BAE, DARPA develop new space warfare command and control

DARPA is working with BAE to improve real-time space operations sensors.

BAE has been awarded a $12.8 million DARPA contract to design a testbed for development of space warfare command and control systems.


The goal is to develop a sandbox that will allow the U.S. military, in particular the Joint Space Operations Center and the Joint Inter-Agency Combined Space Operations Center, to experiment with new technologies that will enable real-time space command and control.


"The software testbed approach allows for tools to be developed and deployed to an operational location on faster timelines," said Chris Goldman, a C4ISR Mission Engineer for BAE.

The effort is part of DARPA's Hallmark project, which aims to develop new real-time space C2 technologies. It is in response to the proliferation of objects in space and the fact that the U.S. military is stuck using tools and procedures developed when the skies were less crowded.


BAE's contract falls under Hallmark-ST, that part of Hallmark which focuses on developing on integrating enterprise software architecture and creating a Space Enterprise Analysis Capability, or SEAC. DARPA anticipates the SEAC will be located in Northern Virginia, though the SEAC will not be a DARPA facility.


The capabilities that DARPA hopes to generate include better space situational awareness, indications and warning, modeling and simulation, course of action generation, determining optimum actions, and damage assessment. "BAE Systems will utilize its vast experience in space domain awareness as it works to design and develop a state-of-the-art, flexible, scalable, and secure enterprise software architecture that would become the backbone of technology development and experimentation," said a company news release. "The architecture would facilitate the creation of a testbed facility – the Space Enterprise Analysis Capability (SEAC) – that would support the modeling of current and future space situational awareness and C2 technologies. The SEAC would also enable realistic, scenario-based exercises for testing space C2 technologies against sophisticated emerging threats."


DARPA makes clear that it's looking for speed and flexibility. “We envision a system that would fuse information from diverse sources and vastly reduce the overall time required to make and execute decisions and observe results,” said DARPA Tactical Technology Office director Brad Tousley in a 2016 news release. “For example, an intuitive user interface incorporating 3-D visualization technology would present complex information in novel ways and provide commanders with unprecedented awareness and comprehension. An advanced testbed featuring playback and simulation capabilities would significantly facilitate research and development activities, experiments, and exercises to evaluate new technologies for their impact on space command and control capabilities.”


Another of the hallmarks of the Hallmark project will be distributed operations in which the architecture can receive live data feeds from a variety of classification levels, all the way up to Top Secret/SCI. "The distributed aspect of the testbed leverages networking across multiple sites," Goldman said. "The testbed is accessible by the distributed tool developers. Data for the evaluations are stored within the testbed data services and the ability to access remote data is also available to leverage distributed data and access across testbed user locations."


Interestingly, DARPA sees a key to Hallmark as developing a strict ontology, or a definition and categorization system. The agency makes clear that Hallmark will be different than previous space tracking projects such as Space Situational Awareness. "The Hallmark space ontology effort is not a re-branding of Space Situational Awareness (SSA) ontology - it will encompass all elements of space enterprise command and control and the commander’s decision process."


For its part, BAE says it "plans to host exercises at the SEAC to collect metrics for Hallmark’s cognitive evaluation team, as well as identify new and improved tools and technologies for potential future use by the Joint Space Operations Center and the National Space Defense Center."