DARPA seeks to develop command and control center for outer space

Artists impression of a next-generation orbital asset control system(Credit: DARPA)

The area in the outer reaches of the Earth's atmosphere is a swarm of manmade objects, moving at tens of thousands of miles per hour and traversing a region hundreds of thousands of times larger than all of Earth's oceans combined. This complicates the operation of satellites for military use. DARPA has just announced its plans to come to grips with this chaotic region with the launch of a project aimed at revolutionizing the US military's command and control capabilities in space.

The first stage of the project, known as the Hallmark Software Testbed (Hallmark-ST) aims to design cutting-edge software architecture capable of supporting tools and data from a diverse range of sources.

A crowded space

The low-Earth orbit (LEO) environment that plays host to the majority of commercial and military satellites has altered dramatically since the advent of manned spaceflight. The increasing demand for commercial satellites paired with the availability of advanced launch systems has led to the LEO becoming increasingly crowded.

Present-day technology used by the US military in the planning and control of their satellites is rapidly aging, and lacks the sophistication required by contemporary commanders to plan and execute the increasingly vital orbital component to terrestrial operations.

The next generation

According to DARPA, Hallmark-ST will be used to create and test a new generation of technologies that will be responsible for the command and control of orbital assets. The testbed will have a high degree of flexibility, will be scalable to different missions, and will boast simulation capabilities to model future systems.

"We envision a system that would fuse information from diverse sources and vastly reduce the overall time required to make and execute decisions and observe results," states Brad Tousley, director of DARPA's Tactical Technology Office. "For example, an intuitive user interface incorporating 3D visualization technology would present complex information in novel ways and provide commanders with unprecedented awareness and comprehension."

Developments made under the Hallmark-ST program will serve as the core of DARPA's planned Hallmark Space Evaluation and Analysis Capability (SEAC) testbed. SEAC will be responsible for further maturing the technology, leading to a level of situational awareness that will grant US forces a tactical edge on the battlefield — from space.

Source: DARPA

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