By Rob Patterson, Vice President, Sales and Strategic Development, BraxtonTechnologies, LLC COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.
When attempting to plan and optimize the allocation of scarce or expensive resources, the situation can be viewed as a problem of supply and demand. This perspective applies to many domains that include satellite tracking, transportation, energy, and, of course, one with which everyone can relate, the supply and demand of healthcare resources.
Delivering communications to the warfighter should also be viewed as a supply and demand problem: creating efficiencies and cost savings while supporting the warfighter’s mission. Braxton Technologies has considered this problem, in concert with subject matter experts in several domains, and offers a unique perspective to address the supply and demand problem within the Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) domain.
No matter how simple the concept seems, supply and demand must first be defined within the domain, as the variations of allocable assets quickly becomes complicated. At the macro level, MILSATCOM and Commercial Satellite Communications (COMSATCOM) supply equates to the space and ground assets available to support communication needs.
Various types of communications, protection levels, frequency bands, bandwidth, and a plethora of other aspects that are understood by most MilsatMagazine, must be addressed. In many cases, ground infrastructure resources are tightly coupled with the space segment. Demand refers to the requirements or requests for tactical or strategic communications, and includes voice, data, or video. Literally thousands of requests at any moment can represent the demand on the MILSATCOM infrastructure and, when considering COMSATCOM as an option, those commercial systems have other customer demands to manage, as well.
Organizing the resource structure is tricky with a domain this complex but is a critical step toward achieving optimal allocation of those resources. Ideally, the intent is to create a resource tree structure with the basic type of communication at the top of the tree (i.e., Wideband, Protected, Narrowband, and even Commercial).
The second level includes the specific systems: Wideband Global SATCOM and Defense Satellite Communications System under Wideband; Milstar and Advanced EHF (AEHF) under Protected; and MUOS under Narrowband.
Under the Commercial tree, the orbital regime at the next level (Geo vs. Leo) with the level after that organized by the owner-operator’s constellations may be considered. The structure continues to the point where a specific resource is allocated (a transponder for example, or even a channel).
Each of the lowest level resources is further defined by the effect they provide (voice, messaging, data, and even big data). However, what can make this structure powerful is to create categories and subcategories of allocable resources that cross over between constellations and major communication types.
For example, an approach that crosses DoD and commercial constellations requires an understanding of the assets available for a specific request or requirement. Therefore, when a request is presented for a communications type, all available assets which meet the request are considered.
Tasks to which the resources are allocated represent the demand side of the equation, either through a persistent/strategic requirement or an immediate/tactical request for communications. On the surface, tasks within the MILSATCOM domain may appear simple: a user needs to communicate with another entity from time A to time B.
However, the task request can get complex as a system considers the basic type of communications needed to complete the mission. Such communications can include the level of security, the equipment available on the ground or within the weapon system, and even the location, altitude and speed of the warfighter requiring the communications. To ensure that the proper demand of all resources is presented and the correct resources are allocated, the specific request must be detailed, directly down to the exact constraint within the request.
Constraints generally align with the task request and include the details specific to the MILSATCOM domain to allow allocation of an exact resource type, including bandwidth, frequencies and more. There are two constraint types that apply to nearly every resource domain, including MILSATCOM: the window constraint and the time-specific constraint.
Figure 1. MILSATCOM Resource Structure
The window constraint allows the system some flexibility to allocate the resource while considering other requests—for example, a warfighter needs specific communications but can actually use the communication any time during a specified window.
A time-specific constraint, on the other hand, could involve a submarine surfacing or a ground mission occurring at a specific time—in this case, the allocation of exact resources is essential when considering all the demand for the resources across the MILSATCOM enterprise.
In a nutshell, the appearance is that every aspect of the resource allocation process within the MILSATCOM domain is “complex”—but far worse is ahead. Defining the relationships between resources and the tasks (say, the user on the ground) is especially complex when considering the allocation of orbiting space resources.
Compounding the problem is the orbiting space asset that often has a direct relationship with another ground asset (for instance, a Globalstar satellite and a gateway). Resource allocation is significantly impacted by the geometrical relationships between the resources and the targets.
These relationships limit the availability of a resource to perform the required task. Referred to as the “feasible region,” the system performs allocations across the enterprise while calculating the relationship of a resource to the target.
Figure 2. Example1 Objective Functions
Orbiting objects and fixed ground assets present one problem, but what if the communication resource moves in a sub-orbital fashion (e.g., an aircraft), eliminating the use of pure math and known models to predict the exact location of the resource? This is a complex, but critical, aspect of the planning, whether long term or real-time.
