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Space Based Radar (SBR)

The United States deploys many types of radars employing distinctive signal processing technologies. Among these are imaging radars, which can create photograph-like images and identify and track moving targets. Because radars can see through clouds, can operate at night, and are not dependent on energy emitted or reflected by the target, radar reconnaissance satellite systems will be able to gather information of a type and under conditions that cannot be duplicated by other types of reconnaissance satellite systems.

Space-based radars will be substantially different from radars used on airborne platforms. Space-based radars can provide information about geographic areas that are inaccessible to aircraft and allow reconnaissance of a particular geographic area for a longer period of time. The development and production of space-based radar is more challenging than other types of radar systems, because of the strict weight, size, and power limitations imposed by the satellite and launch vehicles, and the extreme thermal, radiation, and vibration conditions created during launch and exposure to the space environment. Space-based radars also must be able to gather and transmit information over very large distances from a fast-moving platform. The radar requirements for SBR will be demanding and will necessitate substantial advances from existing technology.

The Space Based Radar (SBR) mission was to provide worldwide, on-demand, near continuous, surveillance, and reconnaissance for battlespace characterization. It was to provide theater and global users (e.g., strategic, Combatant Commanders) with responsive multi-theater capability to detect, geo-locate, identify, and track surface objects regardless of motion, location, or environmental conditions. The SBR program was focused on maturing technology and developing an Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) system capable of providing Ground Moving Target Identification (GMTI), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), and Digital Terrain and Elevation Data (DTED) over a large portion of the Earth on a near-continuous basis. By combining SAR, GMTI, and digital terrain elevation data, Space-Based Radar was to be able to track and target stationary or moving combatants in near real time, almost anywhere on earth, at anytime.

SBR represented the first time that DOD had taken the lead on developing a major national security space capability with the intelligence community as a partner. Because of this partnership, SBR's acquisition process was more complex than that used for typical DOD programs. While DOD and the intelligence community would use all the data that SBR produces, their priorities differ. DOD's warfighting community was particularly interested in tracking targets moving over land or sea as well as other objects of interest. The intelligence community was more focused on obtaining detailed global imagery and combining it with other data for advanced processing. SBR was expected to meet both needs and be fully integrated with other space and non-space systems, including TCA, which was to transmit SBR's data to receivers in the air, at sea, or on the ground.

The SBR system was a transformational system for the DoD and the Intelligence Community to provide persistent global collection of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) products. The system was to have the following core capabilities: collect Surface Moving Target Indication (SMTI), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imaging, and High-Resolution Terrain Information (HRTI) data; exploit space and ground communications systems to move collected data from space to ground; process and disseminate collected data to support both national and theater BMC3 systems. The system was to incorporate battlefield tasking and control of the system to facilitate near real-time availability of SBR products to the theater. The SBR system would allow military forces a "deep-look" into denied areas of interest, on a non-intrusive basis without risk to personnel or resources. This can be done in the pre-, during, and post-hostility environments not currently available via existing capabilities.

The objective SBR system would substantially enhance US information dominance in support of both Indications and Warning and military operations, providing US Forces with timely and precise dominant battle space awareness.

The Space-Based Radar was a key program to allow horizontal integration with the ability of the users - the analysts or the military officers - to influence collection and derive what they need in a timely fashion. The Space-Based Radar would satisfy the demand for currency of information because it is conceived of as an essential building block to persistent surveillance. Persistent doen't mean continuous, but sufficiently present to enable development of a level of quality of information that allows acting in a way that is operationally responsive and appropriate.

It was a system that, given its technical potential, could revolutionize much of what the US military does. But in order to realize that potential, it would require thinking of it differently than current systems. It would be a system that will be heavily dependent upon that machine-to-machine approach, on automated tasking, on a split between some of the data that it would collect that would need to be processed, other that wouldn't, going back to that discussion about the raw versus finished product. It would be able to satisfy a multitude of tasks over a given period of time.

It would also change the way of thinking about things because, by providing a level of persistence, it would change the paradigm about collection and intelligence in particular. Today's analysts try to assemble a jigsaw puzzle piece by piece, without knowing what the picture is that they are trying to assemble. The hope was that, by collecting enough pieces, they can figure out what the picture is. The potential of the Space-Based Radar was to provide the picture in a continuously refreshed fashion, and allow detecting where the anomalies in that picture are and, having detected the anomaly, to help examine what it means.

By itself it would not provide all that is needed to know. It would have to operate in concert with other platforms and systems, whether they are in space, in the air or on the ground. But by providing the background picture - the universal situational awareness - by showing the anomalies, the Space-Based Radar would change the nature of how analysis and intelligence are done. And that could be a major shift in doing business.

For the war fighter, it could support predictive battlespace awareness and could be equally predictive for the intelligence analyst. By finding the anomalous event, analysts get out ahead of activities. The refresh rate is such that analysts are not looking at history, they are looking at current events. Looking at current events, as opposed to the history, provides the ability to start drawing trend lines and anticipate how the subject of inquiry is going to act and respond increases dramatically. And, having watched him over a long period of time, the ability then to be predictive from an analytical point of view also goes up enormously. So, both the intelligence analyst and the military operator are going to find their environments completely changed by this system.

In 2005 the Space Based Radar (SBR) name was changed to Space Radar (SR) to represent the fundamental restructure of joint DoD and intelligence community (IC) program.

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Page last modified: 21-07-2011 00:48:30 ZULU