Home >> September 2008 Edition >> BRIEFING: The MCSW MilSat Story

The MILSATCOM Systems Wing (MCSW) plans for, acquires, and sustains, space-enabled global communications to support the President, Secretary of Defense, and combat forces. MCSW is headquartered at Los Angeles Air Force Base (AFB) Space and Missiles System Center. MCSW consists of an integrated system of satellites, terminals and control stations, valued at more than U.S. $46 billion providing communications to aircraft, ships, mobile and fixed sites. It is a jointly manned wing which interfaces with Major Commands, Headquarters, United States Air Force, and Department of Defense agencies.

The MCSW is the primary acquirer of satellite communication systems to equip national authority and combat forces of all services with survivable, worldwide, rapid communications for all levels of conflict. MCSW provides program management direction for all phases of system development and acquisition for the current and future MILSATCOM satellite programs from concept development through orbital operations.

MCSW has 12 programs, five of which are Acquisition Category (ACAT) 1 and is divided into three primary Satellite Communications (SATCOM) product lines — wideband, protected and network. These product lines are supported by the Command and Control System Consolidated (CCS-C) and Family of Advanced Beyond Line-of-Sight Terminals (FAB-T) programs.

The Wideband Product Line
The wideband product line includes the on-orbit legacy system Defense Satellite Communications Systems (DSCS), and the on-orbit and in production, Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) system.

The goal of wideband communications is to move large amounts of data through high bandwidth pipes between primarily large ground terminals (8 to 60 feet) or, in the future, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and large ground terminals. WGS provides flexible, high-capacity communications for the Nation’s warfighters through operationalization of the WGS and the associated control systems. WGS will provide a quantum leap in communications bandwidth for marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen. WGS is a multi-service program that leverages commercial and technological advances in the satellite industry to design, build, launch and support a constellation of highly capable military communications satellites.

WGS is composed of three principal segments: Space Segment (satellites), Control Segment (operators) and Terminal Segment (users).  A constellation of six satellites will provide service in both the X- and Ka-band frequency spectrums.  WGS will supplant X-band communications now provided by DSCS and one-way Ka-band service provided by the Global Broadcast Service (GBS). Additionally, WGS will provide a new two-way Ka-band service.

MCSW terminals, the Family of Advanced Beyond-Line-of-Sight Terminals (FAB-T), Ground Multi-band Terminal (GMT) and High Data Rate-Radio Frequency Ground Terminal (HDR-RF) provide terminal support to this product line. Both the DSCS and WGS systems provide worldwide, high-volume, voice and data communications to the warfighter and are supported by CCS-C.

GBS provides mission-essential information to the nation’s war fighters using space-based, broadband satellite communications links. It provides high-speed, one-way information flow of high volume data to the nation’s command centers and joint combat forces in garrison, in transit and deployed within global combat zones. GBS is analogous to DirectTV for the warfighters!

GBS disseminates IP-based real-time video and large data files (up to 4GB in size) over-the-air (30 Mbps per transponder) to garrisoned and deployed combat forces using smart push and user pull–information based on unit mission reception priority profiles. The GBS system consists of broadcast management, space, and terminal segments. It supports existing Commander In Chief (CINC) requirements by providing the capability to quickly distribute large information products to deployed user platforms. GBS uses modern digital satellite broadcasting technology to disseminate information products to the war fighter.

Assistance to Warfighters
WGS will provide essential communications services for Combatant Commanders to command and control their tactical forces. Tactical forces will rely on WGS to provide high-capacity connectivity into the terrestrial portion of the Defense Information Systems Network (DISN).

GBS continues to support the warfighters worldwide and particularly in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). GBS is currently providing over 1.6 Terabytes of information to more than 700 receive suites with missions ranging from homeland security and disaster relief efforts to supporting counter improvised explosive device (IED) activities in Iraq.

GBS is the primary, multicast dissemination system within the DoD. Most terminals operating in Iraq and Afghanistan at every echelon have continuous real-time access to over 130 megabytes per second (Mbps) of information. GBS is the primary Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) support system for the tactical dissemination of Predator and other national ISR platforms. Demand for ISR Full Motion Video in Iraq and Afghanistan is growing significantly every year. GBS provides key support to Task Force Observe, Detect, Identify, and Neutralize (ODIN) operations, which are credited with more than 148 sensor-to-shooter handoffs supporting counter IED operators and impacting over 500 IED emplacers.

