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Resilient Satellite Communications (SATCOM)

Under the Army Resilient Global On-the-Move SATCOM program, we supported the Space and Strategic Systems Directorate of the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Strategic Forces Command, exploring the utility of small satellites in carrying out multiple Army missions. APL provided system analysis and design expertise to develop high-level requirements for a production-ready small-satellite system that can undergo developmental testing and evaluation.

Space-Based Kill Assessment (SKA)

APL developed and tested the sensors for the Missile Defense Agency’s SKA experiment—a network of small sensors, to be hosted on commercial satellites, that will be able to detect when an interceptor impacts a ballistic missile threat. SKA combines low-cost sensor capability with an opportunity for hosting sensors on commercial space platforms. With all flight hardware fabricated, tested, and delivered to the host for integration, the SKA system is expected to be on orbit in 2018—and to become a critical element in the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System.

Space Weather Sensors

Knowing the distribution and direction of energetic charged particles along a spacecraft’s trajectory is key to situational and satellite-health awareness; yet many missions resist flying particle sensors because the instruments can be heavy and expensive. We are developing a small, highly capable charged-particle sensor to deliver data that can help Air Force operators assess whether space weather conditions play a role in spacecraft anomalies. Building on APL’s heritage of developing particle instruments for NASA missions, we produced a concept for a sensor that meets or exceeds Air Force requirements.

Space Security and Defense

APL provides expertise to the Space Security and Defense program, a joint Department of Defense/Office of the Director of National Intelligence organization focused on creating a more resilient and enduring national security space capability. The program’s projects and activities center on identifying solutions to current space-protection needs with a practical approach to balancing near-term results with long-term acquisition, architecture, and strategic objectives.

CubeSat Signal Preprocessor Assessment and Test (CAT)

Set to deploy from the International Space Station in 2018, the APL-led CAT will demonstrate the performance of innovative signal-processing technology in a 3U (or triple) CubeSat. Capitalizing on our successful small-satellite Multimission Bus Demonstration, we conducted preliminary system engineering activities and subsystem analysis, and developed requirements for this upcoming test. We are also developing two CAT flight systems—one that integrates government payloads and another with commercially procured spacecraft platforms—and will lead mission operations.