January 23, 2015 – Intelsat General Corp. is one of four companies awarded a contract by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) to study the viability of using commercial facilities and operations expertise for the tracking, telemetry and command (TT&C) of government satellites.
The goal of the contract, known as the Air Force Satellite Control Network (AFSCN) Commercial Provisioning study, is to provide USAF Space Command with a detailed plan for leveraging commercial TT&C facilities and capabilities to substantially reduce operations and maintenance costs while enabling the government to meet national security space objectives and warfighter operational needs.
The USAF has stated that a future space concept of operations could include a mix of government and commercial command and control networks. The AFSCN currently controls government satellites using 15 ground-based TT&C antennas at 7 locations around the world. The network is centered at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado and is staffed by a mix of military personnel and private contractors.
“It is the objective of this study to determine possible methods of transitioning this requirement to the commercial sector to achieve cost efficiencies in the new budgetary environment,” said Kay Sears, President of Intelsat General. “Intelsat, with global operations that span over 400 antennas and that achieve 99.99% availability, has demonstrated that we can provide our customers with more cost efficient operations without sacrificing innovation, resiliency, quality or security.”
In performing the study, Intelsat General will partner with Braxton Technologies, a company based in Colorado Springs, with more than 20 years experience delivering TT&C systems to the USAF for its satellite control systems. Braxton is currently working on contracts from the Air Force Research Lab related to AFSCN scheduling improvements and portable test equipment.
“The commercial marketplace has driven the costs for a ground TT&C antenna architecture to less than 1/5th of what it costs the Air Force to operate the AFSCN today. Partnering with Intelsat General, we can offer a robust, secure network at a far greater capability, with extreme reliability at significantly less cost,” said Frank Backes, CEO of Braxton Technologies.
The study, to be completed within 90 days, will outline a plan of how the TT&C functions of government satellites could be passed over to commercial companies over a two-to-five year period.