluded that the US. Military’s existing program plan would not meet forecast communications requirements. It also suggested that there was a window of opportunity to provide an architectural framework for a compatible communications system across the Department of Defense and the intelligence community – one that could increase U.S. capabilities by a factor of ten. As Trip Carter, advanced programs manager for military satellite communications at Raytheon, put it to C4ISR Journal:
“In the future it could be cost prohibitive to do so once networks are out there and established and deployed. Lots of transformation systems emerging today and the time to achieve interoperability is now.”
Those conclusions, plus ongoing experience in the Global War on Terror and new technology developments like UAVs, helped shape the Transformational Communications Architecture (TCA). At present, all of the U.S. services are making future acquisition plans that are dependent on the capabilities the TCA umbrella program is expected to provide. Colonel Patrick Rayermann, head of the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Division, told a commercial conference in June 2008 that a future Army brigade combat team in 2018 would require about 1 gigabit per second of information throughput.
The TSAT program is envisaged as part of the TCA, providing its space-based “anytime, anywhere” bandwidth backbone.
The TSAT Program is actually just one node in a broad spectrum of programs known as the Transformational Communications Architecture (TCA), version 1.0 of which was approved by a Joint Requirements Oversight Council Memorandum (JROCM) on Oct 23/03.
TSAT’s status as one of a constellation of communications initiatives offers opportunities for synergy, but it also creates complications. The U.S. military, intelligence community, and NASA satellite constellations operate independently, and each of the 3 communities must secure funding for its own satellites. While their programs are designed to be compatible with each other, priorities between these groups sometimes differ. In addition, the separation of funding and lobbying means that technical elements designed to work together may not be funded synchronously. For instance, while the Defense Department manages the TSAT, the U.S. intelligence community is working on the optical relay communications architecture, and NASA manages the tracking and data relay satellite system (TDRSS-C).
This is part of the task facing the newly-formed Transformational Communications Office.
Communications satellites come in 3 flavors: narrowband systems like IRIDIUM that suffice for voice transmissions but lack bandwidth, wideband systems for sending large amounts of data, and protected satellites that are ‘protected’ against jamming and nuclear effects. TCA v1.0 makes use of all 3.
The TCA envisions a Global Information Grid (GIG) that includes the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) for unprotected wideband, the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS or next generation narrowband) scheduled for launch in 2009, the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF next generation protected, a.k.a. Milstar III) to be launched between 2008-2011, an Advanced Polar System for various strategic missions, and the Transformational Communications Satellite (TSAT) system that could be launched as a major upgrade to the entire system, instead of deploying AEHF #4 & 5.
These programs are all organized around the lifespan of the current Milstar II satellite constellation; the Pentagon is very confident that they will remain capable through 2014, but after that, their confidence diminishes.
TSAT is intended to provide internet-like capability that extends high-bandwidth satellite capacity to deployed troops worldwide, and delivers an order of magnitude increase in available military bandwidth. Modulated laser links between satellites would be used to create a high data-rate backbone in space, making TSAT one of the key enablers for the American vision of Network Centric Warfare.
As an illustrative example, a visual image from a UAV that would take 2 minutes to process with the Milstar II satellite system would take less than a second with TSAT. A radar image from a Global Hawk UAV (currently 12 minutes), or a multi-gigabyte radar image from space-based radar (88 minutes), would also take less than a second with the TSAT network. Best of all, the recipient could be on the move with a relatively small receiver, anywhere in the world.
As Military Information Technology explains, TSAT users fall into 2 broad categories: high-data rate access users, and low-data rate access users. The high-data rate access provides a data rate from 2.5 gigabits up to 10 gigabits per second through laser communications, which will not be available in the first 5 “TSAT-SS Block 10″ satellites. Once they are added in subsequent sets, only 20 to 50 or so of these links would be available per satellite, and they will most likely be dedicated to major intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets in space and in the air.
On the low data-rate end, TSAT users would still have about 8,000 simultaneous radio frequency (RF) data links available to them, which will provide connectivity to strategic assets and tactical users as well as the aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms. The high data rate platforms have drawn the most attention, but the ability to convert high data throughput into thousands of RF channels is likely to prove equally important.
The whole TSAT system will include TSAT Space Segment (TSAT SS) satellites, as well as integrated ground stations and networks. For instance, the $2 billion TSAT Mission Operations System, (TMOS) is part of the TSAT program, and also has wider applications.
As noted earlier, Lockheed Martin and Boeing have won $514 million each in risk reduction contracts for the TSAT-SS satellite system, plus additional iterations of $75 million contracts as the R&D period was extended. See below for full details.
As of June 14/07, the Boeing team included Ball Aerospace, BBN Technologies, Cisco Systems, EMS Technologies, General Dynamics, Harris Corp., Hughes Network Systems, IBM, L-3 Communications, LGS Innovations, Raytheon, and SAIC.
The Lockheed Martin TSAT SS team includes Northrop-Grumman, Juniper Networks, ViaSat, Rockwell Collins, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, L-3 Communications, Stratogis and Caspian Networks.
TMOS: TSAT’s Ground Component
The TMOS network will give the U.S. military’s overall Transformational Communications Architecture (TCA) the ability to act as a broadband, on-demand global Internet based on Internet Protocol (IP), while incorporating key emerging technologies like quality of service prioritization and service level agreements with bandwidth guarantees. TMOS is expected to provide operational and network management for the TSAT Space and Ground communications segments, connecting the USA’s future TSAT SS ultra-high-bandwidth satellite backbone into the US military’s evolving Global Information Grid.
Troy Meinke, the Air Force TSAT program manager, explained it this way to Military Information Technology:
“Basically, TSAT is the overall system. The satellites are part of that, the ground segment is part of that, and TMOS is part of the overall TSAT system.”
The critical part of TMOS will be writing nearly 5 million lines of software code, which accounts for about 80% of program development. To try and avoid software development problems that have plagued other large space programs, the US Air Force has enlisted experts from the Software Engineering Institute. The TMOS program also includes the development of a network operations center (NOC) and operations management center, as well as the related hardware.
The Pentagon says that awarding TMOS early decreases TSAT program risk by providing an integrating construct for network architecture and design, and allows the awarded contractor to begin work on formal network interface definitions and specifications. Earlier in the competition, Raytheon spokespeople had also noted that TMOS stations could be built before the satellites are launched in 2013, and used in conjunction with existing satellites as part of the Global Information Grid Bandwidth Extension project.
The majority of TMOS’ ground-based functionality is scheduled to be up and running approximately a year prior to launch, so that MILSATCOM can test the TMOS network and prepare it to work with the TSAT SS satellites. The hope was that the winning contractor can begin incremental deployment of the network around 2008, then build up to support the planned launch using a spiral development process, adding incremental features and tests at each “mini-release” point.
