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Space Based Infrared System [SBIRS]

sbirslogo.jpg - 21.2 KSBIRS was conceived in an era when the prevailing wisdom called for combining missions on a single satellite to reduce the number of satellites and launches, saving development and operational costs. The SBIRS satellites were built to satisfy four missions — missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence and battle-space characterization.

The program encountered significant technical problems (both hardware and software), unclear requirements, unexpected software complexity and unstable funding. As a result, program costs ballooned and the schedule slipped dramatically. The program faced parts and subsystem obsolescence challenges. If the government decides to purchase GEO 6 and 7, the focal plane array substrate will have to be replaced, as the only company that made the substrate material has gone out of business. This problem largely came about because of the multiyear schedule slippages but also because some of the parts are unique to SBIRS and have only a single supplier or no source.

The SBIRS program is intended to combine the activities of the existing development programs considered in the study into a single, integrated program to most effectively meet the military's infrared surveillance requirements well into the next century. The plan is for the SBIRS program to be a potential 10-year Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) type effort. It was planned as a two-phased program with the first phase to perform space and ground system architecture trades and to develop candidate solutions, and the second phase to mature the chosen solution and deploy and test an initial constellation and ground system.

The Air Force is acquiring the Space-based Infrared System (SBIRS) to replace the current Defense Support Program and related systems, including consolidation of DSP ground processing within the CONUS. The DSP consolidation effort will be accomplished under the auspices of the SBIRS acquisition planned for completion by FY 1999. Although it draws on previous efforts to develop a follow-on to Defense Support Program (DSP) (i.e., Follow-on Early Warning System (FEWS), Alert, Locate, and Report Missiles (ALARM)), the SBIRS acquisition is not a direct continuation of these programs. The scope of the envisioned effort is considerably broader than the previous work.

sbirs_m1.gif - 7.0 KSBIRS operational requirements, include four mission areas of missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence, and battlespace characterization. The SBIRS-High program will accomplish the objectives identified in the SBIR Architecture Study completed in September 1994.

Key parameters were reviewed by the Air Force Requirements Oversight Council (AFROC) in late 1994. The SBIR Capstone Requirements Document (CRD), dated 16 December 1994, was validated by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) on 12 January 1995. Subsequently, the JROC approved changes to the CRD regarding Survivability and Data Availability. The SBIRS Technical Requirements Document (TRD) (20 January 1995 version) was approved for release in Draft form on 24 January 1995, and the Final TRD was released with the SBIRS Request For Proposal (RFP). Other relevant requirements are detailed in the Draft SBIRS Operational Requirements Document (ORD), the 2 December 1994 version of the Draft ALERT ORD, and the Final version of the DSP ORD. Performance parameters proposed for the System Operational Requirements Document (ORD) include associated top-level operations rationale associated with many of the specific requirements. The System ORD will become the operative requirements document for Pre-EMD.

Several issues predominated the path to a validated SBIRS ORD. They included survivability, data availability, technical intelligence, and Block 1 SBIRS High Component performance.

Survivability was one of the major issues of contention throughout Pre-EMD. The vocal advocate for Cold War-level performance was USSTRATCOM. Initially, its representatives were tenaciously tied to the traditional idea of hardening fixed ground sites against nuclear effects. This caused affordability and schedule problems, particularly with regard to military construction funding. USSTRATCOM became somewhat more willing to discuss alternatives to fixed site survivability, such as through distribution of assets, when trade study results became available showing the high costs of the advocated survivability solutions and the impact on affordability constraints.

The major issue of contention with the Army was assured data availability. From the beginning of the SBIRS Requirements Generation Process, the Army advocated direct downlink to theater (DDL). While the USAF recognized DDL as one of the possible solutions to the operational requirement of assured data availability, the Army identified it as the requirement itself. The SBIRS Program claimed that government selection of a solution was not warranted since it was the responsibility of the contractors to complete the cost/performance trades and propose the most affordable way to meet the requirements. The program was also investigating centralized processing of SBIRS data at the ground station in the continental US (CONUS) as a feasible and cost effective solution to meeting requirements.

Several Army representatives stated the Army did not trust the ability of the USAF to reliably provide the warning message through existing communications networks from CONUS regardless of cost savings. Furthermore, the Army was interested in saving its theater mobile DSP data processor program called the Joint Tactical Ground System (JTAGS) by incorporating it into the SBIRS architecture. The USAF leadership ultimately dropped opposition to DDL when the trade study results indicated the cost of each concept was essentially equivalent. Furthermore, mobile processing units based on the JTAGS design were incorporated into the concepts of both competing contractors, and they contributed to the cost effective survivability solution proposed by the winning contractor. In this case, military utility from the Army's perspective drove the resolution in the face of cost equivalence.

