Airborne Lasercom Terminal (ALT)
Lasercom Optical Terminal
The Lasercom Program will include the design, development, test, installation, and fielding of an optical terminal capable of air-to-air and air-to-space communications. The program may be divided into various phases. One being a proto-type/demonstration phase. Another being design, development, test, fielding.
The overall TC-MILSATCOM objective is to develop an integrated, global satellite communications network supporting the DoD/NASA. The overall system is envisioned to have secure internet-like services, allocable, secure, private networks for warfighting users, and bandwidth on demand.
The system will include communications support for terrestrial and airborne EHF users, and for X-band and Ka-band wideband users within a network architecture that allows interoperability between users regardless of platform or terminal type while ensuring a smooth transition between legacy systems and the contemplated system. The systems will also include wideband space-to-space and space-to-airborne communications links and include a potential for connectivity to airborne networks utilizing a common standard for laser communications.
The systems are required to be interoperable with Coalition, NATO, and International Partners, to include Wideband, Protected Tactical, and Protected Strategic services. The systems must meet current requirements and be capable of meeting increasing demand for more bandwidth while leveraging commercial ground and space assets to the maximum extent possible.
The Air Force is initiating the development of a Lasercom Terminal Program in FY03, with an Initial Operational Capability (IOC) planned to coincide with the first launch of the Transformational Satellite (TSAT) in FY09.
An airborne Lasercom Terminal is required to support both air-to-air and air-to-space communications for High Altitude Endurance (HAE) Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft and Command and Control (C2) aircraft. This terminal must provide an initial data rate in excess of 2.4 Gbps in each direction, with a path to achieve a data rate capability in excess of 40 Gbps in each direction.
In support of this mission, the MILSATCOM Terminals (ESC/MC) Systems Program Office (SPO) performed a market survey of free space optical communications options. This RFI will be used by ESC/MC in the development of a Lasercom Program. SCOPE: The purpose of this RFI is to gather information to support an RFP release at the end of FY '03, and to determine industry interest in participating in this effort. The potential developers should understand that validated and firm requirements for the Lasercom Terminal do not yet exist. Rather, they will evolve over time as the technology evolves and matures, and the technical requirements, user requirements and concept of operations (CONOPS) are completely defined during fiscal year 2003. ESC/MC will use the information gathered in response to this RFI to gain an understanding of potential approaches to meet USAF Lasercom Terminal System requirements.
ESC/MC sought to understand the current state of the art that companies have achieved in airborne free space optical communications, as well as their anticipated future development, and how these might apply to the USAF effort to achieve this capability. The Government is interested in receiving information from companies working on designs for free space optical communications for air-to-air and air-to-space applications, as well as from component vendors whose subsystems and critical components are useful in the development of the Lasercom Terminal System.
ESC/MC solicited the interest of vendors, organizations and/or consortia in the following areas of expertise: 1. Aircraft Integration Experience with airborne Electro-optic (E/O) Systems and Equipment. 2. Airborne Communications System Architecture (as applies to optical platforms): Layered Communications, Protocols, Error Detection and Correction, Quality of Service (QoS), Acquisition and tracking algorithms, Supporting software for all of the above. 3. Airborne Electro-optic (E/O) Systems: Laser communications, Infra-Red Counter-Measures (IRCM), Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR), LIght Detection And Ranging (LIDAR), Cameras, Surveillance, Contamination and stray light rejection, Optical acquisition and tracking. 4. Components and Subsystems: Lasers, Charge Coupled Devices (CCDs), Optical amplifiers, Modulators, Detectors (single, multi), Cameras & telescopes, Modems, Diplexing transmit & receive paths, Technology to develop multi-access links from one aperture (within a limited FOV), Beam steering mechanisms, Gimbal mechanisms, Stabilization and control mechanisms. 5. Airborne E/O Systems Experience: Atmospheric Phenomena, Weather, Scintillation, Scattering, Beam steering, Link Budget; specifically, communications acquisition and track link budgets, to include initial spatial uncertainty, pointing error, etc.
The tentative program plan includes three phases in accordance with the National Security Space Acquisition Policy 03-01. Phase A is a study phase consisting of technology demonstrations as described in this solicitation/synopsis and system-level architecture studies described in a separate announcement. Phase B will be the design phase and will be competitively awarded. Phase C will be the production phase.
