Developing Small Satellites


Excerpt from "A look to the future: USN research stretches from advanced systems to microbial power 
Publication: Jane's International Defence Review
Date Posted: 29-Sep-2017


In its attempts to achieve and maintain dominance in the air, land, and maritime domains, the US government invests about USD17.5 billion annually in the US Navy’s research and development and science and technology efforts. Geoff Fein examines a number of naval research projects aimed at developing and eventually delivering new capabilities.
One approach to naval R&D is carried out by Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Command, which has a systems centre in San Diego (SSC Pacific), California and in Charleston, South Carolina (SSC Atlantic).

"Our mission is focused on R&D, test and evaluation [T&E], in C4ISR, cyber, and space. We work basic and applied research all the way up through installations and fleet support. That gives us an interesting perspective," Dr Stephen Russell, SPAWAR chief technology officer, director of science and technology, told Jane’s .

"When we are doing the R&D up front we are [looking to eventually understand] how to link up to the systems, and systems of systems; how they have to interface; and ultimately, how they have to be fielded," he said. "That is unique to have that capability in one organisation."

One of the efforts SSC Pacific is working on is small satellite development, Russell noted. "It is all in the R&D stages; there are no formal acquisition programmes yet," he said. "We are exploring the possibility of how to reconstitute capabilities in space using small satellites."

The small satellite effort provides an opportunity in many cases to work with small businesses to introduce some of their technologies and field them more quickly than some of the larger platforms such as the navy’s Mobile User Objective System communications satellite constellation can offer, Russell added.
"Those large satellites take a long time in development, so we are looking at opportunities to use more innovative technologies and field them on smaller platforms," he said.

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