Space Force to upgrade sensors for in-orbit testing, training | Space

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As the Space Force looks to improve its live testing and training capabilities, the service is considering upgrading existing satellites with more robust sensors to support that mission.

Through a partnership with the Pentagon’s Test Resource Management Center and the Defense Innovation Unit, Space Training and Readiness Command, or STARCOM, plans to install new space domain awareness sensors on satellites in orbit as soon as 2025.

Those sensors, designed to provide real-time information on the space environment, could help STARCOM create a secure environment to test space capabilities in orbit and train operators on live spacecraft.

“The race is on to get resilient capabilities into space ahead of emerging threats,” Space Force spokesperson Lt. Meghan Liemburg-Archer told C4ISRNET in a March 25 statement. “This capability could enable a more robust on-demand test and training architecture.”

STARCOM’s plan for a live testing and training capability is just one piece of the Space Force’s broader Operational Test and Training Infrastructure, which includes a mix of simulated and in-orbit capabilities designed to train guardians and make sure satellites and ground systems work as designed.

The service’s fiscal 2025 budget request includes $196 million in research and development funding to establish a National Space Test and Training Complex, or NSTTC — a significant jump from the $21.8 million it asked for in FY24.

As for the upgrade mission, details on its potential scope are slim, and Liemburg-Archer said the service is still determining how many sensors it will buy and which satellites it will install them on.

Katalyst Space Technologies, an Arizona-based startup, is providing its SIGHT sensor for the effort as well as its Retrofit Attachment System, which allows it to install a sensor to a satellite in orbit. SIGHT was designed to track debris and other space objects, including active satellites.

DIU awarded Katalyst a $4.5 million contract in…

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