SpaceNews : Space Force preparing for the age of proliferated low Earth orbit satellite networks

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WASHINGTON — As the Pentagon moves forward with an ambitious plan to deploy hundreds of satellites in low Earth orbit for missile detection, tracking, and data transport, the Space Force has to prepare to integrate this new constellation into its operations, a senior official said July 8. 

This new constellation, known as the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA), represents a paradigm shift in military space operations and is forcing the Space Force to rethink its structure and practices, said Lt. Gen. David Miller, head of the Space Force’s Space Operations Command.

Speaking at a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event. Miller said Space Force units will have to prepare for the age of proliferated low Earth orbit (PLEO) satellite networks. “This will be a change for space operations units,” Miller said “It’s a different mindset.” Proliferated networks are “not up there for 25 years, like we see with some of our legacy satellites.”

The PWSA, being developed by the Space Force’s Space Development Agency (SDA), consists of a Transport Layer and a Tracking Layer. The Transport Layer aims to provide a resilient, low-latency communications relay network, while the Tracking Layer focuses on detecting and tracking advanced missile threats. 

Miller acknowledged the impressive capabilities of this architecture but emphasized the need for new operating concepts. The Space Force is used to operating single-digit numbers of missile-warning and communications satellites. The PWSA requires new models for employing large numbers of satellites, he noted.

Miller said he is meeting with SDA Director Derek Tournear this week and discuss how space forces could support combatant commands with these new PLEO capabilities. 

“We will discuss what those elements will look like that ultimately get provided or presented to combatant commanders,” Miller said.

Frank Calvelli, assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration, highlighted the issue in recent congressional testimony. “We have proven we can build small satellites quickly,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee. “As we start to deliver PWSA operational ground and 126 Tranche 1 Transport Layer satellites this fall, adoption and use of Tranche 1 next year will be key.”

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