The Space Force is dealing with deteriorating satellite-operating infrastructure

The Satellite Control Network (SCN) relies on tracking antennas and ground stations to interact with its satellites. Still, it is decades old and lacks the capacity necessary to match up with the planned increase in space activities. Seven SCN locations can be found in the U.S. and across the world. Upwards of 190 government and military satellites in numerous orbits are controlled by fifteen large dish antennas at all these locations.

“The Satellite Control Network is unquestionably a venerable system with a lengthy history. So, we’re putting in a lot of effort to make sure it’s ready for the future,” said Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting, who serves as the who works as Space Operations Command’s the first commander.

The satellites’ positions are tracked by the 7 remote tracking stations, which also control the propulsion, thermal, and other spacecraft systems. The antennas have limited ability to broadcast and receive telemetry, tracking, and command data because they can only communicate to one satellite at a time. Space Force operators, according to Whiting, are figuring out how to avoid overtaxing the system.

Whiting explained, “We’ve collaborated with the squadrons which fly the satellites to ensure they’re only getting to the network once they have to.” He continued, “There was a period when we possessed a lot of spare capacity, and you could just go do more ‘states of health’ on the satellites.”

Whiting explained, “We’re trying to lessen the demand signal.” “We’re also looking at new capabilities that are coming on, such as phased array antennas, which are going to significantly improve our capacity, as well as cooperating with commercial and civil groups to utilize their satellite control networks.”

Time slots to employ Defense department satellite tracking stations are restricted, according to Fred Taylor, who serves as the vice president in charge of the space and cyber operations at the Viasat Government Systems. “Getting the aperture, you need when you require it for your task can be tough. A missed contact may have serious ramifications.” Viasat is among companies that supplement the SCN with commercial ground services and antennas. According to Space Force authorities, the plan to be able to modernize the SCN will entail a combination of latest hardware procurements as well as the commercial services augmentation.

Over the last two years, the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit and Space Systems Command have looked into replacing current parabolic antennas with contemporary electronic phased arrays which can sustain contact with many satellites across various orbits and frequency bands.

Space Systems Command of the Space Force concluded the program after examining electronic phased array antennas, which are from numerous vendors. The Space Rapid Capabilities Office, which is a separate agency that obtains secret technologies, is now running a new procurement.

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