May 12, 2021

An open missile-warning satellite data system is in service but faces many obstacles

The United States, during a devastating wildfire season that destroyed California in the year 2018, to help detect new fires as well as flare-ups, the Forest Service utilized data from overhead missile warning satellites of the Air Force. Although the United States owns and maintains the satellites, it was hard to process data with Forest Service as the ground stations utilize proprietary technologies developed decades earlier, representatives of the Space Force stated. “It took a lot of “engineering on back-end” to make data accessible to firefighters,” stated Colonel Rhet Turnbull, United States director in charge of Space Force’s Space as well as Cross Mission Ground and the Communications.

The main contractor for Space Force missile warning satellites as well as ground systems is Lockheed Martin. The office of Turnbull is leading an initiative to build an open platform for the collection and dissemination of data from existing and the future missile warning satellites. The aim is to be less reliant on a single supplier and move to an open architecture controlled by the United States government; he stated during an interview with the SpaceNews last week. The Space-Based Infrared System, which is a constellation of the heat-detecting satellites built by Lockheed Martin, can see rockets and missiles as they are deployed from anywhere on the planet, is the military’s missile-warning satellite.

Over the next few years, the Space Force expects to invest an approximate $12 billion on the latest device dubbed Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared. For the construction and development of 3 geosynchronous Next-Gen OPIR satellites, Lockheed Martin won two contracts valued at $7.8 billion. The Space Force granted a $2.4 billion deal for 2-Next-Gen OPIR polar orbit satellites to the Northrop Grumman. It is expected that the GEO satellites will begin launching in the year 2025. Under a very recent deal awarded to Lockheed Martin on January 4, the company would build the Next-Gen OPIR ground system, but a transition strategy to move its proprietary technologies to the open architecture that Space and Missile Systems Center is creating must also be worked out.

On an open platform identified as Forge, which is owned by the government, short for the Future Operationally Resilient Ground Evolution, Space Force is expected to invest $2 billion. An open platform named Enterprise Ground Services (EGS) to run all future satellites utilizing common standards by the year 2028 is also being built. In January 2020, SMC gave Raytheon a 5-year contract of $197 million to develop an open-architecture program for Forge.