Contracts for the TMOS segment of the system involved $3 million for preliminary research to each of 3 consortia led by Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Northrop-Grumman. Lockheed’s consortium then went on to win the $2.02 billion TMOS contract in January 2006, and the firm announced a successful Systems Design Review milestone in June 2006.
The decision to procure the ground-based TMOS separately from the TSAT SS satellites, for instance, is designed avoid some of the problems experienced with systems such as Wideband Gapfiller and the AEHF satellites, which have their own specialized and incompatible ground systems. Another advantage of TMOS is that the US military won’t be forced to compromise between the development of the network and the development of the satellites as it selects vendors. Instead, the satellite component will be a router within the network, working with other systems and tying in with the whole concept of the TCA’s Global Information Grid.
Which brings us to the associated question “which satellites will they be?” as we look at the TSAT program’s looming issues and decisions.
TSAT: Issues & Decisions
The reality of space programs is harsh, and unbending. They cannot use the standard ‘fly, fix, fly…’ development approach because the vehicle is placed in orbit. Which means the Air Force has just one shot to be successful. This changes one’s risk calculus, and one’s systems engineering overhead and methodologies as well.
A General Accounting Office (GAO) report published in December 2004 faced this issue squarely. It recommended that TSAT be delayed until its critical technologies, such as laser optics, high-speed router and security algorithms, are more mature. At the time, most of these technologies were rated at technology readiness level (TRL) 3 or 4 by the GAO, which translates as technologies in the study stage with some laboratory tests. The GAO also pointed to a lack of backup technologies for critical systems such as laser communications.
In response, the TSAT program took steps to address some of those gaps. One step was moving the launch date back from 2009 to 2012, in order to give technologies more time to develop. Another step was to award risk reduction contracts to study alternatives, refine the expected development path, and beef up preliminary research in key areas. These alternative possibilities included options that may sacrifice certain features for more proven alternatives, and some of these decisions have already been made. Laser satellite links, which were considered to be one of the highest-risk, highest-reward technologies, were dropped from the first 5 TSAT SS satellites. Risk reduction efforts continue, TRLs for key components are rising to Level 5-6 (prototypes tested in lab) and TSAT’s planned deployment date is now 2019.
A September 2005 GAO advisory noted improvements on the technology front, but integration remained a concern. As one Senate source told Aviation Week, integration of the technologies “can be a technology in and of itself, and hard to do, and that’s where a lot of our space programs have failed.”
Nor is that the only reason they have failed.
US House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Terry Everett [R-AL] openly wonders: “Can the current acquisition system accommodate the risks associated with the current business model and actually produce what it promises?” When the deployment horizon is a decade out and end of service life is 35-50 years in the future, changing requirements can be hard on a program. Especially in a field exploding as fast as electronics and networking. That horizon itself can lead to serious problems with requirements creep – as ranking member Silvestre Reyes [D-TX] has noted: “We get started using a Volkswagen frame and then all the add-ons … just completely overwhelm what we started with.” Pedro Rustan, director of advanced systems and technology in the National Reconnaissance Office, concurs and adds that rigid requirements and budgetary compartmentalization plus a lack of program contingency funds are a recipe for trouble.
What we’re seeing here is an age-old conflict between new technologies, which always involve a certain amount of risk, vs. an approach that sticks with mature technologies. Procurement approaches in need of reform exacerbate both the need to take the risks associated with the new new thing, and the level of the risk that results when one does so. It is not a pretty picture, and it can be found throughout the US military space programs. Barring sudden reform, however, decisions must be made within the environment one has, not the environment one wishes we had.
The bottom line remains. Mature technologies are less risky over the short term, but they limit innovation and may lack enough “upside” to meet longer-term needs. If the goal of the current set of satellite systems is bleeding edge dominance for reasons of planning or policy, then given the requirements of space launches, the GAO’s findings throughout the TSAT program are what one would expect as the price for having that capability potential.
Will the US continue to make that choice, and pay that price? The years between 2005 – 2010 became a key go/no-go decision time for the TSAT’s position within the overall Transformational Communications Architecture.
These dilemmas may be common to most cutting-edge military projects, but that does not make them any less formidable. Fortunately, the integrated nature of the TCA’s programs can be a help as well as a hindrance.
AEHF and Lessons Learned for TSAT
While they may be inferior to the TSAT SS, Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) Milstar III satellites will provide over 10 times the capacity and 6 times better data rate transfer than the current Milstar II satellites.
The AEHF’s phased array antenna is being developed by Northrop-Grumman, and will direct radio frequency beams electronically rather than moving reflectors mechanically. The uplink phased array antenna will connect the AEHF spacecraft with ground terminals, while minimizing jamming effects and the possibility of signal intercept by enemies. The steered agile beams will allow AEHF satellites to connect more areas simultaneously with highly protected channels, and do so faster than Milstar.
As a result of multiple factors, however, including the U.S. National Security Agency’s failure to provide cryptographic solutions in time, AEHF is currently facing a significant schedule slippages, and a significant cost increase over previous projections. In April 2005, DID covered some of the issues associated with current U.S. satellite programs generally, and has also done a comprehensive round-up of AEHF Milstar III contracts that shows the key issues and their effects on program costs and schedule.
This slippage forced Congressional notification, and it is also forcing a number of changes. Some of them seeped into the TSAT program, as it worked to incorporate AEHF lessons-learned into its acquisition strategy.
For instance, as a result of its AEHF failures, National Security Space Acquisition Policy 03-01 was revised to include information assurance readiness from agencies like the National Security Administration (NSA) as a critical factor at key decision points in space systems development. NSA, with community-wide support, is also attempting to establish a new space cryptographic research and development program to develop core information-assurance technologies that will be available for integration by new space programs, thus reducing concurrent development risk.
More details regarding the AEHF program, measures taken, and TSAT linkages can be found in DID’s FOCUS article, and in the C4SIR Journal article: “First Launch of Advanced Communications Satellites Slips.”
TSAT: The Program
By 2010, the US military had to make a major decision: whether to limit the acquisition of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellites in favor of developing a newer generation of laser-linked satellites, known as the Transformational Satellite Space Segment (TSAT SS). That decision was originally expected by 2007, but a series of program delays and extensions to the risk reduction (RR&SD) phase stretched the timeline to 2010.
The final plan was for the RR&SD effort to culminate with a multi-billion dollar development contract, to be awarded to a single contractor in 2010. Under the restructured program, the initial increment of TSAT would consist of 5 Block 10 satellites without high-speed lasercom inter-satellite links, plus the associated TMOS system, with a first launch capability by 2019. The cost of the restructured program would be a scaled-back $7.8 billion.
