How can cyber upgrades help satellite connectivity for small devices?
- By Katherine Owens
- Mar 16, 2017
Ground-based controllers of satellite technologies will be better able to control data processing systems with cyber upgrades to Space-Based Infrared (SBIR)systems, industry developers said.
Improved ground control for users of satellites will likely provide stronger, less penetrable GPS signals for units on the move in combat, among other things.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems is improving the cyber technology of ground centers with additional funding from the Air Force.
SBIR technology is designed to detect the thermo-energy signature of
enemy missile launches in time to issue warnings and obtain the data
necessary for missile defense and attack prevention measures, according
to a Defense Systems report
on U.S. space defense. The SBIR system consists of a network of
orbiting satellites and hosted payloads, and ground-based control and
data processing systems.
The recent demand for improved cyber capabilities follows last year’s
Block 10 upgrade, which consolidated SBIR ground systems at the Buckley
site, and upgraded ground control and data processing of SBIR
information, explained David Sheridan, Vice President of Lockheed
Martin’s Overhead Persistent Infrared Systems mission area.
Ground-based SBIR operations include programing satellite and hosted payload locations and functions, and engaging in telemetry, tracking, and control.
According to John Keesee of MIT, this is the only communication method that allows observation and control of a spacecraft from the ground. Ground control is also responsible for analyzing and reporting incoming SBIR system data.
Maintaining the most advanced ground operating systems for space-based technology is a priority for the Air Force because “potential adversaries have taken notice of how we use space and have taken steps to replicate those capabilities for their own use and to devise capabilities to take them away from us if they ever got into conflict with us,” said Winston Beauchamp, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space, in an interview last fall.
As for the space-based components, the SBIR satellites move in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO). According to Lockheed Martin, the GEO satellites are about 10,000 pounds, carry a GPS receiver, and can transmit encrypted communications and data back to earth.
The additional payloads, or sensors, are hosted by non-SBIR satellites that are in Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO). NASA statements explain that because the closer an object is to earth the faster it orbits, the elliptical structure allows satellites to move very slowly over an area of interest and then rapidly complete the rest of the cycle. For this reason, the SBIR program uses these 600 pound sensors attached to HEO satellites to monitor the North Polar region or reinforce data collection on other specific areas of interest.
The most recent GEO satellite launch was on January 20, 2017 and another is scheduled for late this year, according to Air Force statements, with the GEO-5 and GEO-6 versions already being developed.
The $15 million contract is a modification to the original contract with Lockheed Martin for the development and production of the SBIR system. The called-for cyber improvements are expected to be complete by June 30, 2019 with $13,394,965 worth of funding coming from the FY17 Research, Development, Test and Evaluation budget category.
Katherine Owens is a freelance reporter for Defense Systems