SAN FRANCISCO – Atlas Space Operations announced a contract for the Defense Innovation Unit on June 8 to demonstrate a hybrid network connecting the Department of Defense, the civilian government and commercial satellites.
For Atlas, “some of the tangible benefits will be the knowledge we gain from integrating with the Department of Defense and our civilian agent,” said Ed McCarty, Atlas’ vice president of global sales. SpaceNews. “They all do it a little differently.”
In addition, winning the DIU Hybrid Space Architecture award puts Atlas in a strong position to compete for the US Space Force Enterprise Resource Management (ERM). The Space Force Space Enterprise Consortium in November announced ERM, a Space Systems Command program to support the Cross-Mission Ground Data Transport Branch of the Enterprise Corps.
“We hope we can convince Space System Command that we’ve already demonstrated the capabilities they want to capture in ERM,” McCarty said.
The Department of Defense is looking for ways to take advantage of the proliferation of commercial satellites and ground stations to create resilient hybrid networks that can transmit data at multiple levels of classification. Instead of communicating with each network individually, Defense asks companies for help in integrating the networks.
“With the award of the Hybrid Space Architecture network, we can demonstrate a federated capability with a Department of Defense antenna, a civilian antenna, and commercial antennas,” McCarty said. “The government will be able to access an entire network through one of their mission operations centers through a single API using the Atlas Freedom software platform. This is the first time it’s ever been done.”
One of the reasons Defense has taken a cautious approach when setting up hybrid networks is security. The DIU Hybrid Space Architecture application released in October notes that the network data transport must not compromise “information assurance or cybersecurity.”
“There will be technical hurdles to overcome to ensure we are compliant with Department of Defense networks,” said Brad Bode, Atlas’ chief technology officer. “We will spend quite a bit of time checking all security requirements to ensure we are still accredited and validated in our system and not violating any of the government restrictions.”
The Atlas Freedom Network, which is integrated with Amazon Web Services, includes 13 global teleports and 14 antennas.
Traverse City, Michigan-based Atlas won its first contract with the Department of Defense in 2018 to provide satellite communications for a US Air Force Academy satellite. Since then, the company has worked under Air Force Small Business Innovation Research contracts to develop a ground segment to support hybrid space networks.