Phase A Study Phase On 7/13/2004 awards were announced for Phase A of the ALT program for free-space optical aperture technology demonstrations with a Period of Performance of approximately eighteen months. Participation in Phase A of the ALT program will not be a prerequisite or a guarantee for participation in subsequent phases. The Government will issue an award to each of the following four offerors: BAE Systems of Nashua, NH is awarded FA8709-04-C-0003 for $4,499,078; Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems of Linthicum, MD is awarded FA8709-04-C-0005 for $4,500,000; Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems and Solutions of San Jose, CA is awarded FA8709-04-C-0006 for $4,498,893; Raytheon Company of Marlborough, MA is awarded FA8709-04-C-0007 for $4,500,000. The efforts conducted under the PRDA provide an architecture that will be used in the planning for the Design/Development Phase of the program. Platform integration of new terminals poses significant challenges for size, weight, and power (SWAP), and aerodynamic constraints. This PRDA is to define a system level architecture that addresses these challenges in a combined effort with the FAB-T program. The desire is to consolidate optical capability into the existing FAB-T, leveraging the FAB-T's processing core, minimize the number of terminal boxes necessary to field an optical capability, and reduce platform integration impacts. The ALT program office anticipated awarding up to two Firm Fixed Price (FFP) contracts to individual firms or teams responding to this solicitation. Proposals were to be delivered no later than 1700 hours local time on 18 June 2004. The Government conducted a Study Phase as part of an effort to acquire an ALT to interoperate with the Transformational Communications Satellites. The efforts conducted under this PRDA will provide an architecture that leverages the FAB-T processing core, outlines an optical aperture/beam director subsystem architecture, and defines the interface between leveraged FAB-T components and the new optical subsystem. This architecture will be used in the planning for the Design/Development Phase of the program. Also to be addressed are the changes that will be needed to integrate the ALT communications capability into the FAB-T family. The PRDA Contractor shall develop a Lasercom TRA for the Government to use in developing a Government Reference Architecture (GRA) for the Design/Development Phase of the ALT Program. The Contractor shall review, in close association with Boeing, the FAB-T architecture, design, and interfaces for incorporation of Lasercom capabilities. The TRA shall preserve the tenets of FAB-T regarding open architecture, layers, and modularity. The TRA shall assess how the FAB-T architecture and interfaces can be reused and extended to accommodate Lasercom. The TRA shall address all interfaces, common layers, common functions, and architectural elements necessary for the incorporation of the ALT capability. The need for new architectural or modified FAB-T elements or interfaces and their associated risks shall be identified and supporting rationale for each item shall be provided. The TRA shall describe both data flow and control flow for the entire laser communication path (set-up, usage, and teardown). The TRA shall consider size, weight and power implications to minimize impacts on host platforms. The ALT host platforms will include U-2, RQ-4, and E-10A. The TRA shall be compliant with the TCM Architecture. In addition, the contractor shall work in close association with Boeing to assess, recommend changes as needed, and document in the TRA where (which layer, common function, group, etc.) the FAB-T implements the following OSD policies: IPv6, Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW) Network Services Layer (NSL), programmable encryption, and Software Communications Architecture (SCA). The TRA shall also address the future incorporation of a simultaneous air-to-air ALT capability. The contractor shall, in close association with Boeing (the FAB-T integrator), provide a proposed ALT TRA implementation plan and schedule for the Design/Development phase of the ALT. By 2005 the ALT program was currently in the Concept Development Phase as defined by National Security Space Acquisition Policy 03-01. This phase consisted of two architecture study contracts to help define an ALT system architecture, four aperture technology demonstration contracts, and a parallel Government effort to mature optical aperture technology. In an effort to further reduce risk prior to commencing a Preliminary/Complete Design effort in Fiscal Year 2008 or 2009, in mid-2005 the Government was exploring a revision to the planned program development schedule, adding a 30 month flight demonstration effort to further mature optical aperture technology to TRL 7 and to characterize boundary layer and atmospheric channel effects. Contractors for the flight demonstration effort will be required to (1) provide an optical aperture group (OAG) that meets specified requirements (physical, functional, environment and interface); (2) operate the OAG with a Government provided modem; (3) operate the OAG to point, acquire, track and communicate with a Government provided High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS); (4) integrate their OAG onto a specified Government provided aircraft; (5) instrument the specified Government provided aircraft to collect specified measurements (boundary layer, atmospherics, other); (6) support the flight tests (i.e. tech reps on site for necessary repairs or