The digital revolution is finally coming to America’s space launch ranges | Space


The rockets that propel astronauts and satellites into space are marvels of modern technology. But for ground crews at the nation’s premier spaceports, it has been more like operating in the digital stone age.

After years of kicking the can down the road on modernization, the U.S. Space Force is now embarking on a comprehensive overhaul of the IT infrastructure used at mission control centers at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, and Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

These are the nerve centers where mission controllers monitor the spacecraft’s progress and manage the mission’s objectives. These operations centers rely on systems that enable communication, navigation, data management and real-time decision-making.

The launch ranges’ supporting IT architecture is crucial to the success of space missions and meeting the growing demand for access to space, but the technology is in desperate need of an overhaul, said retired U.S. Air Force Col. Chad Davis, former director of the National Reconnaissance Office’s Office of Space Launch.

Davis, now an executive at Stellar Solutions, directed 12 national security space missions on the East and West coasts.

“At Vandenberg, a lot of the infrastructure that’s there was put in place for the Space Shuttle. That’s how old it is,” Davis told SpaceNews. “They’ve been Band-Aiding it through the years but have never really done any significant overhaul.”

The antiquated IT architecture at both major launch ranges means that critical software applications, such as those used for tracking vehicle telemetry data, monitoring environmental conditions and predicting weather, operate in disconnected silos rather than as an integrated enterprise system.

Davis explained that analog IT systems are essentially immovable from the facilities they reside in, preventing seamless remote operations and data sharing across ranges and locations.

Compounding matters, the…

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