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TacSat / Joint Warfighting Space (JWS)


A major first step to achieve an Operational Responsive Space capability is the Joint Warfighting Space (JWS) concept. JWS will provide dedicated, responsive space capabilities and effects to the Joint Force Commander in support of warfighting objectives. The Joint Warfighting Space concept seeks both immediate and near-term initial operating capabilities to meet pressing National Security needs.

The Office of Force Transformation funded TacSat-1 with $15 million, aiming to move from payload design to launch within a year. The DOD's Office of Force Transformation (OFT) and the Naval Research Laboratory worked on the development of and experimentation with a tactical microsatellite system, with emphasis on producing operationally relevant capabilities. Touchstones of this system include: quick response, Joint Task Force (JTF) organic, selectable payloads, coverage for military conflicts and opportunities at any location on Earth, and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) class of cost.

This system ultimately integrates space assets into the forces such that the JTF Commander can call up the assets by deciding the payload capability needed, the area of interest, the area for direct downlink, and the date to call-up the assets. Once deployed, the space assets are directly tasked via the SIPRNET, which is also used to distribute the collected data and products.

TacSat-1 has several payloads that provide capabilities for cross-platform missions, specific emitter identification, and visible and infrared (IR) imaging.

During the second half of 2002, NRL studied the tactical application of space assets. Relatively new technologies and processes in the areas of micro-satellites, affordable and quick-response launch vehicles, and the classified SIPRNET (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network) make tactical use of space assets possible in the relatively near term. OFT agreed with the core findings of the study and decided to start an Operationally Responsive Space Initiative consisting of a series of experiments. TacSat-1 is the first experiment in this OFT initiative.

The Secretary of Defense's Office of Force Transformation (OFT) and the Naval Research Laboratory, in concert with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), are expanding their development of and experimentation with operationally responsive tactical microsatellite systems. Key elements of this system include: modular payloads, a highly automated satellite bus, common payload and launcher interfaces, launch on demand, and direct tasking and data dissemination using the Secret Internet Protocol Routing Network (SIPRNET). This system ultimately integrates space assets into the forces so that the Joint Task Force (JTF) Commander can call up assets by deciding the payload capability required, the area of interest, the area for direct downlink, and the date the assets must be operational.

The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), in concert with OFT, developed a tactical space system concept that makes space an organic part of the JTF. Three enabling elements of this system are capable microsatellites, low cost and rapid launch systems, and tactical networks, primarily the SIPRNET. Based on this work, OFT started the Operationally Responsive Space Initiative consisting of a series of experiments.

The overall objective of the TacSat experiments is to test the key elements needed to realize an operationally responsive space system. Integral to the TacSat approach is operational experimentation, which closely couples the science and technology (S&T) and research and development (R&D) work with realistic field evaluations and concept of operations (CONOP) development.

Many successful partnerships made TacSat-1 possible. As the TacSat series progresses, many more partnerships will develop. The primary programmatic partners for TacSat-1 are OFT, NRL, SpaceX, and SMC. For TacSat-2, NRL and AFRL have teamed up with an AFRL lead industry team. Both TacSat-1 and TacSat-2 payload capabilities have been possible because of the diverse capabilities within NRL. Code 8100 has provided an ELINT payload with cross-platform (spacecraft to aircraft) capability, Code 5700 provided the SEI capability and IR camera, Code 7200 provided imaging expertise and radiometric calibration of two commercial cameras, and Code 8200 provided the spacecraft engineering for integration and testing; Code 8100's Blossom Point facility will be the ground station for flight operations. As the TacSat experimentation process formalizes, partnerships are expected to grow with Air Force Space Command, Space and Missile Systems Center, Air Force Research Laboratory, Army Space and Missile Command, and the Marine Corps space requirements representative.

The Army Advanced Weapon Technology program developing Solid State Laser (SSL) is also looking at Space Application Concepts. In FY06, it will initiate unique intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, missile warning, battle management, and communications technologies leveraging the Joint Warfighting Space / Tactical Satellite (JWS/TacSat) Demonstration efforts to validate Army space force enhancement needs. In FY07, will continue space payload/technology investigations to support cooperative Hyperspectral Imaging (HSI), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), and Blue Force Tracking (BFT) payload development for experimentation in the JWS/TacSat initiative.

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