Assuming that TSAT SS continued at all. TSAT-SS’ biggest competitor remained its predecessor constellation. The AEHF program ran over cost and schedule, but it incorporates more mature technologies. In contrast, TSAT promises dramatically greater bandwidth and processing capabilities, and is considered integral to DOD’s efforts to network all of its weapon systems, but critical technologies are far less mature. That translates into much less certainty as to how much the system will cost, or when it can be delivered.
Congress’ decisions to reduce the annual TSAT budget also became a factor in these decisions. Were those decisions wise? On the one hand, waiting until certain technologies are more mature lessens the risk of massive cost overruns if key technologies or integration points prove unexpectedly troublesome. On the other hand, these cuts have delayed and extended the TSAT’s planned deployment schedule, which could require even more AEHF satellites and launches in order to keep pace with front-line needs. In addition, when we’re talking about IT investments, each older satellite launched entrenches older architectures and so reduces future flexibility.
The Congressional cuts also tend to have the effect of substituting a guaranteed increase in overall costs, as a risk hedge against a much larger increase. In a worst-case scenario, the rising costs of TSAT can even become a self-fulfilling prophecy, tipping the cost/benefit balance even further toward deploying last-generation solutions and endangering TSAT in its entirety. Something like this dynamic can already be seen in the F-22 Raptor fighter jet program, for instance.
Ultimately, the question facing the Transformational Communications Office was whether the TSAT program can successfully integrate leading-edge technologies in time to provide its advertised capabilities, or whether AEHF satellites with just 1/20 the bandwidth capacity represent a safer bet that is guaranteed to deliver something to a bandwidth-starved military.
A decision to build AEHF #4 & 5 would have been a clear indication that TSAT was deemed “not ready.” That decision would then force a cascade of other decisions:
- Should the Department of Defense ask for an overall budget increase to pay for the additional AEHF satellites?
- Should it reduce other programs elsewhere to pay for them?
- Or should the DoD take the money out of the TSAT program in the short term, and stretch the TSAT program’s timeline by funding it over a longer period?
AEHF-4 was eventually funded, and contracts began in February 2009 – a betwixt and between answer that did not clarify the situation.
By June 2009, however, clarity had been achieved. TSAT, and TMOS, would both be canceled.
Conclusion: TSAT’s Competitors – and Its Fate
There is little question that high-bandwidth capabilities will be needed on the front lines, and soon. Network-centric warfare is here. Will the network it requires be there for America’s military over the next 5 years? How about the next 25 years, which is the required planning horizon?
Making that happen won’t be easy. Some failures and setbacks are inevitable. Yet there is little question that TCA is coming. One key issue is how well the Transformational Communications Office can leverage the failures into valuable lessons that help other TCA projects and programs succeed. If they’re up to these challenges, the TCA still won’t be a complete success, and probably won’t come in on budget, either – but it will be good enough, overall, to meet many of its promises and make a big difference on future battlefields.
In the life and death arena of military purchases and global geopolitics, that would make the TCA’s costs money well spent.
Which leads to our final question: should TSAT SS be part of that network?
One of the assumptions that was always worth thinking about is whether the budget for TSAT will continue to be there. Consider current US budgetary realities, the ongoing and unpredictable cost of a global war, the coming “maintenance overhang” for worn out equipment, outside events, and finally a wide array of under-funded Pentagon programs that reaches far beyond just the space field. Under those circumstances, a $15-18 billion satellite network that could cost $20+ billion in the end and wouldn’t be ready for another 10 years, had to be seen as a prime target for program cuts.
In terms of long term trends, it’s also worthy of note that a combination of narrowband satellites and other solutions was already appearing on the scene. MARTS-type communications aerostats, ultra-long endurance UAVs, and short-range UAVs with communications relays had all become options for in-theater communications. They could be supplemented by wideband AEHF satellites for mission-critical high-bandwidth transfers like UAV video, encrypted communications via commercial satellite carriers, and laid fiber-optic cables for strategic communications. The net effect is a constellation whose sum total might offer acceptable alternative performance, and better survivability in an age of growing anti-satellite capabilities.
Many of these components were already deploying, and both the US military and global economic forces could continue to add to their availability incrementally. As such, one would also expect every one of these infrastructure pieces to become more prevalent in the coming years. Throw in the possibility of finding new ways to leverage existing systems, and this constellation definitely represents a potential “incremental competition” threat to TSAT.
Which is why another key issue for TSAT, and TCA, is how well the Transformational Communications Office and its programs are monitoring their assumptions.
How well have they documented their key assumptions about the future? Are they checking them periodically, to ensure that those assumptions are still valid? Are they building upgradeability and flexibility into their platforms and plans so they can cope with changes to those assumptions? In other words, they’ll need to be good at all the things Motorola didn’t do with its disastrous IRIDIUM global cellular network, which ironically now carries narrowband traffic for the U.S. military at bargain prices.
Could TSAT share IRIDIUM’s fate at an even earlier stage, shot down by a creeping incremental set of competitors even before it launches? That was a possible future. Could TSAT continue to improve, and turn out to be an expensive but important program success story? That, too, was a possible future. Some of the choice between those fates lay in the hands of its contractors and managers. Some of it lay in the upper reaches of the Pentagon. Some of its fate, however, lay entirely outside all of their hands.
In the end, one does not fight the war one wishes – one fights the war one must, the way one must. The USA is at war, which means that TSAT – like so many other US weapons programs – was afloat on the tides of war, politics, chance, and change.
Would it go under in the end, or come to safe harbor? In the end, it went under despite its restructuring, pushed down by the accumulated weight of unfavorable pressures around the required funding commitments during a long recession, long timelines to deployment, and heroically-improved but still untested technologies.
TSAT: Timeline and Recent Developments
June 8/09: Pentagon DefenseLINK:
“The Air Force is terminating for convenience the Transformational Satellite Communications System Mission Operations System contract with Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Services of San Jose, Calif., for $2,020,430,440. The contract termination is a result of the Department of Defense cancelling the TSAT Program in accordance with the priorities of the FY10 President’s Budget.”
This statement effectively cancels the Jan 27/06 contract to build the TMOS ground system. Some funds will already be spent, of course, and exact termination costs for the remainder of this work will be a matter for negotiation between the USAF and the Lockheed Martin led TMOS team.
June 8/09: Pentagon DefenseLINK:
“The Air Force is terminating for convenience the Transformational Satellite Communications Systems Engineering and Integration contract with Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., of McLean, VA, for $20,802,224. The contract termination is a result of the Department of Defense cancelling the TSAT Program in accordance with the priorities of the FY10 President’s Budget (FA8802-04-F-7044).”
