A Training and Tactical ORS Operations (TATOO) Laboratory is being developed by Star Technologies Corp. under the direction of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Human Effectiveness Division. Hardware and software is being created to give voice to the warfighter’s interaction with Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) satellites. The goal of the TATOO lab is to provide an environment for the development of procedures and protocol for tasking tactical satellites, as well as an environment for training the warfighter.

The satellites are emulated with Spacecraft Design Tool (SDT), a high-fidelity spacecraft simulation tool based on Microsoft’s .NET framework.
ORS systems aim to provide operational space capabilities, flexibility, and responsiveness to the war theater that do not exist today. ORS communication, navigation, and ISR (Intelligence, Sur veil lance, and Recon nais - sance) satellites are designed to replace or supplement existing systems in order to enhance the current space force. They intend to rapidly meet near-term space needs of the tactical forces. The ORS concept includes new tactical satellites specifically designed to support contingency operations such as increased communication bandwidth and ISR imagery over the theater for a limited period to support air, ground, and naval force missions. The full potential of ORS is to support intheater tactical forces to develop satellite tasking, data retrieval, and interface capabilities for mission operations from a warfighter-centered perspective, and to develop realistic training and simulation that allows development, demonstration, and assessment of ORS tactical CONOPS (Concept of Operations).

The TATOO Lab is a computer-based simulation environment being built at Star Technologies’ Great Falls, VA facility. Training is usually an afterthought, and the TATOO Lab attempts to put focus on the warfighter, the warfighter’s needs, and the training materials for the warfighter before ORS becomes a reality.

The TATOO Lab will allow users to exercise training scenarios to demonstrate how ORS satellites can quickly assist in mission needs. Users of the lab will use software to task space assets and to monitor satellite health and status. Delays that emulate communication transmissions will be modeled to illustrate bottlenecks. The effect of changes in the ORS CONOPS can be demonstrated in the lab, and operational enhancements that are discovered in the lab can, in turn, be used to refine and redefine the ORS CONOPS.

The TATOO Lab includes the software necessary to emulate aspects of proposed ORS operations, from the warfighter applications to satellites. The lab is designed to train both the warfighter and spacecraft operator, fostering an environment where a standard operational approach can be developed to benefit both the warfighter and operator.

Users and Components

The TATOO Lab will accommodate several groups of users. The warfighter and theater commander represent the theater node. Software at this node includes ESRI’s ArcView programs, FalconView, and the Satellite Tasking Manager plug-in. In the case of TATOO, the warfighter is a member of Special Operations Forces, and it is envisioned that they would undergo certification before gaining access to the tools to task directly. Special Ops would need situational awareness capabilities in remote locations where traditional communications methods might not exist.

The satellite emulation node contains the ORS satellite(s) as modeled by Spacecraft Design Tool (SDT) software. For different training exercises, the satellites can operate at real time or significantly faster.

An overview of direct tasking as envisioned in the TATOO Lab.
Satellite Systems Operators (SSO) are the users at the VMOC node. The number of ORS satellites can be dynamically changed to allow experimentation with constellation size and the resulting effects on the timeliness on meeting battlefield requests. Ana lyt ical Graphics’ Satellite Tool Kit (STK) with coverage module is used for the SSOs to experiment with different orbits to prepare for the launch of a new ORS satellite. New or - bital information can be published to SDT from STK.

The Reachback node contains the Image Product Library (IPL), the repository of images saved from ORS satellite collections. Person nel at this node include imagery analysts whose expertise can be called upon by the theater or VMOC nodes. Analysts can annotate imagery and publish it to the IPL so that the theater can access it. Each node can broadcast its video output to any combination of eight 45" high-definition LCD TVs. Prewired ports for video and network access and wireless allow for future expansion.

The satellites are emulated with Spacecraft Design Tool (SDT), a highfidelity spacecraft 6-degrees-of-freedom simulation tool developed by Star Technologies. SDT is based on Microsoft’s .NET framework, thereby providing plug-and-play components. The modeled satellites are addressable individually via a TCP/IP port. Each contains an Activity Manager, a mechanism to reconcile warfighter requests with battery charging and other autonomous state-of-health activities. An onboard targeting component is responsible for organizing the requests and developing a slewing approach.

