The Space Dynamics Laboratory at Utah State University and the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) space vehicles directorate at Kirtland AFB, N.M., want industry input on new mission planning tools for satellites.

AFRL’s space vehicles directorate has been exploring how to integrate a network of U.S. military, allied, and commercial satellites that have different sizes, orbits, and phenomenologies.

The AFRL Hybrid Architecture Demonstrations team wants industry insights on new technologies to aid mission planning for “the diverse and proliferated” Hybrid Space Architecture (HSA), per a Jan. 25 Request for Information (RFI) business notice under which interested companies are to submit white papers by March 3.

“Such application of space operations aims to dramatically improve deterrence and resilience in space while providing substantial new information advantage for science, commerce, and security,” the RFI said. “As new technologies arise very rapidly, this RFI is intended to deliver a fresh look at current and emerging satellite mission planning capabilities…The intended use of this mission planning system will allow operators the ability to plan for the collection of satellite data in a responsive and expedient manner.”

Such mission planning “includes the ability to accurately track and forecast satellite characteristics and their associated payloads and sensors with many different considerations including size, orbit, provider, and operational modes,” the business notice said. “Responses should include information about their entire satellite tracking capabilities including ground antennas, tracking stations, networks, or any other relevant information.”

“Satellite/sensor capabilities within the HSA of interest include Electro Optical (EO), Automatic Identification System (AIS), Hyper-Spectral Imagery (HSI), Multi-Spectral Imagery (MSI), Radio Frequency (RF), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B), Full Motion Video (FMV), weather forecasts, and potential Social (ex. Cell Phones) discoveries,” the RFI said.

AFRL wants automation and autonomy tools to enable military forces to use a variety of satellites when adversaries target and disable the functioning of some of them.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have said that responsive commercial satellites and commercial launches could help the U.S. military reconstitute constellations of military satellites when adversaries disrupt their functions during conflicts or before them (Defense Daily, July 26, 2021).

U.S. Space Force and the National Reconnaissance Office are increasingly using commercial satellites to provide a breadth of coverage and to ensure that an adversary is unable to disable U.S. infrastructure and leave military forces, intelligence agencies, and national leaders in the dark.