Its name is the Advanced Extremely High Frequency system.
And its parts – the satellites and ground systems that make it work – are more than a decade old and in need of an upgrade.
Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a Raytheon Technologies business, is participating in a U.S. Space Force study to build a modernized ground segment systems for a new fleet of satellites.
The satellites would first augment the current strategic communications services provided by AEHF, then eventually replace them.
It’s all part of the Space Force’s Evolved Strategic SATCOM mission, also called ESS. For Raytheon Technologies’ part, the goal is to make adding features to the ground system as easy as updating a smartphone.
“Before Space Force launches the new satellites, there has to be a ground system in place to control them,” said Bob Canty, vice president, Constellation Management & Protection for RI&S. “Our system to control the new ESS satellites will continue to offer uninterrupted communications. And our ability to combine current and next generation technology will reduce development risks.”
Raytheon Intelligence & Space will pull technology from its proven programs, which include the current AEHF satellite communications system as well as ground control systems like the Joint Polar Satellite System Common Ground System and GPS Next-Generation Operational Control System. The ESS ground control segment will satisfy emerging requirements and provide the cyber capabilities and resiliency to meet the challenges of the future.
“In collaboration with Space Force, we are working on a design capable of incremental enhancements,” said Ron Lewis, senior director of Space-ISR’s communications and IT programs. “During this study phase, we are working to streamline acquisition and operations processes; automate satellite operations and improve system performance.”
As part of the study requirements, the ESS ground system will be interoperable with other systems – both existing and new – and it will be compatible with what’s known as enterprise ground services, or those in use across the Department of Defense. The goal is that operators working in a contested environment can move and shift to different systems without need for additional training.
"We’re looking at how we can evolve the current ground system to be something more operator friendly,” said Dave Sutton, Space-ISR capture director for RI&S.