Accelerating the ‘‘Data Management to Decision Chain’’ in Military Space Operations

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INTRODUCTION

Modernizing U.S. military space operations is a critical national endeavor that requires a comprehensive and integrated approach to meet the challenges of an increasingly congested and contested space environment. This article delves into the complexities of this modernization effort, focusing on the ‘‘data management to decision chain’’ – the gathering, integrating, analyzing, and visualizing of vast quantities of disparate data to enable the best decision-making for the warfighter.

Modernizing our national management of space and space systems has become urgent in recent years. It’s crowded up there, with an ever-greater number of assets, junk and debris, and with more nations, including our adversaries and private entities launching satellites. The multitude of space assets produce steady and expanding amounts of data. This surge in space activity necessitates a comprehensive and integrated approach to space data and decision management that can efficiently and effectively integrate and coordinate the multitude of information streams from assets in space and on the ground and serve them up to decision-makers in a timely, accurate fashion to significantly reduce mission risk.

It is a delicate balancing act. On one hand, there’s a need to streamline operations to improve effectiveness, efficiency and speed while reducing costs. This involves integrating old and new systems, a task fraught with technical and operational challenges, as well as compressing decision cycles currently bottlenecked through multiple government agencies, branches of the military, and/or commercial support contractors. On the other hand, there is an urgent need to enhance space capabilities to meet the growing demands of national defense. This requires the development of new technologies and strategies to maximize the potential of our space assets, now and into the future.

The goal is to provide a unified, automated, real-time view of data from and about space assets, enabling rapid decision-making and efficient management of space operations.  Execution is not without its challenges, however as an entire spectrum of facilities, hardware, software, and data integration issues must be addressed.

One of the primary challenges is the sheer volume of data-producing objects in space, as well as the volume of data they produce. Keeping track of U.S. and other satellites and assets, as well as space debris requires sophisticated tracking and management systems, each producing their own outputs, coupled with vast quantities of space-based platforms producing a vast and growing volume of data that needs to be ingested and understood, often in combination.

Another challenge lies in the traditional coordination processes between different agencies and branches of the military where shared responsibility, interest, or data origins may exist. The goal is to enable faster, better-informed decisions, but with so many disparate data sources and types, lack of shared real-time information, and long decision chains, the current system falls short.

In space operations, the technical challenges are multi-faceted and solutions demand a high level of sophistication. Automating data gathering and integration is one such challenge, where the goal is to collect and consolidate data from a wide variety of sources seamlessly.

Examples of data can range from satellite telemetry to sensor data, photos, audio and video, environmental monitoring, and threat intelligence. The integration process must be capable of handling different data formats, transmission protocols, and update frequencies. This complexity is compounded by the need for data to be reliable and timely, as outdated or incorrect data could lead to flawed decision-making with potentially dire consequences.

Normalization and standardization of data are equally critical components in the chain of technical challenges. Once data is integrated, it must be normalized, adjusting values measured on different scales to a common scale to enable meaningful comparisons and analyses. Standardization goes a step further by applying rigorous standards to ensure data from different sources is consistent and interoperable. This often involves developing complex algorithms and using advanced software tools. In critical situations where decisions need to be made in a split second, normalization and standardization processes must be executed with great precision and speed, leaving no room for error.

The final piece of the puzzle is real-time analysis and visualization, which are essential for dynamic space operations, where situational awareness can be the difference between mission success and failure. It requires powerful computing resources and sophisticated software capable of sifting through the noise to identify patterns, trends, and anomalies. Visualization tools must then intuitively present the analysis, enabling operators to comprehend complex situations and make informed decisions quickly. The development of such systems is a significant technical challenge, as it involves not only the handling of numerous large data streams but also ensuring that the systems are resilient and secure against potential cyber threats.

Once critical integration, analytics and visualization capabilties are in place, they can easily link to existing modeling, simulation, and wargaming environments for the detailed assessments, replay, and what-if scenario testing used in strategic planning, joint operations, training and educational development, and risk mitigation strategy.  A few potential application examples include troubleshooting and validation of multi-spectral imaging and data science, extracting insights from mission data for future planning and applications, physics-based space sensor modeling, and algorithm development and validation for reverse engineering, research synthesis, machine learning – as well as data verification and validation. These kinds of simulations have a rich and detailed history of their own across nearly every important national aerospace program going back to the 1950’s. Today’s modeling environments take all the principals we’ve learned and make them accessible for our data-intensive future.

