The Pentagon’s transition


combat platforms that

operate within the construct

of network centric warfare is paying dividends in the field but has complicated the development of satellite ground stations, according to experts in the field.

Information protection has long

been of paramount importance in designing

ground stations, but it becomes even more critical in network centric warfare, where so many different systems are operating together in concert,

according to Marilee Wheaton, general manager of the systems engineering division at the Aerospace Corp. of

El Segundo, Calif. The Aerospace Corp. is a federally funded research and development center that provides engineering support to U.S. military space programs.

Wheaton said information

assurance in modern warfare

likely will be among the key themes

at the Ground Systems Architectures Workshop 2008

, scheduled for

March 31-

April 3 in Redondo Beach, Calif. The

Aerospace Corp. is a sponsor of the show, and Wheaton is an organizer


Seamless user interfaces for ground systems are widely recognized as essential to the conduct of network centric operations, Wheaton said in a March 10 interview.

However, information assurance needs more attention

as the military increasingly connects various widely dispersed systems for integrated operations

, she said.

Connecting existing platforms for closely coordinated operations

is often more

efficient and economical

than taking on the risk and expense inherent in fielding new systems specially designed for this type of warfare

, noted

Judy Kerner, a senior Aerospace Corp. engineer.

This means the Pentagon must link

systems owned by a variety of different organizations within the military, which raises questions about the rules governing data handling and sharing, she said.

This raises the importance of information assurance in the design of new ground stations, and highlights the need for awareness of, and adherence to, interface standards, Kerner said. Other implications for ground systems design include exploring the possibility of qualifying components and services, she said.

Other trends with design implications for military satellite ground systems include the growth of

the Pentagon’s Operationally Responsive Space mission, Wheaton said. While the term Operationally Responsive Space is most often associated with the development of small payloads and rockets that can be launched on short notice in response to emerging needs, a significant payoff may come from advancements on

ground systems for


already in orbit, she said.

NASA has long made use of software uploads and ground-system modifications to enhance the performance or change the mission of deep space probes well after launch and there may be opportunities for the military to do the same with its spacecraft, Wheaton said.