2015 Program Excellence Award
Phase I Submission
Name of Program: Milstar: 20 Years On Orbit
Name of Program Leader: Peggy Paul, Program Manager
Orbital Operations for the Protected Satcom Payloads
Phone Number: (310) 332-5350
Postage Address: 101 Continental Blvd.
Name of Customer Representative: John Tarby
Phone Number: (408) 742-1677
Category in which you are competing (choose one of the following):
Margaret A. Paul is Program Manager of the Protected Satcom Payloads Orbital Operations within Communication Programs for the Space Systems business area of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, a premier provider of manned and unmanned aircraft, space systems and advanced technologies critical to our nation’s security.
The Protected Satcom Orbital Operations Program was formed in 2009 with the charter of operating, maintaining and expanding the nation's critical orbital Milsatcom network, combining the national asset talents and facilities of the legacy Milstar program with the Advanced EHF payloads preparing for launch. For more than 20 years, the Milstar payloads have provided the warfighter and the National Command Authority with essential protected communications. The 5-satellite Milstar network provides priority military users with secure, global, jam-resistant communications at rates up to 1.54 Mbps. In 2010, the switchboard-in-the-sky was significantly enhanced with the on-orbit operational deployment of the first Advanced EHF satellite with data rates up to 8.192 Mbps. Integration of this next generation Milsatcom capability, while minimizing disruption to the operational constellation, was the first challenge for the new program. As of early 2014, all 3 of the AEHF payloads were successfully integrated into the constellation.
Paul previously supported Milstar from 1985 to 1994 and from 1998 to 2003, starting as a Responsible System Engineer developing Flight 1 and concluding as the Program Manager responsible for delivery, activation and incorporation of Flights 5 and 6 into the Milstar network.
Prior to her current assignment, Paul was the program manager of the Defense Support Program (DSP). Program activities included the delivery and very successful launches of the final two DSP satellites, Flights 22 and 23, as well as the on-orbit support of the entire constellation of DSP satellites. The DSP satellites have been the space borne segment of NORAD’s Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment system since 1970. DSP constellation performance has been extraordinarily good with more than 200 satellite years delivered beyond contractual obligations.
Paul earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Albright College and a master’s degree in math from the University of North Carolina. She also earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California.
io for program leader:
Phase I Program Narrative - 1
Overview: 21 Years On Orbit and Counting
Northrop Grumman, as the Protected Satcom payload provider to Lockheed Martin, built and integrated the Protected Satcom payloads (Milstar and Advanced EHF) that provide worldwide, assured communications, protected against enemy jamming, spoofing, detection, and interception. Requirements dictate a unique payload design delivering the flexible connectivity-on-demand needed to achieve swift, decisive outcomes based on information dominance.
Since the first Milstar launch in 1994, the unique Protected Satcom payloads have been the most advanced and complex communication payloads in the world, providing U.S. national and defense leaders a new capability of assured communications day or night, without detection or interception under any level of military conflict. Northrop Grumman, as the payload provider to Lockheed Martin, designed and built the Milstar low data rate (LDR) payload for that satellite that has now achieved an unprecedented 21 years of successful on-orbit operations, or double its design life. The LDR payload is the operational heart of the first two Milstar satellites, referred to as Milstar I, and features autonomous processing, routing and control hardware and software that perform the satellites’ communications function. The Milstar payloads also house all critical features needed to protect against interception or jamming threats.
An evolution in capabilities enhancement began when the Milstar program expanded communications from the strategic focus of Milstar I to the tactical realm with the advance to medium data rates (MDR) in Block II. The Milstar II satellites benefited from a Northrop Grumman-developed digital processing subsystem that delivers data 640 times faster than Milstar I payloads, while capitalizing on dramatic advances in microelectronics and manufacturing processes to lower payload costs, weight, and part counts. The third and latest generation of Protected Satcom payloads, Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF), leveraged three decades of unique engineering skills for the Milstar payload developments and two decades of operational experience into developing and deploying the AEHF payloads, each of which provides 10 times the warfighter capacity of a Milstar II payload at half the size and weight.
Today, five Milstar satellites and three AEHF satellites are delivering an unprecedented level of protection that gives our military forces an advantage on-orbit that no other nation possesses. The eight on-orbit satellites are cross-linked into a constellation the U.S. Air Force aptly describes as a “ring of protection” around the Earth for secure and assured communications for military users operating in a broad set of mission areas. The satellite crosslinks enable flexible global communications without the need for vulnerable fixed-site ground gateways or stations.