Another key component of the resource allocation problem is to consider the objectives that need to be solved within the MILSATCOM domain. Flexibility is essential, but the system’s ability to solve for more than one objective also enhances the system’s effectiveness.
For example, one valuable objective is to satisfy as many communications requirements and requests as possible, or even to satisfy all requirements or requests placed on the MILSATCOM enterprise at any point in time. Another objective is to reduce the cost or allocate the resources in the most affordable manner possible. Affordability could mean the system allocates more (or less) commercially available resources.
Use of more than one, or even several objectives at a time, allows the analyst, planner or commander to address many higher-level requirements, including objectives that appear to be in direct conflict with each other.
Therefore, is a system that can perform such a function suitable for long-term planning and real-time decisions? The answer is… partially.
Figure 3. Example 2 Objective Functions
For long-term planning, the MILSATCOM enterprise can facilitate decisions such as the use of commercial versus DoD assets, repositioning a specific asset to a new orbital slot (while considering the cost of the maneuver), or even planning for a new constellation (quantitatively providing information on the exact effect needed and where it should reside). All of these decision types are applicable to such a system, providing a unique picture for the planner.
For real-time operations, today, there are terminal limitations that constrain a user’s flexibility to cross the domains between wideband, narrowband, and protected… and commercial… resources for specific tasks. Given that, in the short term, significant benefit could be gained instead from optimization among MILSATCOM’s major resource types. This would likely result in more efficient allocation of resources and would also free up scarce resources in a single domain where another, more abundant domain can fill the specific mission requirement, enabling far more cost-effective optimization.
In the longer term with greater terminal flexibility, space operators and combatant commanders could have immediate awareness on the stress within the MILSATCOM enterprise, in whole or in part. For example, if an anomaly occurs, operators and commanders could have real-time situational awareness and the system could even automatically provide a reallocation of the resources in response to the anomaly. Additionally, the operator and the commander could see the identical picture at the exact same time as the systems could be networked together, synchronizing the data.
Imagine a system that can provide such visibility and power to the MILSATCOM enterprise. Imagine such is not a custom system, requiring no new software code, but only data consumed by a powerful optimization engine. Imagine if decisions required only seconds, or even less, to complete.
Figure 4. Braxton’s Resource Domain Translator Separates the Physics and the Math
As part of an Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contract, Braxton Technologies developed this very technology, which has been added to the company’s existing product suite, Advanced Control Equipment (ACE) Premier™ (ACE Premier™). The product is called Intelligent Resource Optimizer (AceIRO).
Taking advantage of modern computing technologies, the AceIRO architecture provides for distributed operations and is an excellent candidate for parallel processing. At the core, and what provides the resource optimization, AceIRO uses a powerful multi-objective genetic algorithm.
Braxton designed AceIRO as a data-driven system and implemented a patent-pending resource domain translator, which allows even the most complex domains, such as MILCOM, to be translated to this powerful optimization engine. Today, Braxton Technologies is working with a number of subject matter experts within several domains to demonstrate the power and versatility of AceIRO.
Air Force Space Command leaders are working on plans to share data from satellites controlled by the military, bringing new opportunities that could allow firefighters to get images on their smartphones to help stamp out wildfires, and allow nonmilitary organizations to keep a better eye on the weather.
The civilian world is working on how infrared pictures could be used, with Colorado Springs software firm Braxton Technologies leading the pack.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo –The floor is full at the 31st Annual Space Symposium. Companies from all over the world are in town to show off their products.
And many of those global giants have operations right here in Colorado Springs.”That is a space control segment for us. And we also have folks at Schriever,” said Lori Thompson.Thompson is the Vice President of Geospatial Systems for Exelis. It’s one of the larger companies at the Symposium.”Colorado is home for about 800 employees for Exelis,” she said.Smaller firms like Braxton Technologies are here too. So what do they do?”We are currently supporting the GPS system through the Air Force,” said Tyler Goudie.They represent another dot on the map of space based businesses in Colorado Springs.
By Laura Keeney, The Denver Post, 04/19/2015 12:01:00 AM MDT
A German Space Agency delegation tours the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder on Friday. Edgar Johansson, right foreground, manager of strategic initiatives with LASP, leads the tour. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post)
COLORADO SPRINGS — Oakman Aerospace president Stan Kennedy likely didn’t expect his small company would get a personal audience with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in the same week, on his home turf.
But that’s exactly what happened when delegations from each agency, along with several aerospace companies from each country, took tours of Oakman’s Littleton headquarters last week.
A treasure trove of Air Force satellite data that can be used to spot wildfires, monitor climate conditions and do hundreds of other tasks could emerge from a curtain of government secrecy.
