Watch this space

Preparing for a potential future conflicts outside the atmosphere

This white golf ball like structure houses one of several radars that scan the skies for foreign military rockets and missiles at Thule Air Base, Greenland. (U.S. Army photo by JoAnne Castagna)

This white, golf ball-like structure houses one of several radars that scan the skies at Thule Air Base, Greenland. (U.S. Army photo by JoAnne Castagna)

A space war is no longer the stuff of science fiction.

“I believe we're gonna be fighting from space in a matter of years,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein during a February speech.

To help protect against adversaries seeking to prevent the U.S. from operating freely in space, Raytheon has developed a prototype system for managing floods of satellite data to accelerate the Future Operationally Resilient Ground Evolution Mission Data Processing Application Framework; FORGE for short.

The FORGE ground system, which the Air Force opened for bids in early 2018, will process satellite data from the U.S. Air Force's Space Based Infrared System, or SBIRS, as well as a host of other civil and environmental sources, to generate warnings, awareness and intelligence information for combatants and civilian first responders.

“The most critical application will be one that provides missile warning notifications, alerting the Pentagon and National Command Authority and letting them know something has been launched,” said Dave Sutton, Global Intelligence Solutions manager at Raytheon.

Raytheon’s prototype FORGE framework offers significant improvements over the system that’s currently in place, he said.

“Our solution is scalable, flexible, efficient and extensible,” he said. “Plus, it will offer the Air Force a system architecture that is very open and non-proprietary at a low cost.”

Raytheon’s FORGE technology has been tested with SBIRS data, weather satellite data from the company's satellite-based Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite and ground radar data.

According to Sutton, Raytheon’s FORGE framework proved to be so cyber-resilient during the Air Force’s initial testing in May 2018 that the service requested the company to further develop the prototype’s capabilities.

“We’re going to be putting up a lot more sensors up in space, and we’re prepared for that,” said Karen Casey, a Raytheon engineering fellow. “We’re building FORGE to scale in this bigger world, whether it’s big satellites, small satellites, new satellites, commercial satellites.”

The nearest comparison would be to the GPS location system that's so widely used. The Global Positioning System started out as a military system; however, it’s now a critical service to the entire world.

“FORGE could give the commercial sector access to data to they’ve never had before,” Casey said. “For missile warning information, we’ll have a platform available for every security level. But we’ll also have apps for fire detection, early warnings of volcanic activity, agricultural changes and electric power consumption, to name a few. Unlocking that data for these commercial uses is a big deal.”

Published On: 04/10/2018
Last Updated: 08/10/2018