With its first launch into geosynchronous orbit on October 10, 2007, WGS space vehicle (SV)-1 became the Department of Defense’s (DoD) highest capacity communications satellite. One WGS space vehicle will provide more capacity for users than the entire DSCS legacy satellite constellation!

The option to procure the sixth WGS satellite was exercised in December 2007. Production will start in December of 2008, with a contract launch date of March 2013. The sixth space vehicle will be paid for by Australia and they will share a portion of the bandwidth of the WGS constellation.

The GBS broadcast went operational on WGS SV-1 in April of 2008, extending and enhancing broadcast coverage, throughput, and reliability in the Pacific Command (PACOM) theater.

Upcoming Milestones
  • WGS SV-2 Launch: October 2008
  • WGS SV-3 Launch: 2009
  • WGS SV-4 Launch: 2011
  • WGS SV-5 Launch: 2012
  • WGS SV-6 Launch: 2013
GBS will provide support for additional WGS satellites as they become available.

GBS plans to continue enhancing broadcast coverage by activating operational capability with WGS SV-2 by mid-calendar year 2009 and, WGS SV-3 by early calendar year 2010. GBS will produce and field Receive Suites through 2013.

The Protected Product Line
The protected product line includes the on-orbit legacy Milstar system, the Advanced Extremely High-Frequency (AEHF) and Enhanced Polar (EPS) systems. Protected communications uses a variety of signal processing techniques and the inherent properties of transmission frequencies to provide the Department of Defense global, secure, protected, jam-resistant communications for high priority military ground, sea and air assets.

The tactical mission is to provide high-priority users the ability to operate in an environment with a low probability of detection and interception, allowing users unscheduled access to communications worldwide. AEHF, currently in production, will provide connectivity across the spectrum of mission areas, including land, air and naval warfare. This includes the areas of: special and strategic nuclear operations, strategic and theater missile defense, and space operations and intelligence.

The AEHF System is the follow-on to the Milstar system, augmenting and improving on the capabilities of Milstar, and expanding the MILSATCOM architecture. The system consists of four satellites in geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) that provide 10 times the capacity of the 1990s-era Milstar satellites. AEHF will provide continuous 24-hour coverage between 65░áN and 65░ S.

The AEHF system is composed of three segments: space (the satellites), ground (mission control and associated communications links) and terminals (the users). The segments will provide communications in a specified set of data rates from 75 bits per second (bps) to approximately 8 megabytes per second (Mbps).

The space segment consists of a cross-linked constellation of three satellites. The mission control segment controls satellites on orbit, monitors satellite health and provides communications system planning and monitoring. This segment is highly survivable, with both fixed and mobile control stations. System uplinks and crosslinks will operate in the extremely high frequency (EHF) range and downlinks in the super high frequency (SHF) range.

The terminal segment includes fixed and ground mobile terminals, ship and submarine terminals, and airborne terminals used by all of the Services and international partners (Canada, Netherlands and U.K.). MCSW is responsible for acquisition of the space and ground segments as well as the Air Force terminal segments. The protected product line is supported by the MILSATCOM terminal, Family of Advanced Beyond-Line-of-Sight Terminals (FAB-T) and CCS-C.

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, modified AEHF communications terminals, a Gateway to provide connectivity into the Global Information Grid (GIG) and other communication systems, and an extension of the AEHF Mission Control Segment (MCS) hardware and software to accommodate EPS.

The EPS will be an interoperable part of the Transformational Communications Architecture (TCA), and will include gateways for connectivity into other communication systems and the GIG. EPS characteristics include protected communications services, communications services without continuous system C2, integrated capability allowing different levels of planners to manage their resources, interconnectivity between Enhanced Polar satellites and mid-latitude users via an EPS Gateway located at a GIG PoP (Point of Presence), data rates between 75 bps and 1.28 Mbps (threshold) and an AEHF Extended Data Rate (XDR)-interoperable waveform. EPS will be an essential adjunct to the MILSATCOM mid-latitude systems.

Assistance to Warfighters
Once on orbit, the AEHF satellite system will provide secure, survivable anti-jam, anti-scintillation communications for strategic and tactical users. It will also provide the warfighter continuous 24-hour coverage between 65░ N and 65░ S.