modifications, etc); (7) conduct data reduction of their collected data and publish summary reports of results; (8) address size, weight, and power and production costs for the OAG; (9) collaborate with MIT Lincoln Laboratory in refining the interfaces with the HAPS and modem; and (10) support Lasercom Interoperability Standard, Payload-to-Terminal Interface Control Document, and other relevant working groups. Airborne platforms may require optical apertures that minimize platform integration and aerodynamic impacts. Multiple technologies were identified during market surveys including gimbaled turrets, optical phased arrays (OPA), and Risley prisms. These various technologies each pose unique platform integration and technology maturation challenges. Therefore, the objectives of the demonstration effort are to mature optical aperture/beam director technology performance as close to Department of Defense's (DoD) Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 as possible within the budget and schedule constraints identified herein. The Demonstration will identify an optical aperture/beam director concept that shows how multiple apertures can be integrated to provide a near-hemispherical Field of Regard (FOR) for an airborne platform and also minimizes Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) and installation impacts. The goal of this contract is to demonstrate optical aperture/beam director performance in a relevant environment. The relevant environment is defined by "ALT Demo Phase Relevant Environment.doc". Two immature aperture/beam director technologies of potential interest for this demonstration are Risley Prisms and Optical Phased Arrays but others may be submitted (such as turrets/gimbals that require technology maturation to TRL 6) and will be evaluated. The Contractor shall demonstrate the chosen aperture/beam director technology in accordance with a Government approved two-step Demonstration Test Plan. In Step 1, the Contractor shall conduct a series of performance tests on the optical aperture/beam director. In Step 2, the contractor shall combine two similar apertures to emulate a larger FOR and demonstrate handoff from one aperture to the other. The Contractor shall fabricate and test an aperture/beam director capable of demonstrating the parameters identified below. As a goal, the aperture/beam director shall meet the Contractor supplied values listed in "ALT Demo Phase Parameters of Interest.doc". The Contractor shall provide necessary facilities and equipment to test the aperture/beam director. Government representatives shall be invited to observe all test events. The Government expects aperture sizes for this demonstration to be less than six inches. In Step 1, the Contractor shall conduct a performance test of a single aperture/beam director across the FOR. The test will demonstrate continuous open loop pointing by the aperture/beam director at the Contractor-specified accuracy across the entire FOR while maintaining acceptable beam quality (beam profile and Strehl). The contractor shall measure the aperture/beam director sidelobes or conduct a stray light rejection test across the FOR. The test will also demonstrate continuous tracking (no tracking loop singularities) anywhere within the FOR at the Contractor-specified performance under the Government-specified vibration spectrum identified in "ALT Demo Phase Relevant Environment.doc". The test will demonstrate the aperture/beam director meets the Contractor-specified insertion loss and antenna gain requirements across the FOR at the data rates required. The test will demonstrate the aperture/beam director meets the Contractor-specified transmit/receive isolation requirements across the FOR while operating at the wavelengths and polarization identified in the Lasercom Interoperability Standard (LIS). The contractor shall measure the aperture/beam director temporal dispersion (either a direct measure of communications link performance or accurate pulse width measurement) as a function of field angle across the FOR. In Step 2, the contractor shall combine two similar apertures to create a larger FOR. The contractor shall conduct tests to demonstrate handoff from one aperture to another in the presence of platform motion and vibration, with a goal of minimizing the time of optical beam interruption for both transmit and receive paths during handoff. Transmit and receive tests shall be conducted while operating at nominal transmit power and maximum receive sensitivity (both specified by the Contractor) for an air-space link. For evaluation purposes handoff refers to switching to a different aperture on the airborne side of the link while maintaining communications with the same aperture on the satellite side of the link. The contractor shall measure the duration of any interruption to the transmit or receive signal occurring as a result of aperture/beam director handoff to demonstrate the interruption is equal to or less than the Contractor-specified handoff time. The contractor shall submit a non-proprietary final report that shall include a system description of the aperture/beam director, demonstration test results, estimate of production SwaP and airstream protrusion, projected production costs, technology/cost tradeoffs for minimizing lifecycle costs and an installation concept. Additionally, the Contractor shall describe in the report the methods or processes that identify a clear path toward realizing data recovery techniques that would achieve aperture handoff without loss of data.
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