Even the support contracts are being terminated, which will make it more challenging to continue the program if Congress decides to do so. The net effect is to lower the TSAT program’s odds for survival even further. See also Sept 14/07 entry.
April 6/09: US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates makes his FY 2010 budget recommendations to the President, in an approved departure from normal procedures. Those recommendations include the cancelation of the TSAT progrm, and replacement in the near term by 2 more AEHF satellites.
March 30/09: The US GAO audit office delivers its 7th annual “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs report. With respect to the TSAT program, it can only give the restructured program’s expected baseline of $7.8 billion. It adds:
“According to the program office, all seven critical technologies are mature. In July 2008, an independent technology readiness assessment revalidated the maturity of the critical technologies. Design stability and production maturity could not be assessed because the development phase has not yet begun. A Defense Space Acquisition Board is scheduled to convene in late 2009 to determine if the overall TSAT program is ready to enter the development phase… The TSAT program office now estimates the first satellite launch date to be 2019 – almost 4 years later than previously reported.”
Dec 24/08: The Air Force awards a 3rd pair of $75 million contracts ($150 million total) to continue the Transformational Communications Satellite Risk Reduction and System Definition (RR&SD) phase. Boeing Satellite Systems, Inc. in El Segundo, CA (FA8808-04-C-0022/P00052) and Lockheed Martin Space Systems Corporation in Sunnyvale, CA (FA8808-04-C-0023/P00053) receive the contract modifications, in preparation for an April 2009 Interim Design Review (IDR) for the initial TSAT-SS Block 10.
The IDR will verify the maturity of the updated space segment specification, demonstrate that the team’s design meets performance requirements, detail testing and verification plans; and analyze other system acquisition and operations activities including life-cycle costs, plans to enter the production phase, and approaches to eliminating risks throughout the program’s life.
In addition, the teams will continue to mature the technologies demonstrated during earlier RR&SD milestones to verify their readiness for full-scale development, manufacturing, integration, and operations. Lockheed Martin’s February 2009 release adss more details concerning the revised program schedule, and notes that inter-satellite laser communications have been removed from the initial Block 10 satellites. It adds that:
“Some of the key technologies for TSAT are digital processing to include radiation-hardened Application Specific Integrated Circuits, Radio Frequency antennas and electronics, Hall Current Thrusters, Lithium-Ion Batteries, and deployable radiators.”
Oct 20/08: Reuters reports that the Pentagon’s Defense Advisory Working Group (DAWG) decided to terminate the current TSAT-SS competition and put off awarding a contract until Q4 of FY 2010, and scale the program down again. The decision follows a 40% funding cut when the Bush administration announced its long term budget plans in February 2008.
The delayed award means the first TSAT satellite would not be launched until around 2019, raising serious questions about the ability of the U.S. Army to move ahead with its Future Combat Systems modernization program. Colonel Patrick Rayermann, head of the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Division, told a commercial conference in June 2008 that a future Army brigade combat team in 2018 would require about 1 gigabit per second of information throughput. WIRED Danger Room | Reuters.
Sept 29/08: Boeing announces that it has used Hughes Network Systems, LLC’s SPACEWAY 3 satellite to demonstrate the maturity of its space-based packet-switching technology, during a DoD program review of the company’s proposed TSAT solution. Boeing built the SPACEWAY 3 for Hughes, ad the test featured videoconferencing and collaboration software use at 3 locations within the USA.
Sept 17/08: More powerful electronics mean more heat – in your laptop computer, and in satellites too. Unless it’s managed, it shortens equipment life. Working with Thermacore, Inc. of Lancaster, PA, the Lockheed Martin/ Northrop Grumman TSAT-SS satellite team has developed a modular new system that they claim offers more than double the cooling capacity of similar sized satellites. Lockheed Martin reports receiving $664 million for the Risk Reduction and System Definition phase to date, and says that expects a TSAT-SS decision in late 2008.
The High Performance Loop Heat Pipe (HP-LHP) Deployable Radiator System stows compactly, deploys on orbit, and can have additional modules added in order to scale with increased cooling requirements. HP-LHP uses a passive, capillary pump to move heat from the satellite’s high powered communications payload to a surface with substantially more radiating area, where it is dissipated in the absolute frigidity of space.
Lockheed Martin’s A2100 satellite bus will be used in its TSAT-SS bid, but it is also used by military satellites like TSAT’s AEHF predecessor and the narrowband MUOS, as well as a number of commercial satellites. Thermacore’s innovative product was designed with TSAT in mind, but it may end up having applications beyond the TSAT program. Lockheed Martin release.
June 6/08: Boeing Satellite Systems, Inc of El Segundo, CA (FA8808-04-C-0022, P00046) and Lockheed Martin Space Systems Corporation of Sunnyvale, CA (FA8808-04-C-0023, P00047) each received a second set of $75 million contract extension modifications. See also the similar Jan 7/08 entry, and note that a decision regarding TSAT-SS was expected in November 2007 when both firms submitted their formal bids. That decision has yet to be made.
Once again, the USAF sort of explains – and it seems clear that some rethinking of the program’s options is already underway:
“This undefinitized contract action will authorize… to conduct additional Risk Reduction and System Definition (RR&SD) baseline efforts as well as adding two tasks. First, they will perform an Industrial Base Impact Study which assumes a Transformational Communications Satellite System (TSAT) Development and Production contract start date of 1 July 2008. The study will include the assumption of a start date 6 months thereafter through a total delay of 24 months. Second, they will develop system definition and design concepts and present the results in the form of an Interim Design Review (IDR) for two Government-provided alternative TSAT program requirements sets (TSAT “Digital Core” and ‘TSAT-Lite”).”
Jan 24/08: Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems and Solutions of San Jose, CA received a contract modification for $336 million to accommodate continuing changes in the TSAT program. The Space and Missile Systems Center in El Segundo CA has not placed any orders yet under this contract, but the money is there (FA8808-06-C-0003/P00022).
This modification of the TMOS contract will synchronize the TMOS contract with significant FY06/FY07 changes to TSAT’s funding, and the extension of TSAT’s schedule. In addition, the modification made changes to the statement of work to accommodate changes in the TSAT/TMOS system’s concept of operations, as well as new DoD policies such as revised security certificate requirements.