FTI: Proven Data-Centric Capabilities for Accelerating Military Space Innovation

FTI delivers powerful, agile space-focused data solutions quickly and cost-effectively, while significantly lowering overall mission risk.

With a rich history of innovation spanning decades, FTI has provided unique operational technology, deep mission expertise and valuable data-centric support to the U.S. Military Space Community across critical technical areas such as Data Integration, Analytics, Modeling, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), data science, image science and sensor modeling, algorithm development and defensive cyber security.

Our diverse team of experts include numerous military and technology veterans drawn from fields spanning astronomy, physics and astrophysics, as well as data science, analytics and algorithm development, image science, predictive analytics, ISR, cyber security, software development and software engineering. They share a commitment to continuous innovation to remain at the forefront of advanced, data-centric space and intelligence capabilities.

FTI SOLUTIONS: Fast to implement, cost-effective, powerful yet easy to use, compatible with current technology environments, customers own their data.

FTI’s integration, analytics, visualization and modeling solutions are rapidly deployable, and often begin delivering value within weeks or months vs. years, enhancing mission planning, operational efficiency, and strategic decision-making in space operations. At a fraction of the cost of alternatives.

FTI technology isn’t disruptive to current customer environments, and works with virtually all systems, applications, and data types, including those specific to space command and control, communication networks, and satellite operations.

FTI solutions are powerful, yet they can serve a wide range of users, from those with basic skills to highly technical professionals.

Importantly, FTI customers continue to own their own data.

THE FTI ORBIT CENTER

Fostering Integration and Collaboration to Accelerate Innovation in Space Capabilities

In October 2023, FTI announced the expansion of our facilities in Colorado Springs with the FTI ORBIT Center (Operational Research Bridge for Innovation and Technology.) The new, 46,000 square foot secure facility will serve as Center of Excellence, and presents an unparalleled opportunity for government, industry, and academia to collaborate, drive innovation and advance mission capabilities critical to maintaining our country’s global leadership in space.

The FTI ORBIT Center’s primary focus is to support key strategic imperatives identified by U.S. Space Force leadership and the broader space community, aligned with their vision for accelerated progress in six core areas:

Development of Greater Space Domain Awareness

To provide sophisticated space situational awareness, event prediction and object tracking.

Collaboration, Innovation and Integration

To facilitate joint military operations, fostering collaboration, understanding of capabilities and limitations, relationship building, and the development of joint operational concepts within the space domain.

Strategic Planning

Simulation, and exploration of scenarios related to offensive and defensive capabilities.

Training and Education

FTI’s platform will support training and education for space operators and decision-makers to enhance knowledge, skills, and judgment related to space operations.

Capability Assessment

To allow partners to assess their space capabilities, identify strengths, weaknesses, and gaps, and evaluate the readiness, interoperability, and effectiveness of space assets, systems and personnel. Supports investment decisions and resource allocation to enhance space domain operations.

Risk Analysis and Mitigation

Through simulated threat scenarios and risk assessments, partners will gain a better understanding of potential consequences and vulnerabilities in the space domain to guide development of effective mitigation strategies, improve resilience, and enhance the protection of space-based assets.

The FTI ORBIT Center will begin operations in December 2024.

CONCLUSION

The modernization of the ‘‘data management to decision chain’’ in U.S. military space operations is a complex but achievable endeavor, and FTI looks forward to continuing to play our part. With the right teams in place, the data challenges faced by our military space teams can be effectively addressed, paving the way for a more efficient and capable space operations infrastructure. The desired outcome for the owners of modernization efforts is a unified, real-time view of space assets to enable rapid decision-making and efficient management of space operations. For the U.S., the desired outcome is a robust and resilient space infrastructure to meet the growing demands of military space operations, while maintaining a strategic advantage in an increasingly competitive environment.

©Frontier Technology Inc. 2024

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