Space Commerce

ATK Demonstrates Network-Centric USAF Weather Satellite Follow-On Architecture

By Keith Cowing
December 12, 2013
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ATK Demonstrates Network-Centric USAF Weather Satellite Follow-On Architecture

ATK announced today that it successfully completed the last major technical milestone in its contract from the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center Defense Weather Systems Directorate.
ATK’s year-long study of network-centric small satellites as an element of future weather satellite systems culminated on Nov. 14, 2013 in a comprehensive end-to-end, ground-based demonstration of an architecture that could eventually be implemented in a next-generation operational system. The end result would leverage existing commercial satellite infrastructure to reduce operational costs and shorten delays in transmitting data used for military, scientific or disaster recovery exercises.

The demonstration, led by prime contractor ATK and subcontractors Hughes Network Systems, LLC and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, utilized technological resources from California to Maryland. The demo displayed final data products on a hand-held device and validated the impact of a more nimble configuration of networked systems that can meet the needs of new missions.

“ATK is excited to lead this very capable team in demonstrating the key concepts that need to be mastered to realize future affordable and resilient space system architectures,” said Maj. Gen. Jim Armor USAF (Ret.) and vice president, Strategy and Business Development at ATK Space Systems division. “We enthusiastically endorse the vision of the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in their quest to gain performance and reduce cost through disaggregation. This is truly a hallmark of delivering affordable innovation, which is our goal in all we do at ATK.”

The concept of using small, affordable, disaggregated satellites to replace the current generation of complex and costly multi-sensor weather satellites is being embraced by both the Department of Defense and the Government Accountability Office. To establish the utility of such architectures, ATK studied the capability of its A200 small satellite bus used in ORS-1 and TacSat-3 missions for the Department of Defense to accommodate a wide variety of weather sensors as a part of the study.

Another key objective of the study, as shown in the demonstration, characterized the advantages of transferring data from a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite to a Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) communications satellite for direct insertion into a commercial data network and cloud-based information environment, in accordance with the Department of Defense’s Information Assurance guidelines. Such an approach will provide for the rapid delivery of data to mobile end users while simultaneously reducing the workload on the Air Force Satellite Control Network.

ATK is an aerospace, defense and commercial products company with operations in 22 states, Puerto Rico and internationally. News and information can be found on the Internet at, on Facebook at or on Twitter @ATK.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.