Jan 7/08: Boeing Satellite Systems, Inc of El Segundo, CA (FA8808-04-C-0022, P00043) and Lockheed Martin Space Systems Corporation of Sunnyvale, CA (FA8808-04-C-0023, P00044) each received a $75 million contract extension modification. The USAF sort of explains:
“This is contract modification extends the Transformational Communication Satellite (TSAT) Space Segment Risk Reduction and System Definition (RR&SD) contract for six months from 7 January 2008 to 7 July 2008. The contractor shall continue to perform all efforts in accordance with existing Statement of Work. The Risk Reduction efforts entail 1) Contract Closeout Review (CCR): 2) reporting of the Risk Reduction hardware demonstrations; and 3) ensure the Lasercom and Next Generation Processor Router (NGPR) technologies are maintained at a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 until the award of the Development and Production phase of the program. At this time $37,500,000 has been obligated.”
DID’s impression was that TRLs were fixed items that require no maintenance – one has either tested a protoype in the lab, for instance, or one has not. While extension of a TRL would make sense, therefore, we confess to some puzzlement over “maintaining” a TRL, and also over the payment of $75 million for a contract closeout review and reporting of demonstrations. The manufacturers declined to elaborate on these questions, and the USAF would not offer any specifics either.
Sept 19/07: Did the Chinese anti-satellite test effectively shoot TSAT down as well? Aviation Week reports USAF Secretary Michael Wynne’s comments from a Sept 19/07 CSBA event:
“Wynne said the United States cannot afford the “exchange ratio” of building and deploying multibillion dollar “Battlestar Galactica” satellites that can be destroyed by $100 million antisatellite (ASAT) missiles. In the debate over trying to harden or duplicate space-based capabilities after China’s ASAT test in January, Wynne suggested putting up “enough” assets to beat an enemy but apparently not trying to guarantee an insecure realm.”
Students of history can hear the echoes of a naval doctrine dialogue between America’s Alfred Thayer Mahan and Britain’s Sir Julian Stafford Corbett in those comments; see the “Additional Readings” section for more.
Sept 14/07: Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. in McLean, VA received a contract modification for $6.6 million, to provide additional Systems engineering and Integration (SE&I) effort and other direct costs in support of TSAT program segments during FY 2007 and FY 2008 At this time $1,156,000 has been obligated (FA8802-04-7044/P00047).
Sept 13/07: Jane’s International Defense Review offers some perspective on bandwidth issues:
“To understand the pressure navies worldwide are under to increase bandwidth capacity, consider the following US Navy (USN) predicament: In 2006, USN total bandwidth capacity per second was 197.2 million Mega bits per second (Mbit/s). The US Naval Studies Board reports that the USN’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) alone will demand 8 Mbit/s during normal operations and 20 Mbit/s when deployed.”
July 23/07: The Lockheed Martin/Northrop Grumman TSAT team announces the formal addition of Juniper Networks, Inc. to its partnership team. Juniper Networks has been supporting Northrop Grumman for the past 3 years in developing the Next Generation Processor/Router (NGPR) for the TSAT system, which will use Internet Protocol routing on board the satellites to connect users with the Global Information Grid.
Juniper’s JUNOS is the routing control software being fielded across Juniper’s widely used commercial routers and was the first IPv6 software approved for use by the Defense Department, which has fielded JUNOS software and Juniper’s router hardware for terrestrial use in the GIG network. Juniper has licensed its JUNOS software product for Northrop Grumman’s use. NGC release.
June 6/07: Boeing announces the results of its NGPR-2 tests at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. NGPR-1 confirmed compatibility with the gold-standard TSAT terminal using the XDR+ waveform. NGPR-2 used the government’s assigned TSAT Radio Frequency Universal System Test Terminal (TRUST-T) and Network Standards Test and Verification Environment (NSTVE), measured data transmission and lag time from a user perspective, demonstrated dynamic bandwidth resource allocation, and provided compatibility and network demonstrations. Finally, Boeing’s TSAT team displayed several key enabling technologies as a head-start to planned future demonstrations in multi-terminal environments.
Boeing’s TSAT team has successfully completed all 37 government- defined demonstrations on time, as they compete with Lockheed Martin’s team for the upcoming TSAT Space Segment award.
June 5/07: Lockheed Martin announces a successful System Design Review (SDR) of the TSAT Mission Operations System (TMOS) with the U.S. Air Force. The 2-day event concluded the system review of TMOS architecture and requirements allocation for this critical element of the Global Information Grid. Lockheed Martin release.
The Space Segment Request for Proposal (RFP) is scheduled for release in the near future, and a decision on the winning contractor team for the Space Segment is expected later in 2007.
March 20/07: Boeing announces a new set of U.S. Air Force test results from MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, MA, which used TSAT to deliver high-power operations at 3 data rates (2.5, 10, and 40 gigabits/second). They were designed to validate the system’s performance to, and interoperability with, government laser communications standards. The tests also verified the traceability of results achieved during a February 2006 demonstration, and evaluated the capabilities and performance of the upgraded telescope, new optical high-powered amplifier, and additional data rate during pointing, acquisition and tracking tests.
The brassboard-level hardware suite demonstrated consists of a precision space telescope and pointing electronics developed by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.; an optical high-powered amplifier developed by LGS Innovations (formerly Lucent Technologies) and a low noise amplifier and optical modems developed by Boeing.
Additional Boeing-funded demonstrations and environmental testing of the components in early 2007 will support the government’s requirement for laser communications maturity prior to the Space Segment Design Review in April 2007.
Jan 26/07: FCW quotes Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Croom, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, who says that continuing schedule slippage in TSAT development of the Transformational Satellite System (TSAT) means that DOD users will not be able to use 5 planned satellite constellations with a total of 28 gigabits/sec throughput, until 2016. The original plan called for them to be ready by 2009. The article also mentions relays via high-altitude balloons and UAVs like Global Hawk as temporary substitutes, and puts the replacement commercial market bandwidth bill at about $1 billion:
“Croom said the satellite development delays resulted from “trying to cram too much capability intestate,” making a reference to jam-resistant laser cross-links between satellites. Croom urged an accelerated launch of three satellite Wideband Gapfiller satellite systems to help meet DOD’s satellite broadband needs.
Dec 4/06: Boeing announces a successful demonstration of communication capabilities between its TSAT laser communications terminal and BAE Systems’ Airborne Lasercom Risk Reduction Terminal (ALT), which included a telescope, optical bench assembly, and closed-loop pointing and tracking hardware. The demonstration was prepared, executed and funded by Boeing, BAE Systems and Ball Aerospace Technologies Corp., in parallel with the government’s effort on each program.
The demonstration used several optical waveforms to route TSAT communication signals through the ALT Risk Reduction Terminal at data rates of up to 10 gigabits per second. On command, the TSAT terminal dropped its link to the ALT risk reduction terminal and acquired and established communications with a second emulated TSAT terminal. Testers then reversed the process to illustrate the system’s agility.
