Enhanced Polar System (EPS)
The Enhanced Polar System (EPS) represents an evolution of requirements for protected extremely high frequency (EHF) satellite communications in the North Polar Region. EPS is the next-generation SATCOM system that will replace the current Interim Polar System (IPS) and serve as a polar adjunct to the Advanced EHF system.
EPS will provide continuous coverage in the polar region for secure, jam-resistant, strategic and tactical communications to support peacetime, contingency, homeland defense, humanitarian assistance, and wartime operations. The system consists of two EHF communications payloads hosted on satellites operating in highly elliptical orbits, a Gateway to other communication systems and the Global Information Grid (GIG), and a competitively selected ground segment to accommodate EPS payload command and control.
The EPS system will provide communications for military tactical and strategic forces and other users for operations above 65 degrees north. Additionally, EPS provides connectivity to Combatant Commander Command and Control centers below 65 degrees north. EPS characteristics include protected communications services, communications services for users without continuous system C2, integrated capability allowing users to manage their assigned resources, interconnectivity between Enhanced Polar satellites and mid-latitude users via an EPS Gateway located at a GIG Point of Presence, and an AEHF Extended Data Rate (XDR)-interoperable waveform. Each EPS payload must provide the minimum capacity to accommodate 20 communication channels operating in a 64 kbps mode (1.28 Mbps capacity). Users operate in standard XDR modes supported by the EPS communication links (data rates from 75 bps up to 2.048 Mbps). With the first operational availability in 2018, EPS will be an essential adjunct to the MILSATCOM mid-latitude systems.
Key program milestones include the Acquisition Strategy Addendum no.1 in January 2012 and EPS Acquisition Decision Memorandum in May 2012. In early 2018, the Air Force’s Enhanced Polar System Recapitalization (EPS-R) was intended to maintain satellite coverage of polar regions, a critical function for certain U.S. Navy operations. By partnering with an allied country to launch multiple payloads, EPS-R had the opportunity to save approximately $900 million. The international partner, however, had a preexisting launch schedule that created an inflexible time constraint. Because of the urgency of the requirement, it had to be funded via a new start budget line item for which appropriations did not already exist.
This funding approach required submission of a congressional PA request to the four congressional defense committees. According to the acquisition authority, these requests take an average of 182 days to process.6 This would extend past the international partner’s launch deadline. At the time the Air Force began its request for EPS-R, Congress was still in the process of negotiating regular appropriations bills, working through additional CRs, and attempting unsuccessfully to avoid a government shutdown. Under some intelligence-related funding authorities, the EPS-R new start would have been automatically approved by default after 30 days.7 Due to the slowness of the approval process during a succession of CRs, however, the Air Force faced uncertainties in the delivery of critical capabilities to the warfighter and $900 million in taxpayer savings.
Ultimately, program officials were able to partner with the international agency and obligate money on the required contract modification at the last minute, having obtained approval from all four congressional defense committees. Had the program not been sufficiently high-cost and high-profile, DoD likely would have been unable to obtain these approvals from all congressional stakeholders on such short notice. One senior program official stated, “we narrowly escaped disaster” and the acquisition system should not continue to rely on these types of “diving saves.”
The Enhanced Polar System Recapitalization (EPS-R) Payload program reached a major program milestone completing a successful Delta Critical Design Review (CDR), Oct. 9. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems (NGAS) is the EPS-R Payload developer via an approximately $410 million contract awarded in February 2018 that runs through December 2023.
The CDR was the culmination of more than two months of review by the government and contractor team assessing the maturity of the payload design, which allows the program to transition to the manufacturing phase. It focused on changes from the original EPS design to accommodate a new host space vehicle and was successfully completed with no significant issues or concerns.
As an EPS follow-on, EPS-R will include two eXtended Data Rate (XDR) payloads and will fill a Protected SATCOM coverage gap in the North Polar Region until the Protected Tactical SATCOM and Evolved Strategic SATCOM polar variants are available in the 2030’s.
Partnerships, innovation and speed are key tenets of the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) 2.0 vision to accelerate fielding new capabilities to the warfighter. SMC’s Production Corps EPS program is strengthening international partnerships by collaborating with the Norwegian Ministry of Defence and Space Norway to integrate the EPS-R payloads onto two separate Space Norway-procured satellites (developed by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems) scheduled to launch in December 2022 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 commercial launch. Space Norway is procuring the Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission in order to deliver broadband coverage to civilian and military users in the Arctic.
The EPS program office used innovative and rapid solutions to award the EPS-R Payload contract to NGAS in less than six months using a sole-source undefinitized contract. Additionally, the team awarded the EPS-R Control and Planning Segment ground contract less than 40 days after receiving a proposal from Northrop Grumman Mission Systems. These efforts enabled the program to leverage the hosting opportunity with Space Norway and placed it on track to deliver its capabilities three years ahead of schedule with the potential savings of up to $900 million.
“The EPS-R program’s unprecedented approach leverages best practices of our commercial space vehicle and commercial launch vehicle providers while collaborating with our Norwegian partners, and will prevent a protected communication coverage gap for warfighters in the Arctic region until future systems are available,” said Maj. John Gomez, EPS-R Payload program manager.
Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Californ ia, is the U.S. Air Force’s Center of Excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch, range systems, satellite control networks, space-based infrared systems and space situational awareness capabilities.
|Primary Function||Protected EHF communications above 65 deg N|
|Payload||Interoperable with AEHF Extended Data Rate (XDR) waveform|
|Antennas||1 spot beam on Gateway, 1 user spot beam, 1 user earth coverage beam|
|Capacity||20 channels x 64 kbps/channel each|
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|