SSC now taking applications for Project Apollo
On October 10, Space Systems Command (SSC), the United States Space Force (USSF) field command responsible for acquiring, developing, and delivering resilient space capabilities, announced that it is now accepting applications for its inaugural Project Apollo cohort.
Project Apollo is a voluntary, collaborative tech accelerator that brings U.S. companies, University Affiliated Research Centers (UARCs), Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs), industry experts, and Space Force Guardians together to solve critical challenges in space domain awareness. Collaborations are facilitated in three-month innovation cycles taking place at SSC’s newly opened Space Domain Awareness Tools, Applications and Technology (TAP) Lab in Colorado Springs. The first cycle begins on October 26th.
Filling gaps in space domain awareness is a top Department of Defense priority. According to Maj. Sean P. Allen, SSC TAP Lab chief, Project Apollo intends to fill those gaps quickly by providing a tools- and data-rich “sand box” for industry, academia and government to quickly formulate, test and prove solutions.
“Each innovation cycle is designed to target solutions at a Technology Level Readiness (TLR) of 4 or above that are scoped to address specific challenge statements provided to each cohort in advance,” said Allen.
Challenge statements for Project Apollo’s first cohort address space launch custody, object identification, and decision tools as follows:
Space Launch Custody: Using unclassified novel data, fusion, and analytic techniques (seismic, ionospheric, infrasonic, GPS telemetry, RF, neutrino, other), to detect space launches within seconds. Upon detection of a launch, predict the ascent trajectory, intermediate and final orbits. Provide these predictions to a space domain awareness sensor as a “cue” to reacquire and track the launch vehicle within seconds-to-minutes. Investment in this technology is warranted as no launch detection or early “cueing” capability exists for the commercial Space Domain Awareness Enterprise. Such a capability would enable rapid target acquisition, ID, and threat assessment of launches.
Object Identification (ID): From a set of features (behaviors, orbital data, photometry, radar cross section, RF emissions, other), classify and identify space objects within seconds. Evaluate potentially mis-identified objects which may be adversary intelligence payloads or weapons. Nominate these for further investigation. Attempts to evade detection, tracking, and ID complicate defense from an attack. Examples may include covert operations or payloads, active satellites appearing dead, inactive, as debris, or otherwise plausibly deniable operations. Investment in this technology is warranted as camouflage, concealment, and deception are fundamental to warfare. Such a capability would aid in hostility assessments, response options, and prevent operational surprise.
Decision Aids: Given knowledge of the environment, status of assets (space, ground, links), and an evolving understanding of a threat, provide semi-automated, real-time, data-centric decision aids for an Operation C2 center. Decision aids should be simple and intuitive with little to no training needed. Decision aids may consider many factors such as: Objectives within an “OPLAN”, legal authorities, hostile act and intent criteria, engagement conditions, targeting criteria, collateral damage estimation, reporting requirements, coordination or liaison protocol with external organizations. This problem in particular is well suited for Artificial Intelligence.
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