The evolutionary approach to Protected Satcom payloads, where network designs are fully backward compatible, enables a fully integrated constellation that services the warfighter worldwide. The result is a system well adapted to fast-moving tactical military users. Each operational payload acts as an on-board processed switchboard in the sky for secure, protected communications worldwide. EHF frequencies, onboard digital processing, and highly directional antennas reduce the probability of jamming and intercept.
Milstar Flight 1 set the tone for performance. In that first payload’s lifetime alone, it has provided more than 175,000 hours of service with more than 99 percent availability. All five of the Milstar satellites have surpassed their design life goals of 10 years each. The constellation has delivered an accumulated total of 30 years over design life or the equivalent of 3 added satellites without the cost of building and launching additional satellites. The expectation is for the constellation of payloads to continue providing the ring of protection to U.S. and Allied Forces long into the future.
Sustainment: Discriminating, Evolving Technologies Continue to Deliver
The Northrop Grumman-built payloads made the Protected Satcom constellation the most protected, secure and most advanced satellite communication system ever deployed, as well as the most technologically adaptable satellite system for the needs of its users. This system enables members of all the armed services to communicate with each other on the same network. Multiple user terminal types deployed worldwide on airplanes, ships, submarines ground vehicles and soldier packs communicate through the payload, as does a satellite command and control system with both fixed and mobile elements. On board processing provides the most reliable digital communications, crosslinks and “switchboard-in-the-sky” for global connectivity. As the communications functions are configurable in digital and software-based processors, the national command has been able to efficiently configure the communications resources according to the needs of a constantly changing battlefield. In addition, during these 21 years, new versions of the processor software have been updated to deliver enhanced capabilities without the need to design and build new satellites.
The unique nature of the Protected Satcom payloads extends into servicing the on-orbit operations where system engineering and software experts with comprehensive knowledge of this complex system provide support to the operational users, leveraging the critical, highly specialized skills and knowledge formed from the development, production and ground test of the payloads to the operational deployment, hardware/software trending, and system configurability. A unique aspect of the sustainment mission for the Protected Satcom constellation is enabled by the onboard software-based payloads that enable tremendous capability via uploadable software updates.
The payload operational support team that enables astounding levels of communication availability as well as flexibility for emerging threats is part of a cross-company, vertically integrated system engineering and operations team with decades of operational experience. Northrop Grumman’s operations efforts reflect a focus on delivering mission success within severe fiscal constraints. Northrop Grumman successfully organized and managed the national assets of people, processes, products, and facilities to provide the necessary support for the Protected Satcom military user community with a minimum of resources, including a small team of payload experts on-site, working side-by-side with Lockheed Martin personnel and military operators. The on-site team draws upon the team of payload experts at the factory who carry the extensive factory knowledge base and have access to the flight-equivalent payload hardware running actual payload software. The factory system engineering team proactively monitors, trends and diagnoses operational payload hardware and software, and in the event of anomaly, applies a disciplined problem resolution approach which takes full advantage of the human knowledge base and factory payload testbeds to minimize problem identification and resolution time and maximize availability of worldwide communication links.
The Protected Satcom Orbital Operations team possesses unique facilities designed for risk reduction in every stage and segment of the program from design through operations. Engineering model flight hardware provides a platform for on-orbit system simulation and checkout of payload and ground software prior to introduction into the operational system, greatly reducing risk to the operational constellation and its critical communication mission. Every terminal type that has been granted access to the operational network has first validated its hardware and software through the Milstar-AEHF payload Hardware/Software testbed.
hase I Program Narrative – 2
Value Chain: Team Approach to Success
The Protected Satcom value chain leveraged a team approach across prime contractor Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and government acquisition and user communities with program responsibilities optimized to take advantage of each company’s area of expertise. From early in the development of the system, payload technical experts were integrated with the user community, building requirements and verification plans that facilitated early compatibility checkout with operational terminals.
The Milstar and AEHF operations effort was synergistically constructed by sharing the talents of the most knowledgeable personnel with direct experience in the development and ground test of the payloads with the ongoing payload production effort. That operations team has successfully operated, maintained, and enhanced a unique payload-software-based network constellation for over 20 years. Taking advantage of the combined team and mature processes, the level of Northrop Grumman resources required to deliver operations support has been optimized. Support from hardware experts is available to address operational anomalies on an on-call basis. By servicing operations in parallel with developing and producing the subsequent generations of payloads, cross-contract and cross-program phase synergies have yielded great cost, schedule and lessons learned improvements across the two decades of operations.