The EPS system will provide communications for military tactical and strategic forces and other users for operations above 65° N. Additionally, EPS provides connectivity to Combatant Commander Command and Control (C2) centers below 65° N.

  • Currently in the last stages of environmental testing. Tests are performed to mitigate the risk of launch and on-orbit failure. These determine flight worthiness and help in detecting potential problems of the satellite by subjecting the flight article to flight-like operating conditions.

  • Core and Payload Module Mated

  • Core in Sunnyvale, California
  • Major bus and payload components being integrated
  • Payload Module delivery estimated in early 2009
  • Currently there are cooperative agreements in place with the United Kingdom, Canada, and The Netherlands

Upcoming Milestones
  • Launch of SV-1 in calendar year 2009

  • The Program Key Decision Point – B (KDP-B) is expected to occur in the spring of 2009

The Network Product Line

The network product line is DoD’s future MILSATCOM System that includes the Transformational Satellite Communications System (TSAT). Once on-orbit, TSAT will provide worldwide, secure, survivable satellite communications to U.S. strategic and tactical forces during all levels of conflict. It will sustain the MILSATCOM architecture by providing connectivity across the spectrum of mission areas, to include land, air and naval warfare; special operations; strategic nuclear operations; strategic defense; homeland security; theater operations; and space operations and intelligence. TSAT will be supported by the FAB-T MILSATCOM terminal and also by CCS-C.

On a global scale, TSAT will provide high assurance, automated and dynamic capabilities. In addition to providing a significant increase in capacity over current satellite systems, specific emphasis is placed on providing new capabilities through the use of technologies such as Internet Protocol (IP), onboard routers and large aperture antennas. These technologies provide the potential for enabling Communications on the Move (COTM) to users with small terminals and allow TSAT to collect information from protected Airborne and Spaceborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (AISR, SISR) assets to enhance situational awareness. TSAT delivers these capabilities in a broad integrated information sharing environment thereby enabling interoperability on an unprecedented scale in military communications.

The TSAT program is composed of three segments (TSAT Mission Operations System – TMOS, space, and terminal segments, and), and a systems engineering and integration function.

TSAT Mission Operations System (TMOS) Segment
TMOS is responsible for network and operational management for the TSAT system, effectively managing TSAT interactions with the GIG. TMOS will incorporate AEHF mission planning capabilities as well. TMOS will provide circuit and packet mission planning, external network coordination, network operations, policy-based network management, cryptographic key management and situational awareness in a secure environment. In addition, the TMOS contractor leads the overall effort to architect and design the TSAT network and its interface with the GIG.

Space Segment
The Space Segment will consist of five satellites in geosynchronous orbits interconnected by high data rate laser crosslinks. The Space Segment is also comprised of the TSAT Satellite Operations Element (TSOE) which includes a primary TSAT satellite operations center (TSOC) for on-orbit satellite control, and the CONUS Ground Gateway Element to receive high rate data transmitted by a TSAT satellite for linking into the GIG.

In January of 2004, the government awarded Risk Reduction and System Definition (RRSD) contracts to both Boeing Space Systems (BSS) and Lockheed Martin (LM). The RRSD phase allowed the program to conduct rigorous risk reduction and system definition activities. An independent team sponsored by SAF/AQR performed a Technology Readiness Assessment (TRA) and concurred that each of these technologies was sufficiently mature to warrant proceeding into the development phase. The TSAT Program is currently pursuing a competitive acquisition strategy for the design, development, and production of the Space Segment. The TSAT proposal evaluation is a thorough, deliberative process that is proceeding in accordance with established regulations and processes. Contract award will be made as soon as this process is complete and the selection of an offeror has been approved.

Terminal Segment
The terminal segment consists of the terminals that will be designed and procured by each of the armed services, based on the requirements allocations from the TSAT program.

Systems Engineering and Integration (SE&I)
The SE&I contract was awarded in October of 2003 to a team led by Booz Allen Hamilton. The contract is for systems definition and assisting the TSAT program office with integration of the Space, TMOS and Terminal Segments, and external programs. The SE&I effort is responsible for integrating Space and TMOS with each other, and with a broad range of external programs including terminal programs, and the other network domains comprising the GIG. There will be a full and open competition for a follow-on SE&I Contract to cover the development and production phase of the program.

In June 2008, the DoD completed a Military Satellite Communication investment strategy study which assessed alternatives to the TSAT program. The Department decided to continue with the on-going source selection.