Air Force Space Command leaders are working on plans to share data from Space-Based Infrared System Satellites controlled by airmen at Aurora’s Buckley Air Force Base and Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. The effort is being led by Space Command’s Remote Sensing Directorate in Los Angeles, which also is looking at how to use the information for military intelligence.
BETHESDA, Md.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Intelsat General Corp. (IGC) is one of four companies awarded a contract by the United States Air Force (USAF) to study the viability of using commercial facilities and operations expertise for the tracking, telemetry and command (TT&C) of government satellites.
The goal of the contract, known as the Air Force Satellite Control Network (AFSCN) Commercial Provisioning (CP) study, is to provide USAF Space Command with a detailed plan for leveraging commercial TT&C facilities and capabilities to substantially reduce operations and maintenance costs while enabling the government to meet national security space objectives and warfighter operational needs. The USAF has stated that a future space concept of operations could include a mix of government and commercial command and control networks.
– Braxton Technologies, LLC which was started in 1994 and develops software to help Air Force commands in the Springs and Los Angeles automate satellite control and other tasks. The company made the list for the fourth consecutive year.
It employed 96 people at the end of last year, adding 58 in the past three years. Braxton’s revenue was up 78 percent since 2008 to $20.1 million, ranking it 3,735th, compared with 3,064th in 2012.
Recently released views of the next two Galileo satellites in the European Space Agency’s testing lab, along with dual-launch rumblings from the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin, occasion this story about two birds with one drone. That is, an unmanned autonomous vehicle bound for the exosphere. The rest of the GNSS world is on board with this topic; isn’t it about time GPS caught up?
The first two Galileo Full Operational Capability (FOC) satellites will launch as a pair, earlier advertised as a September blast, now possibly delayed until December; a second dynamic duo will follow sometime thereafter. Then two again, and two, and two, until the Ariane 5 rocket launches four at once. Four!
All of us in the GPS industry know someone who only thinks of GPS as a feature of their smartphone. You might direct them to a new YouTube video presented by the U.S. Air Force, which summarizes the worldwide role of GPS. It also touches on the GPS modernization program and new signals.
The seven-minute video explains in simple terms how important GPS has become to everyday life — for aircraft and ship navigation, global financial transactions, precision agriculture, weather forecasting, disaster relief, and, of course, smartphones.
Neither rain, sleet, snow, hail, wind, nor dark of night will deter…
Loosely Translated, Herodotus, Histories (8.98)
…attendees at the 29th National Space Symposium from their appointed rounds.
Seriously, folks, with apologies to postal workers everywhere, here in the Rocky Mountains it was 72 degrees on the eighth of April, the first day of the largest space symposium in the world. This morning, the ninth, the startled thermometer hovered around eleven degrees with snow, high winds and attendees searching for any outer wear they could find. And except for NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) personnel, everyone braved the weather and soldiered on. NASA, of course, one of the few government agencies with space in its name, decided they did not need to attend the National Space Symposium this year. But that is NASA’s loss and a story for another time, because more than 9,000 other dedicated space professionals did attend, and more than 170 companies provided major exhibits that filled to capacity the largest pillar-less exhibition hall west of the Mississippi. Just writing this makes my feet hurt. And the best part is this all takes place at the five-star Broadmoor Resort in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, hence Mother Nature’s raucous spring weather shenanigans.
Colorado’s space industry faces challenges from flat government spending, growth of competitors for commercial markets and an aging workforce, according to a report to be published Tuesday by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program.
The state’s $8.7 billion space industry employed more than 66,000 in 2011 between the military and commercial sectors and generates 3.8 percent of the state’s economic output, making it a “critical driver for Colorado’s economic growth because of the industry’s links to the telecommunications, software and advanced materials industries, the report said. The space industry’s growth in recent years helped to offset some of the effects of the recent recession, adding 3,300 jobs when the rest of the state’s job market was contracting.
The current GPS operational control segment (OCS) program implements a traditional support model with Level 1 support providing basic day-to-day administration of the ground system and routinely handles rudimentary troubleshooting of basic system problems. Level 2 troubleshooting issues, however, frequently deal with advanced operational configurations, system capabilities, and possible product bugs or even failures.
The U.S. should not abandon space flight and exploration, Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson said Tuesday at the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs as he urged business and political leaders to inspire students to pursue careers in science, engineering, math and technology.