At this point, the Boeing team includes Raytheon, Ball Aerospace, General Dynamics, IBM, L-3 Communications, Cisco Systems, BBN Technologies, Hughes Network Systems, Lucent Technologies, Harris, EMS Technologies, ICE and Alpha Informatics.
Oct 28/06: The US Navy is experimenting with aerostats for communications relay, surveillance, and radar overwatch functions – and this has become a formal program, as NAVSEA and NAVAIR sign a memorandum of understanding to develop a sea-based 38-meter aerostat prototype with a weather hardened design that can carry up to 500 pounds of surveillance equipment. They will use a 32 meter aerostat they’ve been experimenting with as a base platform, and want to develop it to accommodate a modular, interchangeable payload system that can offer radar, optronics, communications, or set combinations for maximum flexibility. That’s NAVSEA’s area of expertise. The ultimate goal of the program is to develop a sea-based 71-meter, weather-hardened aerostat sensor platform, with larger interchangeable payload modules, capable of operating at an altitude of up to 15,000 feet. See full DID coverage: “Return of the Navy Blimps?”
Aug 9/06: Boeing announces completion of the TSAT Space Segment’s quarterly program management review, overseen by the U.S. Air Force Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) Joint Program Office and representatives of the TSAT user community, including the U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Space Command, Secretary of the Air Force, Army Forces Strategic Command, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense and the Space and Naval Warfare System Command. Using the Transformational Communications Demonstration Capability (TCDC) live, virtual, and constructive simulation and test environment to emulate the military’s JTRS Radio System, Boeing engineers showed how the two systems would operate together. The tests included simulations of real-world conditions such as blockages due to rough terrain, loss of terminals in the network and fully loaded capacity utilization.
The review also provided progress updates in other key areas, including specification maturation, the TSAT block development approach, software architecture development, and the path to full-scale Space Segment and software integration.
Aug 1/06: Boeing announces a successful demonstration at MIT Lincoln Laboratories, where they linked from one satellite to another using a laser beam in a simulated space environment. The demonstration, marked the 3rd of 4 planned laser communication milestone demonstrations.
MIT/LL rated the free-space optical link operation at speeds of up to 40 gigabits per second, which enables the broadcast of 3,000 simultaneous high-definition TV channels, or about 15,000 regular TV channels, in each direction. They also tested the Boeing hardware for performance and compatibility with the U.S. government’s new Lasercom Interoperability Standard, as well as the performance readiness of Boeing’s TSAT optical modems.
Equally critical to the success of Lasercom on TSAT is the Pointing, Acquisition and Tracking (PAT) subsystem, which enables the effective use of Lasercom’s beam, providing significant advantages in transmitted power requirements. The PAT subsystem uses Ball Aerospace Technology Corp.’s proven, robust algorithms and beam control technology. The demonstration verified Ball’s design approach and technology to be consistent with the Lasercom Interoperability Standard, which fulfills another risk reduction objective for TSAT.
June 20/06: Boeing announces success in a series of live tests demonstrating the interoperability of the Transformational Satellite Communications (TSAT) Next-Generation Processor Router (NGPR) with a government reference ground terminal, held at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory (MIT/LL). The test used the government’s TSAT Radio Frequency Universal System Test Terminal, and verified Boeing’s initial compliance and compatibility with the XDR+ anti-jamming waveform, developed for TSAT ground-to-satellite connections.
May 24/06: The US Government Accountability Office releases report #GAO-06-537: “Space Acquisitions: DOD Needs Additional Knowledge as it Embarks on a New Approach for Transformational Satellite Communications System.”
“The Department of Defense is not meeting original cost, schedule, and performance goals established for the TSAT program… TSAT’s current formal cost estimate is nearly $16 billion and the initial launch date has slipped to September 201… the initial delivery of capability will be less than what DOD originally planned. …While senior DOD officials have agreed to these reduced capabilities to get the first satellite launched in 2014, DOD has yet to reevaluate its investment in TSAT in light of other DOD investments using the knowledge it has now gained. Using this new knowledge, DOD could be in a better position to set more realistic goals, before entering product development.”
March 31/06: The U.S. Air Force identified laser communications as a key risk technology needed for TSAT. Team Lockheed and Northrop-Grumman announce the successful completion of a preliminary compatibility test of the high-data-rate laser communications hardware to meet a newly-defined U.S. government lasercom interoperability standard. The testing demonstrated a single-access optical aperture, which is the front end of a communications terminal that uses a laser to transmit and receive information. See this DID article for more details.
Jan 27/06: Lockheed Martin’s team wins the TMOS contract for TSAT’s ground-based network management system. See “Lockheed’s Team Wins $2.02 bn TSAT/TMOS Contract.”
December 2005: The FY 2006 defense budget Congress sends to U.S. President George W. Bush in December 2005 gives the Pentagon only about half of the $836 million it wanted for TSAT, directs the U.S. Air Force to focus on maturing the needed technology for the program, and makes $120 million of the $436 million provided contingent on analyzing whether more satellites like the Wideband Gapfiller or the AEHF will be needed prior to the first TSAT launch. If so, that $120 million could go to fund them instead. “Transition to a formal acquisition program should be deferred until the technologies are mature and have been demonstrated in a relevant environment,” the conferees wrote. See full C4ISR Journal Article.
Oct 24/05: GAO’s opinion of TSAT technology readiness improves, but integration is still a concern. Their formal report due in early 2006, but Aviation Week has coverage of the interim document.
June 23/05: The US Government Accountability Office releases General Accounting Office report #GAO-05-570R – Defense Acquisitions: Incentives and Pressures That Drive Problems Affecting Satellite and Related Acquisitions. Among other notes, it says that the amount of bleeding-edge technology in the TSAT program is a major risk factor.
Sept 28/05: The Boeing-Raytheon team completes two more TSAT SS satellite program milestones. The Space Segment Requirements Review requires a demonstration of requirements comprehension, allocations and design implementation status. In addition, a Risk Reduction Requirements Review milestone was also completed involving a proposed baseline architecture. Read Boeing’s corporate release for more details.
July 12/05: Boeing announces that the Transformational SATCOM Space Segment (TSAT SS) satellite program successfully completed its Interim Space Segment Design Review (ISSDR). Boeing’s team bridges networking and telecommunications with military satellite experience. Other members include Raytheon, Ball Aerospace, General Dynamics, Cisco Systems, IBM, L-3 Communications, BBN Technologies, Hughes Network Systems, Lucent Technologies, Harris, EMS Technologies, and Alpha Informatics. Boeing’s corporate release has more details.