Upcoming Milestones
TSAT expects to meet KDP-B Defense Space Acquisition Board (DSAB) in fourth quarter of fiscal year 2008. If the TSAT program office receives approval to proceed into the development phase, the program office will award the space segment development and development and production (D&P) contract as soon as the source selection process is complete and selection of an offer approved.

Assistance to the Warfighter
Once on orbit, TSAT will use Internet-style technology to connect warfighters all over the world in a global information network with unprecedented carrying capacity, accessibility, reliability and protection from jamming, eavesdropping and nuclear effects. TSAT is essential to 21st century net-centric warfare and will revolutionize military communications.

CCS-C Program
The CCS-C program supports the majority of MCSW’s product lines, providing satellite control capabilities for DSCS III, Milstar, AEHF, and WGS satellite systems, that are operated at Schriever Air Force Base by the 3rd and 4th Space Operations Squadrons. The CCS-C program management office currently supports on-orbit operations of DSCS III, Milstar, and WGS satellites and will support launch and early orbit operation and on-orbit operations of AEHF. The system’s capabilities include: mission, activity, and maneuver planning; telemetry processing; commanding; orbit management; resource management; space vehicle and ground system simulation; support planning and execution; and interfaces with dedicated ground and payload control systems.

Satellite platform and payload state-of-health operations include launch, early-orbit, on-orbit, anomaly resolution, and disposal operations. The CCS-C system consists of high specification, commercially available computer servers and workstations running commercially available Telemetry Tracking and Commanding software packages on local area network-based client/server architecture. Automation features such as Task Automated Operations (TAO) has dramatically reduced operator workload thereby enabling the operators in 3rd and 4th Space Operations Squadrons to reduce operator crews while ensuring sufficient Tactical Control of America’s most critical communications assets.

CCS-C products are operational at: Air Education and Training Command, 533rd Training Squadron at Vandenberg AFB; 14th Air Force, 50th Space Wing, 3rd and 4th Space Operations Squadrons at Schriever AFB, Colorado. A CCS-C Backup Satellite Operations Center (BSOC-V) at Vandenberg AFB is planned to be operational September 2008.

  • WGS Ops Transition - January 08
Upcoming Milestones
  • BSOC-V located at Vandenberg AFB, CA is schedule for turnover from the CCS-C Program office to the 50th Space Wing in September 2008
  • CCS-C will support handover from Boeing to 3SOPS of WGS Satellite Vehicles 2 and 3 in February and August 2009
  • CCS-C will be the primary command and control system for AEHF Launch and Early Orbit support for three upcoming launches
  • Full Operational Capability (FOC): CCS-C FOC will occur after the first AEHF launch. At this time CCS-C will be operating at least one satellite from each of the MILSATCOM families

Assistance to the Warfighter
CCS-C maintains the satellite platform for DSCS and WGS, so that Army Operators can provide responsive payload communication to the warfighters. CCS-C also resolves major anomalies for the protected satellite communications legacy system Milstar and will provide the same capability to AEHF (once on-orbit) to minimize downtime to the warfighter. The AEHF (protected) system will:
  • provide an order of increased capacity than that of the Milstar satellite system
  • be more flexible and faster than the legacy EHF systems be the joint service
  • satellite communications system that provides survivable, global, secure, protected, and jam-resistant communications

FAB-T Program
As discussed previously, FAB-T supports each of MCSW’s product lines. FAB-T develops architecture to support family of satellite communications terminals for airborne, ground-fixed and ground transportable applications. The FAB–T Program is an evolutionary acquisition program providing a family of Beyond Line-of-sight (BLOS) SATCOM terminals with an open architecture developed in Increment 1.

  • Successful Preliminary Design Review in June 2008
Upcoming Milestones
  • Modem and processor Risk Reduction Prototype (RRP) contract awarded in 2007; prototype delivered to MIT/LL in July 2008

Assistance to the Warfighter
With each increment of FAB-T, capabilities will be increased and will provide the warfighter with greater bandwidth and speed! For example, FAB-T Increment 1 will provide EHF/AEHF communications for strategic and tactical operations. FAB-T Increment 2 will provide Ka/Ku band SATCOM for WGS. FAB-T Increments 3 and 4 will also provide increased communications capabilities for the TSAT satellite.

Editor’s Note
Our thanks to the Space and Missile Command’s press relations department and their command officers for their contributions to this article.