Space force

US Space Force wants new commercial imaging tool to build resilience

ALBUQUERQUE, NM — A new commercial satellite image acquisition tool developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory could help the US Space Force transition to a more resilient architecture in the near term.

The AFRL has been working since 2019 to develop an interface for combatant commands to purchase satellite imagery from commercial vendors and allied partners. The capability, called Global Unified Environment, is expected to transition to Space Force in fiscal year 2024.

Col. Joseph Roth, delta director of innovation and prototyping at Space Systems Command, told reporters during a visit to Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico on June 23 that the Space Force was thinking about how from which it could benefit from the work of the AFRL. GLUE’s transition is part of a broader effort to protect the service’s constellations by diversifying its capabilities and operational concepts, whether launching small satellites into different orbits or taking advantage of available technology. from commercial suppliers.

“We need everyone on deck to put our capabilities up there because our systems are vulnerable,” he said. “If we don’t do something quickly, our opponent will take advantage of it. And it will not be in 2030 that we will have invested and that all our new systems will be online. It will be sooner than that. »

Creating a more resilient architecture is a top priority for Air Force and Space Force leaders. Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein, director of Space Systems Command, said that as the service invests in new technologies that could take years to develop, it must take short-term steps to augment its current systems, fixing 2026 as the target timeline to deliver these additional capabilities.

GLUE is an outgrowth of AFRL’s work to demonstrate the resiliency capabilities sought by Space Force leaders through a program called the Hybrid Architecture Demonstration. 1st Lt. Jacob Perry, deputy program director for HAD, told C4ISRNET in a July 8 email that HAD was designed to assess “the military utility of commercial and allied ISRs” and that GLUE is a suite of tools that will allow users to exploit this. The data.

Commercial satellite imagery is in high demand and its usefulness for military operations was demonstrated during the war in Ukraine. Data from commercial space imagery providers complement government-owned space capabilities, providing detailed information on Russian troop movements in Ukraine.

Both the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency have stepped up efforts to buy more commercial data. The NRO awarded satellite imagery providers Maxar Technologies, Planet Labs and BlackSky 10-year contracts in May and the NGA has more than doubled its purchases of commercial imagery in the past year.

The Defense Innovation Unit is also helping the Space Force transition to a new architecture, selecting four companies this week to participate in its Hybrid Space Architecture program, which will demonstrate a communications network based in the space composed of commercial and government systems. DIU announced on July 7 that Aalyria Technologies, Anduril Industries, Atlas Space Operations and Enveil — all technology companies — will demonstrate a range of capabilities during in-orbit demonstrations, including secure software, sharing of data, cloud-based analytics and network security. .

“The initial objectives are the on-demand collection and exploitation of aerial imagery and tactical situational awareness beyond line of sight,” IUD program manager Rogan Shimmin said in a statement. . “Hosting Internet of Things and edge processing sensors on each satellite further enables groundbreaking civilian applications, including full space domain awareness and high-fidelity mapping of the space radiation environment.”