“We are at a crossroads in space, especially in the United States. We face challenges in this political, financial and budget environment and some question the value of space exploration, but that can’t be the legacy of JFK’s challenge,” Swanson told more than 1,000 business, military and government leaders attending the symposium at The Broadmoor International Center, referring to a 1961 speech that President John F. Kennedy made to a joint session of Congress committing the nation to putting a man on the moon.
Tuesday, the 26th of June, started off as a beautiful day in Colorado Springs, if you ignored the towering plume of smoke to the west from the Waldo Canyon Wildfire.
The wildfire started three days before in the popular Waldo Canyon hiking area in the Rocky Mountains just off Highway 24. While people in the Colorado Springs area were concerned, there were currently eight other wildfires raging in the state of Colorado and over the past month arsonist(s) were suspected of starting up to 20+ wildfires. So, many had become inured to the sight and smell of smoke. Only one serious wildfire was known to be currently out of control in Colorado at the time, so concerns in the Colorado Springs community could be described as moderate.
Satellite imagery is exciting because of the tremendous amount of untapped opportunity that exists today and will remain until we can see every inch of the globe. There are so many more ways to provide transparency and to better characterize activity on our planet. Skybox Imaging, a Silicon Valley startup, gets to handle tremendous quantities of data and extract interesting patterns from that information in order to derive insight about our planet and ultimately impact humanity.
Timely satellite imagery should be able to inform daily lives and decision-making cycles of consumers, businesses and governments across our planet. While GPS has the ability to determine an object’s location at any time, satellite imagery holds the promise to reveal the context of any place on Earth at any time.
For example, Skybox Imaging envisions the most up-to-date mapping product that can allow people to determine the number of cars in parking lots and at retail locations. Business owners can monitor their worldwide facilities, understand the environmental impact of those facilities and oversee their security. Government agencies can use our product to view images alongside borders, helping them better understand conflict.
On a broader scale, Skybox is driving the demand in other areas of the satellite industry, which will hopefully mean more affordable launches and better business opportunities for us all.
December is typically the month when writers of regularly featured columns wax nostalgic and engage in a certain amount of prognostication. This year I enlisted the help of Lt. Col. Jennifer Grant, the 2SOPS/CC at Schriever AFB, the home of GPS, to help us with our year-end review and crystal-ball gazing as we look ahead to the GPS horizon. Lt. Col. Grant reminisces about her first 16 months as 2SOPS/CC, reviews numerous major accomplishments, and updates us on the status of the GPS constellation as well as the often overlooked, ever contentious and always seemingly in flux critical Command and Control (C2) segment.
The Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) team developing the U.S. Air Force’s next generation Global Positioning System has delivered the program’s pathfinder spacecraft to the company’s Denver -area facility. The pathfinder, known as the GPS III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST), will now undergo final assembly, integration and test activities in a new facility designed to maximize efficiencies and reduce costs of satellite production.
The GPS III program will affordably replace aging GPS satellites while improving capability to meet the evolving needs of military, commercial and civilian users worldwide. GPS III satellites will deliver better accuracy and improved anti-jamming power while enhancing the spacecraft’s design life and adding a new civil signal designed to be interoperable with international global navigation satellite systems.
The GPS 2A-22 spacecraft had been removed from active duty two years ago to accommodate the deployment of a fresh bird into the constellation. Now, the Boeing-built satellite is back in action to transmit the timing and location signals to users around the world.
Launched in August 1993 atop a Delta 2 rocket from Cape Canaveral, the satellite has long surpassed its 7-year design life. But with some use still left to give, the 2nd Space Operations Squadron at Schreiver Air Force Base in Colorado have taken the rare step of reactivating it.
“My hat goes off to our operators, analysts, and contractor support personnel — their superior care and feeding of our constellation is the reason (2A-22) is still viable for operations 18 years after launch,” said Lt. Col. Dean Holthaus, 2 SOPS director of operations.
Officials said this was only the second time in GPS history that a decommissioned satellite has returned to active status.
The nation’s newest Global Positioning System satellite has completed its post-launch checkout and entered service in the orbiting constellation.
The Air Force’s GPS 2F-2 spacecraft was boosted into orbit July 16 from Cape Canaveral atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket.
Controllers have spent the past month getting the Boeing-built satellite prepped to transmit precision navigation and timing information to users across the planet.
“This next-generation GPS 2F satellite has been set healthy and is ready to begin providing a strong, clear and secure signal,” said Air Force Col. Bernard Gruber, director of the GPS Directorate. “The Air Force and allied military forces around the world use GPS devices in virtually every system to improve their capabilities and effectiveness while reducing risk to the warfighter.”
The major budget cuts underway at the Defense Department and on the table in the debt ceiling deal are likely to get a strong push from at least one newly promoted DOD official: President Barack Obama has nominated Ashton Carter, under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, as deputy secretary of defense.
