The U.S. Space Force’s (USSF) ATLAS is on track to be operational by the spring of next year, as the service develops higher classification levels for the Unified Data Library (UDL) that will be a significant part of the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) and the DoD Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) effort, a top Space Force official said this week.
Space Force expects L3Harris Technologies’ [LHX] ATLAS to lead to a dramatic increase in the speed of processing and integrating space domain awareness data from a variety of commercial, civil, and military space sensors.
Omitron and Parsons Corp. [PSN] are subcontractors on ATLAS, which is to replace the Space Defense Operations Center (SPADOC), a space situational awareness computer system established in 1979 at the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado. The Air Force last upgraded SPADOC in 1989.
ATLAS is to harness machine-to-machine interfaces to accelerate the provision of space domain awareness data to USSF personnel.
In October 2018, Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), then part of the U.S. Air Force, awarded a $53 million contract to L3Harris for ATLAS
“I got an update about two and a half weeks ago on all things space domain awareness to include SPADOC and ATLAS,” U.S. Space Force Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David D. Thompson told a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies’ Spacepower Forum on July 28. “It’s long since overdue to replace that 1980s-era technology.”
ATLAS “is on track near term,” he said. “It is moving along quickly and aggressively and right now absolutely meeting all the gates to do that. I’m feeling very confident that it’s gonna come in and ensure that we don’t have the risk associated with that old and slow and fragile and, frankly, obsolete platform that has been serving us well for years, but which we need to have long since replaced.”
In April, SMC awarded Colorado-based Bluestaq LLC a $280 million contract to develop UDL, which is to be the authoritative data source for the Space Force and a key part of shortening sensor-to-shooter and decision making timelines. ATLAS is to pull relevant data from the UDL for space domain awareness command and control and other missions.
On Apr. 30th, SMC awarded Palantir Technologies [PLTR] a $32.5 million contract to develop the Warp Core tech stack by leveraging the Palantir Gotham system to speed the provision of relevant space command and control information to users. The tech stack is to connect with the USSF’s UDL “to integrate data from across the space enterprise,” SMC said.
UDL is one of the key contributions to ABMS and JADC2. “We’ve put that in place,” Thompson said on July 28th of UDL. “We put the unclassified piece in place first. We built out the Secret level. We’re building out higher level classifications so this is, no kidding, unified in that it encompasses all classifications. We’ve used it in several of the ABMS demonstrations that show how you can use such a data library repository for a whole host of reasons. Understanding issues with access, latency and the architecture, we’re also learning a lot in that regard to be able to make the smart decisions that are coming, to evolve it and ensure that it provides what it needs to in terms of JADC2.”
UDL “is our repository for space domain awareness data so that we can move beyond ATLAS, really bring in and fully utilize all sorts of data beyond standard, traditional space domain awareness data–data of all sorts and all qualities–to be able to use state of the art processing and exploitation techniques to fuse and use all of that data to evolve the space domain awareness enterprise,” he said.
In May, Maj. Gen. DeAnna Burt, the deputy commander of USSF’s Space Operations Command, said that SMC’s biggest limiting factor in improving space domain awareness is SPADOC and that ATLAS’ integration of ground-based and space-based sensor inputs from commercial, civil, and military users will lead to “huge leaps in our space domain awareness capabilities” (Defense Daily, May 3).
Begun in 2009, the Joint Space Operations Center Mission System (JMS) was an earlier SMC effort to replace SPADOC, but the Air Force canceled JMS in 2019 after it faced technical and cost challenges. JMS was to process and integrate inputs from a variety of sensors, including Lockheed Martin‘s [LMT] ground-based Space Fence radar. Omitron was a subcontractor on JMS’ Increment 2–the effort to make JMS operational.
Brian Weeden, a space analyst and the director of program planning for the Secure World Foundation, has written that SPADOC has severe computational limitations and that SPADOC’s user interface “predates modern graphical user interfaces and is notoriously difficult to learn, requiring the user to memorize numerous three-letter commands.”
“Until they get ATLAS or whatever else they’re working on fielded, the analysts at the 18th Space Control Squadron [at Vandenberg AFB, Calif.] are still using the legacy [SPADOC] computer systems that were originally due to be replaced in the mid-2000s,” Weeden wrote in a May email.
ATLAS is part of the Space Force’s Space C2 effort–nicknamed Kobayashi Maru in tribute to Star Trek–that began after the demise of JMS.