Can a new satellite network track hypersonic missiles during flight?

If a hypersonic missile was traveling along the upper edge of the Earth’s atmosphere at five times the speed of sound, how could defenders track it from a dispersed geographic area? Faced with this challenge, the Pentagon is moving quickly to launch a large number of satellites into low and medium Earth orbit designed to process information at the point of collection, incorporate network redundancy and use high-speed systems to network data. specific to threats on disconnected networks. field of view.

The idea is not only to detect the initial flash through space-based infrared sensors such as the overhead persistent infrared satellite, but also to network high-speed data processing between satellites to track a missile traveling beyond Earth’s atmosphere in space. This can ensure that an incoming hypersonic missile can be continuously tracked to establish real-time “world coverage” that will predict the point of impact throughout the missile’s flight.

Raytheon Intelligence & Space and its subsidiary Blue Canyon Technologies conducted research and experiments to deliver new types of multifunction sensing, networking, and data processing to the Pentagon based on its adaptable software model.

“The concept here is that our treatment systems are very generic. They are fully software-defined processing systems. So the same box, the same hardware that you’re going to buy, can be programmed to do sensor processing, it can be programmed to do networking, and it can be programmed to do communications. It’s kind of a gateway concept,” said Karen McConnell, executive director, engineering, Blue Canyon Technologies. national interest. “You can actually have the concept of forming or grouping satellites, where some are actually doing the sensor collection, some are doing the full networking, and some are doing the communications systems.”

Gateway systems, designed with common technical standards to enable interoperability, are essential in a data-driven combat environment because they can take data from any format, such as RF, GPS, or frequency wireless data, and use advanced software to “translate” between different data formats. It’s the kind of seamless connectivity and multifunctional satellite operations envisioned by Raytheon Intelligence & Space and Blue Canyon.

Part of Blue Canyon’s engineering approach is based on its Saturn Bus product line, a large “bus” designed to generate more power, higher data throughput, more payload accommodation and more instrument accommodation, McConnell explained.

With geostationary (GEO) satellites providing the initial warning by detecting the launch “flash”, a large number of Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) and Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites can collect, process and transmit data to speeds fast enough to sustain a targeting trail. Much of this can be enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) enabled data processing at the point of collection, using advanced algorithms and IT automation

“The goal here is to bring that processing right to the edge of orbiting sensor systems, and reduce the data, analyze it, compress it and store it and optimize everything else in the chain” , she added.

Inter-satellite links, networking and data connectivity will bring this concept to life, as software upgrades and common data standards can enable a high-speed data relay system, perhaps the most critical element in establishing a trail.

“We’ve also made the bus very configurable in the communication aspects. So we have our own products for both S-band and X-band radios. And we’ve created interfaces that can accommodate third-party radios to go very high throughput if we need high data throughput. These are big data systems that need to transmit a lot of information quickly. We designed the power system to accommodate that,” said Roger Cole, executive director of Strategic Systems, Space & C2 Systems, Raytheon Intelligence & Space. national interest in an interview.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the national interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a highly trained expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Osborn also worked as an on-air military anchor and specialist on national television networks. He has appeared as a guest military pundit on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: DVIDS.

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