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TSAT - Moving Satellite Technology to New Heights

Los Angeles Air Force Base -- The Air Force, through the efforts of the MILSATCOM Systems Wing (MCSW) at the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and others, is taking the concept of high speed information transfer and internet protocol technologies literally to new heights with the launch of the first satellite of the Transformational Satellite Communications System (TSAT). 

Although launch of the first TSAT spacecraft is several years in the future, the satellite's system definition and risk reduction phase is near completion. The goal is to model program capabilities and produce a system design that meets the warfighter's requirements. 

Once fielded, the five-satellite constellation will provide network-centric, protected (low probability of detection, low probability of interception and jammer suppression) communications to a large number of deployed warfighters. 

From the soldier on the ground to the commanders and planners of wartime operations at an operating headquarters, all will have the increased capabilities and real-time availability of information that provides for better situational awareness. 

When asked about the capabilities of TSAT, Richard Pino, SMC's TSAT Program Director, said "Key attributes of the system include comm-on-the-move capabilities, an interface to the Global Information Grid (GIG), Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), and significantly increased protected communications capacity. Comm-on-the-move is the ability to support mobile platforms such as Army Humvees traveling 40 miles per hour. These vehicles use very small aperture antennas which are approximately the same size as a satellite dish seen on a house and are capable of communicating at a high data rate such as T-1 (1.5 Megabits per second). The interface to the GIG will allow these vehicles to talk to each other and to the satellite for reach-back to headquarters and other locations." 

The GIG Pino mentions will be a network-centric system that will provide management, storage, processing and transmission of information to all DoD components in support of national security and intelligence community missions in a global context. 

"The ISR capability of TSAT provides the ability of our system to communicate with Airborne and Space ISR platforms. This will greatly enhance situational awareness by increasing the flow of critical intelligence. An additional advancement is the significant increase in the amount of protected bandwidth we're providing on this system which represents a 10 to 100-fold increase when compared to systems in the past." 

Essential to the net-centric aspects of the TSAT system and its interoperability is the TSAT Mission Operations System (TMOS). 

TMOS will manage the TSAT network, and also provide mission planning for TSAT and for systems still awaiting launch such as the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) system. 

"TMOS ties together the entire network", said Col. Jay Moody, Commander, TSAT Network Integration Group and Deputy Program Director. "It allows the TSAT system to function efficiently and effectively - that is, among various terminals and peer networks - providing the needed transport network services to their individual users as the service is requested. TMOS is fundamental to the proper and complete functioning of the TSAT system." 

TMOS is similar to a typical ground-based network operations center but includes the added function of satellite network resource management and terrestrial TSAT interface with the Global Information Grid. 

Like other satellite systems being developed and procured today, the TSAT system will be procured using a "block" strategy. Two Block I satellites with limited capability will be produced and deployed followed by three Block II satellites with full capability. 

Lockheed Martin Space, Sunnyvale, CA and Boeing Satellite Systems, El Segundo, CA both were awarded a systems definition and risk reduction contract in 2004 for the TSAT Space Segment. Each contract was valued at $472 million. Lockheed Martin was awarded a $2.1 billion dollar contract for the TMOS development in January 2006. Booz Allen Hamilton was awarded a contract for systems engineering and integration in October 2003. 

A development contract for the TSAT space segment will be awarded during the first quarter fiscal year of 2008. Prior to award, the Defense Space Acquisition Board (DSAB) is planned for late 2007. The DSAB is a meeting where the key milestone decision authority determines if the program has met all of the requirements to move into the next phase of acquisition. DSAB approval is a prerequisite for the space segment contract award.