The technical intelligence (TI) performance requirements, advocated by the National Air Intelligence Center (NAIC), were the most stressing on SBIRS. The performance levels for the Coverage and Minimum Threat were the problems; fully attaining them was not affordable based on preliminary contractor cost/performance trade studies. Furthermore, the members of the warfighting community did not consider TI requirements as high a priority as the other missions. Despite aggressive efforts by the TI representatives on the program, the recommendations to the JROC called for the SBIRS ORD threshold performance for Coverage and Minimum Threat to be relaxed a minimal amount. This was perhaps the only instance of SBIRS trading cost for minimum performance.

Another analysis issue during Pre-EMD involved the performance allocation between the High and Low Components to meet threshold performance for all Key Performance Parameters. The validated SBIR CRD required the system of systems to meet performance requirements, not just the High Component. Through their analyses, the contractors had determined that each of their optimum affordable solutions allocated performance to the Low Component, primarily in the mission area of missile defense. Since the High Component was to be developed and deployed first, the initially deployed system of High Component satellites will not meet all the SBIRS ORD requirements. The Army and Navy representatives working closely with the program wanted full performance on the initially deployed High Component constellation to support the theater missile defense mission. Their request, based on military utility, was not consistent with the "High now, Low later" approach that formed the basis of the program. More importantly, their request was not affordable.

SBIRS is managed by the Program Executive Officer for Space, Space and Missile Systems Center. This acquisition consists of two phases, Pre-Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) and EMD. Space and Missile Systems Center released Request for Proposal in February 1995.

The Pre-EMD phase consisted of space and ground system architecture level trades of performance, cost, and requirements and development of candidate solutions, after which a down-selection will take place. Associated tasks of the Pre-EMD phase include developing options for transition to the SBIRS-High from the existing DSP, identifying risk areas and conducting appropriate risk mitigation activities, and identifying and conducting key technology and prototype hardware and software demonstrations and simulations. The contractor will also conduct the performance assessment and integration planning associated with the potential introduction of a LEO component in the SBIRS architecture in the next decade. It was the Air Force's intention to award not less than two contracts for this phase with a performance period of 15 months, after which a progressive competition/down-selection would take place and an unpriced option will be exercised for the EMD phase.

A single contractor, selected for the EMD phase, was to mature, finalize and integrate a selected design, validate manufacturing and production processes, produce elements of the architecture and integrate, test and evaluate the SBIRS-High. Potential prime sources, singularly or teamed, required experience in all of the following areas: A) systems architecture, engineering, and cost projection for complex space systems, B) design, development, analysis, and integration of space vehicles and associated ground systems meeting defined and derived requirements, C) subsystem and system integrated test and evaluation of space systems, D) critical surveillance technologies including their development and integration for future space systems, E) space system production capability, F) design and development of fixed and mobile ground systems for satellites, and G) launch vehicle operations including spacecraft/launch vehicle integration and test. All potential bidders must have a Top Secret /SCI clearance, verification of WNINTEL, and access to Top Secret and SCI storage and processing facilities by the time of contract award. Since access to classified and critical technologies will be required for this effort, foreign sources may only be able to participate at the subcontractor level and limited to only unclassified and non-critical technological information.

On 22 October 2001 Northrop Grumman Corporation announced that it had completed the acquisition of the Electronics and Information Systems (EIS) Group of Aerojet-General Corporation for $315 million in cash after securing necessary regulatory approvals. Aerojet-General is a wholly owned subsidiary of GenCorp Inc. The EIS business unit provides space-borne sensing for early warning systems, weather and ground systems that process C41SR data from space-based platforms, and smart weapons technology for high-priority US government national security programs. This unit had 2000 revenues of $323 million and has approximately 1,200 employees. This operation is now part of Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector's newly formed Space Systems Division, with approximately 1,600 employees and more than $400 million in annual revenues. The new division includes several ongoing space-based programs such as Space-Based Infrared Systems (SBIRS) High and SBIRS Low, Defense Support Program, the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program and the National Polar Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System.

Large, complex satellite systems like SBIRS can take a long time to develop and construct. As a result, they can contain technologies that have become obsolete by the time they are launched. Although two GEO satellites were launched in recent years—the first in May 2011 and the second in March 2013—they had been designed in the late 1990s and primarily use technology from that period. The third and fourth GEO satellites, which have some updates to address parts obsolescence issues, are in production and expected to be initially available for launch in May 2016 for GEO satellite 4, and September 2017 for GEO satellite 3, which will first be stored. Figure 2 depicts a nominal constellation of SBIRS GEO satellites and HEO sensors once SBIRS GEO satellites 3 and 4 are launched and operational, augmented by DSP satellites.

Using updates to the Increment 1 ground system, the SBIRS Mission Control Station (MCS) manages the constellation of HEO sensors, GEO satellites as well as the legacy DSP satellites. Increment 2, the next major SBIRS ground update, was divided into two software releases; Block 10.3 and Block 20. Block 10.3 is on track for transitioning to operations in late 2016, replacing all the Increment 1 software and improving event detection. The SBIRS Survivable/Endurable Evolution (S2E2) program will replace the aging MGS, initially designed for support of DSP operations in the 1960s, supporting SBIRS survivability and endurability requirements.


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