Every day, BAE Systems’ space products are on the job performing national security, civil, and commercial missions.
Whether it is helping to monitor the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, tracking international terrorists and drug traffickers, supporting international peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations, enabling deep space exploration, or assessing the impact of natural disasters, our space products have been reliably processing data on the ground and in all satellite domains for more than 25 years.
“In addition to developing the processors that have powered nearly every NASA Mars Rover, our space products and processing play an integral role in assisting many of the products and services most Americans enjoy every day, including satellite TV and radio, secure banking, and GPS,” said Ricardo Gonzalez, Space Systems product line director. “We support missions like the Commercial Resupply Service, which provides cargo resupply and waste disposal for the International Space Station. And our systems are used by U.S. armed forces every single day to help keep our nation safe.”
The space environment
For years, space assets have played a role in protecting national security — by providing our nation and our allies with strategic warning information, assured communication capabilities, and precision positioning, navigation, and timing data.
But as more nations leverage the benefits of space missions, the space domain has become increasingly more congested, contested, and competitive — all while it remains operationally challenging due to radiation and extreme temperature cycles.
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.
Leveraging our expertise in areas such as radio frequency systems, radiation-hardened electronics, secure communications, and activity mapping software, our company has developed a large portfolio of trusted, high-reliability, radiation-hardened products designed to operate successfully in these harsh environments and enable our customers to command, control, and communicate with spacecraft.
In fact, our space single board computer products essentially act as the main motherboard in PC or Apple computers, provide the intelligent connection between the operator on Earth and the satellite in orbit, processing and interpreting all commands and communications and ultimately converting the operator’s intent into action.
“You can see the type of computer we produce in the movie ‘The Martian.’ When Matt Damon’s character retrieves the Pathfinder Rover and opens the side, you see a computer,” said Gonzalez. “On the real platform, that’s our RAD6000® computer. While Hollywood took a few liberties, the likeness is very close to the real thing. Between the RAD6000 and the follow-on RAD750® computer, we have provided the space industry’s general-purpose computing workhorses. We are also developing the next generation of processing, the RAD5545TM computer, which is the most advanced, space-qualified technology available today.”
On the ground processing side, we focus on resiliency and analytics. Our team is migrating techniques that we created for the geospatial-intelligence market to enable multi-intelligence data fusion and battle management command and control. We also provide leading-edge software frameworks and applications that produce the necessary courses of action to allow decision makers to act in mission time.
Ground processing continues to be a critical component of the overall space landscape, and combined with on-board processing capabilities, we make missions more effective. Our products increase the ability for on-orbit, real-time interaction and decision making.
“Sensors on the platform are collecting a lot more data and at times, the satellite may have to take immediate action,” said David Rea, Space Systems director. “Some of that data has to be processed at the source instead of coming back to the ground. Our products do more of that data processing, sending both processed information and raw data back to the ground. Our RAD5545 computer is ideal for that mission as it provides ten times the performance of prior-generation processors for the missions that demand higher levels of processing.”
Gonzalez emphasizes that high-reliability space systems development and delivery is not easy. It takes a long-term perspective, relentless attention to detail, and willfulness about doing things the right way, rather than the easy way.
“The biggest reward is the sense of achievement that everyone shares when one of our systems begins its journey of discovery on a planet nearly two billion miles away,” he concludes, “Or provides a critical capability supporting our national security.”