July 6/05: A Lockheed Martin /Northrop Grumman TSAT SS satellite team completes an Interim Space Segment Design Review (ISSDR). During the review, the team reviewed in detail its planned architecture and design approach for the system, and summarized results of risk reduction efforts. A highlight of the review was an extensive exhibit hall that featured brass board-level hardware, demonstrations of key technologies, and displays summarizing performance, mission scenarios, and user benefits. The TSAT end-to-end network test bed was configured with three TSAT payloads, interconnected with a high-speed Synchronous Optical Network (SONET) backbone, two Special Operations satellite terminals and a Brigade Combat Team satellite terminal. This consortium also includes ViaSat, Rockwell Collins, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, L-3 Communications, Stratogis and Caspian Networks. Read Lockheed’s corporate release for more.
April 4/05: Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale, CA received a $41.7 million cost-plus fixed-fee contract modification for an eight-month stretch out to the TSAT definition/ risk reduction phase, due to funding reduction in FY 2005 & 2006. FY 2005 funding had been reduced by $90 million, from $202 million to $112 million (-45%), while FY 2006 funding was increased by $50 million (+25%) from $200 million to $250 million. A replan of the contract was conducted which accommodates the funding reduction, and also incorporates development of information assurance products for transmission security and telemetry tracking and command crypto. Work will be complete by December 2006. The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA issued the change (FA8808-04-C-0023, P00009).
Feb 14/05: The Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base, NM, awards two contracts to create a brass board terminal assembly to Technology Readiness Level 5 (component-level validation in a relevant environment) no later than October 2006. It is part of the MALST (Multi-Access Laser Space Terminal) program, and the technology will be transitioned to TSAT. Work will be complete by April 2007. Winners include Boeing Satellite Systems in El Segundo, CA ($14.8 million, FA9453-05-C-0166), and Northrop Grumman Space and Missile Systems Corp. in Redondo, CA ($14.8 million, FA9453-05-C-0167).
Feb 1/05: Boeing Satellite Systems in El Segundo, CA received a $41.9 million contract modification for an eight-month stretch out to the TSAT definition/ risk reduction phase, due to funding reduction in FY 2005 & 2006. FY 2005 funding had been reduced by $90 million from $202 million to $112 million (-45%), while FY 2006 funding was increased by $50 million (+25%) from $200 million to $250 million. A replan of the contract was conducted which accommodates the funding reduction, and also incorporates development of information assurance products for transmission security and telemetry tracking and command crypto. The Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA issued the change (FA8808-04-C-0022, P00008).
Dec 27/04: Stung by difficulties with a number of its satellite programs, the US Air Force makes some changes to The National Security Space Acquisition Policy 03-01, which set out procurement policies in this area. DID has coverage and links.
Jan 22/04: The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA issues a pair of cost-plus fixed-fee contracts for the transformational communications military satellite communication space segment (TSAT SS) risk reduction and system definition phase. The scope of activities for this effort include a robust risk reduction program (e.g. laser communication subsystem, satellite processor/router subsystem) and the necessary program management and systems engineering to develop an initial design of a system of survivable Satellite Operations Center, and continental US gateway elements that are capable of the TCM requirements. Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, CA (FA8808-04-C-0022) and Boeing Satellite Systems in El Segundo, CA (FA8808-04-C-0023) receive roughly $472 million each. Work will be complete by March 2006.
Additional Readings & Sources: TSAT Background & Analysis
- Lexington Institute (Aug 15/07) – TSAT: Essential to Security [PDF format, 2.6 MB]. The Lexington Institute has been a strong backer of the program for some time now. This is their full-length briefing on the subject.
- Lexington Institute (March 20/07) – “T-SAT: A True Revolution In Military Communications” is a short issue brief for Congress et. al., arguing for the importance of the TSAT system.
- Aviation Week’s Aerospace Daily & Defense Report (Oct 24/05) – GAO Opinion Of TSAT Technologies Improves In Interim Report
- Space Review (Sept 6/05) – TSAT: unobtainium urgently needed. “If the space systems procurement people want to rebuild some confidence in the project, they might want to consider rethinking what they mean when they say ‘risk reduction.’ ”
- Military Information Technology (June 13/05) – Satellite Transformation
- C4ISR Journal (March 2005) – TSAT Ground Network Promises Increased Data Flow
- USAF AIM Points (April 4/05) – High stakes for high-tech war
- National Defense Magazine (June 2004) – Expanding Communications
- SIGNAL Magazine, (February 2003) – Synchronicity Drives Transformational Communications: New space technologies offer a quantum leap in capabilities – if they work together
- GlobalSecurity.org – Transformational Communications Study
- Government Accountability Office report #GAO-06-537 (May 24/06) – “Space Acquisitions: DOD Needs Additional Knowledge as it Embarks on a New Approach for Transformational Satellite Communications System.”
- Government Accountability Office report #GAO-04-858 (July 28/05) – Defense Acquisitions: The Global Information Grid and Challenges Facing Its Implementation. DOD plans to spend at least $21 billion through 2010 to build a core GIG capability. GAO was asked (1) to describe the GIG, including the concept, key acquisitions, and implementation and (2) to identify significant challenges facing DOD in implementing the GIG.
- Government Accountability Office report #GAO-05-570R (June 23/05) – Defense Acquisitions: Incentives and Pressures That Drive Problems Affecting Satellite and Related Acquisitions. Highlights the issue if technological maturity vs. future “headroom” capacity. See also GAO page.
- DID (April 29/05) – U.S. Satellite Program Delays & Costs Defended, Criticized. Includes excerpts from and links to the GAO Report #GAO-05-155 (Jan 28/05) – Technology Development: New DOD Space Science and Technology Strategy Provides Basis for Optimizing Investments, but Future Versions Need to Be More Robust), as well as details re: the new strategy and responses from members of the military.
Additional Readings & Sources: Related Programs
- Daily Wireless (Oct 18/07) – Canaveral Double Header for DOD. Discusses the USA’s array of satellite programs, beginning with GPS and moving on to communications and micro-satellites.
- Marco Caceres of The Teal Group, American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (AIAA) Industry Insights (January 2002) – Military satellites: The next generation. Excellent summary of the USA’s satellite programs.
- Crosslink Magazine (Winter 2001/2002) – Future U.S. Military Satellite Communication Systems. Excellent overview and very informative graphics.Covers planned systems to 2010.
- TelecomWeb ViaSatellite.com articles. See esp. “The Military Sector: Doing Business With The Decisionmaker” [Part I | Part II]. Part I describes current US satellite programs and trends within the TCA’s framework, while Part II focuses more on the doing business aspect.
