Army Seeks Small Satellites To Support Ground Troops


Such smallsat payloads, hosted on commercial satellites, are an important piece of the Army’s evolving concept of Multi-Domain Operations, which seeks to combine efforts on land, the sea, air, space, and cyberspace to defeat sophisticated adversaries such as Russia and China.

SPACE AND MISSILE DEFENSE SYMPOSIUM: The Army is trying out not one but three different small satellite programs over the next few years. The objective: provide direct support from Low Earth Orbit (LEO)  — reconnaissance, communications, navigation, and more — to frontline tactical units on the ground.

Such smallsat payloads, perhaps hosted on commercial satellites, are an important piece of the Army’s evolving concept of Multi-Domain Operations, which seeks to combine efforts on land, the sea, air, space, and cyberspace to defeat sophisticated adversaries such as Russia and China.

The three new satellite programs are called Gunsmoke, Lonestar and Polaris. We know the most about Gunsmoke, which has been underway since November of 2018, when the Army awarded a two-year, $8.3 million contract tp Dynetics, based here in Huntsville, Ala., to develop, test, integrate and demonstrate two “tactical space support vehicles.”

All three programs will demonstrate capabilities on commercial platforms, including “robust PNT [Precision Navigation & Timing] in Low Earth Orbit [LEO],” said the outgoing chief of Army Space & Missile Defense Command, Lt. Gen. James Dickinson. (He’s been tapped to be deputy commander of the new joint Space Command). The Army’s elite modernization Cross-Functional Team for Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing (APNT) is also interested in demonstrating “advanced commercial manufacturing for military payloads,” he added.

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