‘Agile software’ to replace troubled JMS
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A troubled effort by the Air Force Space Command to modernize the system that tracks and catalogs space objects is pivoting in a new direction. The change involves multiple steps:
- The nearly decade-long program known as the Joint Space Operations Center Mission System (JMS) is being terminated.
- The portion of JMS that focuses on tactical operations will be merged with an existing program, the enterprise battle management command and control (EBMC2).
- The piece of JMS focused on updating the space catalog is being replaced with “agile software development.”
- Both the EBMC2 and the catalog update functions gradually will be merged into a broad program called Space C2.
“That’s where we’re headed,” Col. Stephen Purdy, director of the Space Superiority Systems Directorate at the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, told SpaceNews in a recent interview.
Purdy is trying to get the word out about the changes happening in the mission area known as space situational awareness. He acknowledges that it can be confusing. That is one reason the Air Force decided to use the Space C2 name. “It is simpler to understand, it merges the tactical C2 with operational C2, he said. “It gets after what we’re trying to do.”
What killed JMS? It was years behind schedule. The space catalog function was hard to update and adapt to the changing environment where there is more congestion and potentially hostile activities aimed at U.S. and allied satellites. “We used to look at objects every day or every few days,” Purdy said. “If it’s a hostile object, I need to look at it every few minutes.”
The Air Force’s budget request for fiscal year 2020 still includes $11 million for JMS. That will go away in next year’s budget. When combined with the EBMC2 piece, the Space C2 budget will be about $480 million for 2020-2024.
WORKING WITH ALLIES
The Space C2 program is being designed to be “coalition friendly” so intelligence can be more easily shared by the United States and its allies. Whereas JMS could not be easily updated with fresh data, the goal with agile software development is to constantly update the system with new apps and data from a cloud-based library that can pull in multiple sources of commercial and government intelligence.
Units responsible for monitoring space include the 18th Space Control Squadron and the Combined Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California; and the National Space Defense Center at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. Purdy said the future Space C2 architecture will be shared across these organizations.
Col. Jennifer Krolikowski, senior materiel leader for Space C2, told SpaceNews the Air Force in March delivered the first software apps to operators at Vandenberg and Schriever. The goal is to drop new apps every month.
The 14th Air Force, which oversees the Combined Space Operations Center and the 18th Space Control Squadron, has insisted that space data be more accessible to foreign allies and that more commercial sources of data are piped into the military’s command centers.
SHARED SPACE AWARENESS
U.S. Strategic Command announced April 26 it signed its 100th space situational awareness agreement with the Romanian Space Agency.
Romania is the 20th nation, joining Australia, Japan, Italy, Canada, France, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Germany, Israel, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Brazil, the Netherlands, Thailand, New Zealand and Poland; two intergovernmental organizations (the European Space Agency and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites) and 78 commercial companies that participate in SSA data sharing agreements with U.S. STRATCOM. The command was given the responsibility for SSA agreements in 2011.
Diana McKissock, leader of space situational awareness sharing and spaceflight safety at the 18th Space Control Squadron, said the SSA data sharing program ensures the United States has contact with about 95 percent of all satellites on orbit. “That allows us to focus on what we don’t know,” she said. “We know so much because we get so much information from our partners.” European allies, for example, have sensors that collect unclassified imagery. “That is a huge benefit because so much of the U.S. imagery is hard to share.”