- The Space Review (June 19/06) – Will China Compel the Development of GPS 4? “This will mean that the current GPS 3 program will have to be curtailed or modified beyond recognition. The generation after next of GPS satellites will have to include much more robust methods for overcoming or avoiding enemy interference… In the long term this could create some interesting opportunities for the Transformational Satellite (T-Sat) communications program to work with the designers of the future GPS system.”
- DID FOCUS Article – Next-Stage C4ISR Bandwidth: The US Military’s AEHF Program (updated)
- GlobalSecurity.org – Milstar-3 AEHF
- C4ISR Journal (January 4/05) – First Launch of Advanced Communications Satellites Slips. About the AEHF.
- DID FOCUS Article – The Wideband Gapfiller Satellite Program. Which now included Australia as well.
- GlobalSecurity.org – Wideband Gapfiller System
- DID FOCUS Article – Pentagon’s Global Broadcast System Matures. What do you do when bandwidth is tight, and you want to take the load off of your satellites but still get large files out into the field? Enter GBS, whose future is linked to the Wideband Gapfiller.
Additional Readings & Sources: TSAT-Related News
- DID (Jan 30/06) – Lockheed’s Team Wins $2.02 Bn TSAT-TMOS Contract. This $2.02 billion cost-plus award fee contract is for the TSAT’s ground-based Mission Operations System (TMOS). Raytheon and Northrop-Grumman has also received research funds
- C4ISR Journal (Jan 20/06) – Congress Gives U.S. Air Force Half of T-Sat Budget Request
- KTHV, Little Rock, AK (Oct 18/05) – NE Ark Technology Company Wins Contract. Space Photonics’ contract was for laser communications work.
- DID (July 15/05) – $53.8M for Steerable Laser Communications Systems R&D
- DID (July 15/05) – AMU A Bright Spot on the Satellite Horizon. This little program did a lot to bring down the cost of TSAT, AEHF, et. al.
- GovExec.com (July 13/05) – Subcommittee raps space program costs, delays
- MarketWatch (July 13/05) – Lockheed satellites face delays unless government comes through. Refers to the AEHF Program, and NSA issues getting the required cryptography to Lockheed.
- Boeing Release (July 7/05) – TSAT SS Completes Major Design Review
- Lockheed Martin Release (July 6/05) – Lockheed Martin Team Successfully Completes Key Design Milestone For Transformational Communications Program. Contains useful details re: the ISSDR process.
- Military Information Technology (June 13/05) – Network of Nations. Describes the U.S. military’s role as a satellite communications supplier to allies in Iraq.
- DID (April 28/05) – U.S. Air Force Updates Space Acquisition Policy
- EETimes (April 6/05) – Raytheon demonstrates software for T-SAT Ground Stations
- AFP, via Space News (Nov 13/04) – A Network Of Warfighters To Do Battle In 21st Century Conflicts. “Estimates are that the Global Information Grid will cost 200 billion dollars in the next decade alone, but take two decades to complete… Vint Cerf, one of the inventors of the Internet, is now a consultant to the Pentagon on the project.”
- USAF News Release (Sept. 3/02) – Transformational Communications Office Formed
Additional Readings & Sources: Incremental Alternatives
- DID FOCUS Article – Aerovironment’s Global Observer: Flying High, Again. A UAV powered by hydrogen fuel cells, that can remain at 55,000-75,000 feet for up to 7 days, carrying a 1,000 pound payload that has been tested to include communications relays. Not as safe as TSAT, and not as much coverage – but a $60 million per system price tag would buy a lot of them, and they’d be available quickly.
- DID (April 17/08) – DARPA’s Vulture: What Goes Up, Needn’t Come Down. The goal: an aircraft that can remain at 60-90 thousand feet, for 5 years at a time, carrying a 1,000 pound payload. It’s a very difficult project, but even a couple of breakthroughs in the required areas would make incremental TSAT alternatives much more thinkable.
- DID (Feb 25/08) – Drone Relay: PRC-152 Radios + RQ-7 UAVs = Front-Line Bandwidth. The RQ-7 is a comparatively inexpensive tactical drone. Fall 2007 issue of Army Communicator gives this Communications Relay Package a range of up to 170 km/ 105 miles; the PRC-152-C covers the 30-512 MHz frequency range with Advanced Narrowband Digital Voice Terminal (ANDVT) voice, up to 56 kbits/sec data, and an optional High Performance Waveform (HPW) that could increase this throughput substantially.
- DID (May 18/07) – Satellite Delays Cost Pentagon, Feed Alternatives. “Air Force Maj. Gen. William Lord said he is considering the use of high-tech balloons and unmanned aerial vehicles as communications relays to help bridge the satellite gap.”
- DID (March 2/07) – Return of the Navy Blimps? NAVSEA and NAVAIR signed a memorandum of understanding on Oct. 28, 2006 to develop a sea-based 38-meter aerostat prototype with a weather hardened design that can carry up to 500 pounds of equipment, for a variety of roles.
- DID (May 2/06) – Combat SkySat: Cheap Near-Space Communications Relay at JEFX 06. Only 12 hours coverage, but only $6,000 to launch using a balloon, for a coverage footprint of 600 miles.
Additional Readings & Sources: Related Analysis
- Winds of Change.NET: Thinking About Naval Power: Mahan & Corbett. Alfred Thayer Mahan’s seminal works “The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783” and “The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future” still shape the USA’s thinking about naval power. Yet there is an alternative work from a British contemporary: “Some Principles of Maritime Strategy,” by Sir Julian Stafford Corbett. Whereas Mahan focused on capabilities for decisive battle, Sir Corbett tends more toward a view of maritime strategy as both offensive and defensive, and linked to lines of communication as the foremost imperative. It’s a framework that some analysts consider especially well suited to the space environment.
- DID (Oct 10/05) – Australia Details Plans for Network Centric Warfare. Contains links to many of DID articles about NCW, and its implementation in various countries.
- Dartmouth college, Tuck School of Business – Learning from Corporate Mistakes: The Rise and Fall of Iridium (see also PDF version). A compelling cautionary tale from the corporate sector that illustrates the perils of not re-examinaing and challenging one’s assumptions in the middle of the process. Motorola did not. Result: Iridium’s market didn’t need it any more, but Iridium didn’t have the bandwidth to do much else. Motorola took a $1 billion loss, and Iridium became one of the 20 largest bankruptcies in US history.
- Clay Shirky’s “Permanet, Nearlynet, and Wireless Data” offers some useful insights as well, though it’s important to remember that unlike corporate executives, militaries really do need connectivity anywhere as a life-and-death matter. This changes some of the dynamics involved.
- Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute – Using the Technology Readiness Levels Scale to Support Technology Management in the DoD’s ATD/STO Environments. Includes the TRL scale.