As space becomes increasingly more congested, contested and competitive, the need to provide products and technology that are resilient and able to fulfil successful missions continues to grow. In this evolving environment, the ability to adapt, maneuver, defend and protect assets is essential and requires systems that can detect threats and then quickly do something about them.
In the second half of this two-part series, we detail the key areas where we and our peers must ensure space resiliency and national security. Leveraging our expertise in areas such as radio frequency systems, radiation-hardened electronics, secure communications, and activity mapping software, BAE Systems enables our customers to command, control and communicate with spacecraft, and ensure that electronics survive the radiation and temperature extremes of deep space – all contributing to a more resilient environment.
To achieve resiliency in space, we and our peers must have the ability to address the following key areas.
Space-based situational awareness
The ability to have a full picture of what’s around you in space is essential. What debris is nearby, and does it present a threat? Are assets from other nations in close proximity to our assets? We have the ability to catalog this type of information from the ground and using sensors on our satellites in space. These extremely precise systems can detect even the smallest of threats.
Effective space traffic control and management
Orbit patterns can change, and debris floats in different orbits. Not only is situational awareness important, but understanding how you’re going to navigate your own assets around the space environment is key. Our products, like the SpaceNav GPS receiver for satellite applications, provide precise orbit determination and timing for low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellites and host vehicles. And we’ve delivered infrared sensor chip assemblies for the U.S. Air Force's next-generation, space-based early warning missile launch detection systems. BAE Systems also provides the most technologically advanced microprocessors and general purpose space computers ever offered to the space community. Our onboard processing (OBP) capabilities make missions more effective – we no longer need to rely on on-the-ground processing, but can increase the ability for on-orbit, real-time interaction and detection.
Ability to provide on-board hardening and adaptability
Reliability is perhaps the most important issue in space – we design products to sustain mission-life. Space offers extremely harsh operating conditions for on-board electronics, and BAE Systems’ radiation-hardened standard components leverage years of expertise to provide reliable solutions for space and missile defense. Radiation can lead to a degradation of electrical performance or permanent failures. In addition to radiation, electronics operating in spacecraft applications are subject to extreme temperatures ranging from -55°C to 125°C for mission lifetimes that can exceed 15 years.
Disaggregation of capabilities
It’s important that we preserve our operational advantage in space. Part of doing so is “disaggregating” space capabilities onto multiple platforms. By sending multiple, smaller satellites into space to conduct a mission together, rather than a single larger one operating solo, odds of success are increased because the number and diversity of potential targets increases. In taking this approach, an adversary’s decision-making process becomes more complicated, which vastly decreases the potential for a successful attack.
Just 10 years ago, the space environment looked vastly different. There was little talk of cyber threats or the physical security of our space assets. In an industry where we’re building technologies to last more than 15 years at a time, we must always be thinking 15 years ahead.
“Space presents unique challenges and opportunities – as we learn more, explore more, and understand more about the environment and our capabilities, there’s no telling what we’ll be able to control and create from space,” states Ricardo Gonzalez, director of Space Products & Processing (SP&P) at BAE Systems.
What remains essential is that in this new era of congested, contested, and competitive space, we continue to develop resilient space systems and technologies that preserve our ability to operate from space. More and more of our day-to-day life depends on what’s happening in the space above – from GPS signals to satellite TV – and for us not to create a resiliency space, could mean a direct impact to our world.
See part 1: Space Resiliency: Navigating the space above