The next-generation GPS Ground Control system (OCX) under the direction of prime contractor Raytheon did not pass the recently concluded initial Preliminary Design Review (PDR).
Not passing this critical PDR inspection so early in the OCX process and in the current fiscal environment (Congress has already trimmed the modernization budget and shifted elements to the right) constitutes a blow to the GPS modernization effort. It adds to the worry concerning the OCX-GPSIIIA gap, having to do with the ability to launch the Lockheed-produced GPS IIIA SVs and payloads that are currently scheduled to be ready for launch a full 14-16 months before the OCX ground system was originally scheduled to be able to control the launch.
That timeline undoubtedly stretches to the right with this latest development.
The powerful Delta 4 booster blasted away from Cape Canaveral’s Complex 37 at 2:41 a.m. EDT (0641 GMT) for a middle-of-the-night ascent precisely timed to deliver a critical replacement satellite directly into the GPS constellation.
It was the type of rocket flight that could appear routine. But replenishing the navigation network is vital to the military forces, civilian consumers and the blossoming commercial marketplace that have come to depend on GPS every day.
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colorado — The 50th Space Wing successfully completed a two phase Global Positioning System constellation expansion, known as “Expandable 24” or 24+3, on June 15. This expansion increased global GPS coverage and is now providing civil, military, and commercial GPS users with a more robust signal and a higher probability of signal acquisition in terrain challenged environments.
“This marks another successful milestone in our continued commitment to modernize our weapon system,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Grant, 2nd Space Operations Squadron commander. “We take great pride in providing GPS performance that exceeds our requirements for the system, which we have been doing since 1995.”
Expandable 24 is a U.S. Strategic Command commander directed initiative, executed by the 2nd Space Operations Squadron, to reposition six satellites in the current GPS constellation. Given the strength and number of satellites in the current constellation, Air Force Space Command was in a unique position to enact this revolutionary strategy to benefit global users. AFSPC acted on this opportunity to increase the robustness of satellite availability and overall signal-in-space performance by expanding three of the baseline 24 constellation slots.
A Global Positioning System satellite has been loaded aboard its ride to space, arriving Monday at Cape Canaveral’s Complex 37 for mounting atop the United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket.
Liftoff of the GPS 2F-2 spacecraft is scheduled for July 14 during a 19-minute window extending from 2:49 to 3:08 a.m. EDT (0649-0708 GMT).
The launch is timed to deliver the satellite into the GPS constellation to replace a 20-year craft that has long exceeded its expected lifespan.
GPS satellites fly about 11,000 miles above the planet and emit continuous navigation signals that allow users to find their precise position in latitude, longitude and altitude and determine time. Originally built for the U.S. military, the GPS service has spread across the world as an indispensable commercial utility.
April, May, and June are watershed months for space and PNT geeks every year. In April I was honored to attend the National Space Foundation sponsored 27th annual National Space Symposium held at the incomparable five-star Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and in May, just last week I attended the 10th annual GPS Partnership Council at SMC (Space and Missile Systems Center) in Los Angeles, California. Currently I am planning my strategy and greasing the chain on the mountain bike for the sixth annual Space and Cyberwarfare Symposium in the beautiful mountain village of Keystone, Colorado, which is followed later in June by the Joint Navigation Conference, also in Colorado Springs.
[SatNews] Securing precise global navigation for private and military use, GPS IIF receives an increase in its operational status…
Boeing [NYSE: BA] has announced that its GPS Operational Control Segment (OCS) has gained full operational status with the U.S. Air Force 50th Space Wing, Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. OCS keeps the GPS system operational within specified accuracy to provide secure and precise navigation around the world for military, humanitarian and commercial applications. Continue reading…
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) — Officials at the 50th Space Wing accepted two Global Positioning System ground system upgrades during a ceremony here April 14.
The ceremony signified a group effort between wing, Air Force Space Command and the Space and Missile Systems Center officials and their continued commitment to improve and maintain the current GPS Operational Control Segment leading up to the next generation ground segment set to be deployed in 2015.
Boeing Commercial Satellite Services will work with the owners of satellite systems to market available bandwidth on active systems as well as to include hosted payloads on their future spacecraft. The new division will market the payloads to prospective customers in cooperation with the host satellites’ owners.
“The demand for satellite communications continues to be greater than the supply, and in 2010 we entered into an agreement with Inmarsat to assist them in leasing Ka-band services to the U.S. government and others,” said Cooning. “This business model can be applied to a commercial satellite operator interested in leasing service to governments.”