Satellite/Warfighter Communication

Two ways are being researched for warfighters to directly communicate with ORS satellites: by RF and SIPRNet. The first approach is with the PRC-117 military radio. In this case, a warfighter can send tasking requests directly to the satellite and receive products directly via a 9600-bps downlink stream. The RF downlink speed limits the type of products available to the warfighter, but text-based, lightweight information is feasible. Image processing algorithms envisioned for AFRL’s Plug-and-Play satellite effort can generate these messages that can be interpreted by the warfighter’s software. Larger data can be broken up and received from different ORS satellites at different times. Expected data transmission times, errors, and retries are emulated via components built into SDT.

The SIPRNet approach assumes that a satellite is a node on the SIPRNet addressable with TCP/IP and that the warfighter has SIPRNet access. Satellite products can be returned to him or her almost instantly after a collection occurs, and the high downlink speed increases the scope of products available. This approach is possibly not feasible with today’s technology, but should be considered for the future.

To support the concept of direct tasking by in-theater warfighters, there is a need for an ORS Service. The ORS Service would run in a distributed fashion onboard each satellite in the ORS constellation, maintaining information about each satellite and determining which satellite is best suited to fulfill a tasking request. The ORS Service would maintain information such as position, attitude, slew rates, expected housekeeping times, as well as availability. This information would be sent to the ground terminal — the Satellite Tasking Manager — effectively sending almanac data. Tasking can be accomplished by using the ORS Service as a “broker”; tasking can be sent in advance to any satellite in the constellation, and the ORS Service would determine which satellite would be tasked.

Satellite Tasking Manager (STM) software enables the warfighter to task a satellite by using a point-and-click interface. Working with the ORS Service, STM displays a projected ground trace of each ORS satellite over a location with their expected pass time, current tasking load, and capabilities. This data is updated on an as-needed basis when STM connects with the ORS Service, and kept fresh using a propagator. Using this information, the warfighter can point and click to task a specific satellite. STM allows a user to select an area of interest on a map, resulting in a coordinate set corresponding to an area. Additional constraints such as date, time of day, look angle, and cloud cover can also be entered.

Those satellites that cannot meet the warfighter’s constraints are identified. When multiple warfighters send tasking requests to a set of ORS satellites, conflicts due to overlapping tasking requests will inevitably occur. Through STM, a warfighter has the capability to change constraints and delete tasking requests. If warfighters themselves cannot resolve their conflicting requests, the request can be published to a commander, who can view the requests and approve one or the other. Additionally, a commander can authorize a warfighter to have complete control for a given time period.

Training Exercises

To illustrate how the components of the TATOO Lab work together, training exercises are being created. A typical exercise shows how ORS ideas can streamline and optimize the process of requesting satellite products, with the end goal of getting information to the warfighter quicker. Exercises are stored in a Web-based courseware program and are accessible in the TATOO Lab. Each exercise is broken down into a series of screens and organized by role. They are played on one of the screens in the TATOO Lab like a slideshow, and display the actions that are needed at any point in time.

One example is “Bomb Damage As - sess ment.” In this exercise, a warfighter requests information to ensure that a facility and access to the facility have been damaged beyond easy repair. It is assumed that the warfighter already has existing maps and imagery of the area. Accessing the STM, the warfighter gets access to drawing tools and can select the area of interest, constraints, and also what types of objects should be identified by the onboard image processing algorithms. An example would be to highlight any bridges that are no longer usable. As a result of a previous synching with the ORS Service and STM’s built-in propagator, STM displays a current position of each satellite in the ORS Constellation. The task is turned into a message that can be transmitted directly to the satellite using a military radio. The satellite sends text-based messages directly to the warfighter that are interpreted by STM. The messages create symbols and are drawn on the warfighter’s existing maps.

The TATOO Laboratory provides a flexible environment for the development of unique warfighter CONOPS. TATOO can rapidly prototype multiple satellites and their respective constellation using SDT to simulate a variety of ORS tactical satellite scenarios. TATOO provides the training and simulation capability necessary to certify the warfighter in direct tasking of tactical satellites.

This article was written by Robert Strunce, President, and Thomas Mann, Project Manager, at Star Technologies in Great Falls, VA; and Dr. Barbara Sorensen of the AFRL Human Effectiveness Division in Mesa, AZ. For more information, Click Here 


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This article first appeared in the October, 2009 issue of Defense Tech Briefs Magazine.

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