High fidelity test beds realized cost, schedule, and risk reduction benefits throughout the life cycle of the program. The engineering model (EM) units representative of the flight design were first used to validate robustness of the hardware design in meeting the rigorous space environment. These same units were later integrated into a fully functional EM payload subsystem connected with flight-like harnessing, cabling and waveguide. With the form, fit, and function payload EM, design verification of the payload requirements were conducted. This asset was additionally used in concert with Army, Navy, and Air Force terminals for early interface verification, greatly reducing the overall verification/program cost and pressure on the critical path to satellite deployment. The Milstar and AEHF payload EM testbeds are now key lynchpins for the operations phase, providing a testbed for on orbit troubleshooting and most importantly for software development tests.
Each Milstar satellite flies approximately 250K software lines of payload code. Each AEHF payload flies 4 times that amount. The capability to deliver new software to the payloads has proven to be an immense value to the warfighting user. That is only possible because of the availability of the ground-based payloads with the exact processors as fly on-orbit.
In addition, these facilities have evolved to be electronically connected so as to model constellations of multiple Milstar and AEHF payloads, providing a realistic testbed to model the unique satellite-to-satellite crosslink functionality that makes the Protected Satcom network a truly globally integrated system.
hase I Program Narrative - 3
Affordability: Delivering in an Increasingly Complex Environment
From the first activation of an on-orbit Protected Satcom payload, Milstar Flight 1 in 1994, through the most recent, AEHF SV-3 in 2014, the system has advanced with each addition in communication throughput, protection, jam resistance, and interconnectivity to the worldwide warfighting users. With each insertion, the team faced immense challenges in adding new capability with minimal interruption to the existing users. The five-satellite Milstar constellation consists of 23 active payload programmable processors running over 1.07M source lines of code (SLOC) in JOVIAL. The three AEHF payloads added 51 payload programmable processors and another 3M SLOCs of C and C++ code. Processors on each of the satellites are virtually connected to all of the others in the constellation through satellite-to-satellite crosslinks. In parallel, the system recently integrated a major new ground command system, 12 new terminal types, completely modernizing the legacy system.
Integration success in all cases was enabled by multi-organizational and methodical multi-layered system integration risk reduction plans that validated all interfaces and interoperability prior to deployment. National-asset processes, products, and team making use of risk planning, training, and tools provided high confidence of success in delivering world-wide coverage.
The EM payloads proved to be a key enabler in the early validation of external interfaces, a critical success factor, checking new software and hardware and their interfaces prior to adding them to the constellation as well as verifying the compatibility of all user terminal types from the Air Force, Navy, and Army.
The operations sustainment team’s mission goes well beyond those 8 activation events over the last 21 years. Operating a network that must be accessible 24/7 wherever in the world our military is deployed requires knowledge, skills and facilities applied to proactive processes in diagnostics and risk reduction. Providing that level of service within the severe affordability challenges of government sustainment budgets adds another dimension of complexity.
Affordability is a specific focus across all NGAS Communication Programs at all program phases. An organizational construct with people and facilities performing concurrently on multiple programs, operating at different stages of the program life cycle has allowed for efficient utilization of personnel so that no one program has to staff individual dedicated teams. Specifically, the operations contracts that support Milstar and AEHF share an elite team of individuals with unique skills and experience with payload technologies. The operations contracts provide high priority/planned software updates to the Milstar/AEHF constellation and the operations personnel, while doing critical work, are available as a “hot backup” for existing AEHF payload production contracts in the event of an anomaly. This approach provides talent to both operations and payload contracts in a very efficient manner. Currently, over two thirds of the ops staff supports 3 or more Milstar and AEHF payload contracts.
The efficient model of operations support extends beyond company boundaries as the payload factory experts work side-by-side with spacecraft factory experts and include a small team of contractor personnel who work shoulder-to-shoulder with the government system operators on-site at Schriever Air Force Base. Communicating via secure audio, video and data server interfaces allows efficient operations, allowing system engineers at the factory to proactively monitor system behavior and diagnose potential issues before a user perceives an issue. Feeding the information about on-orbit behavior of our hardware and software into the design and development of next generation systems has provided great benefit to employees, the company and our customers….and is largely responsible for astounding availability in the 90 cumulative years that protected Satcom payloads have been servicing the country.
hase I Program Narrative - 4