Lockheed Martin To Develop Space Control System For the UK ISTARI Defence Constellation

26th Feb 2024
Lockheed Martin To Develop Space Control System For the UK ISTARI Defence Constellation

Lockheed Martin and the RHEA Group have been selected to build a series of ground segments that will support the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) future ISTARI constellation. The ISTARI programme is a behemoth project consisting of a multi-satellite system. As such, the constellation will ultimately underpin the UK’s defence, surveillance and intelligence gathering capabilities. 

To support them while in orbit, the MoD has announced BEROE, a network of ground systems that will be developed by Lockheed Martin and the Rhea Group. These ground segments will act as a secure control system for the constellation. As well as, being designed to be multifaceted and able to handle a large ecosystem of satellites. 

UK Space Command’s head of space capability, Commodore David Moody, commented: “this is a pivotal moment for UK Defence and the UK Space Sector as we develop software capabilities and strategic partnerships that will determine the future of how we manage our activities in space.”

What Is The ISTARI Programme?

In 2022, the UK MoD announced plans to fund a £1.4 billion satellite constellation. This marked one of the first projects to arise out of the previously published National Space Strategy. One of the emanating priorities arising from the strategy was to use space for defence, which is what gave rise to ISTARI. Its purpose: to augment the UK’s reconnaissance and intelligence gathering capabilities.

Over a 10 year timeframe, £968 million of the £1.4 billion will be injected into developing the satellites. Commodore David Moody continued: “This project will help define and understand how we will control and optimise the use of our satellites in a safe and sustainable way, while also supporting the wider goal of enabling growth in the Space Sector to develop resilient space capabilities and services.”

In the present day, the RHEA Group and Lockheed Martin are now involved. They announced their contract awards in quick succession in late February 2024. Both organisations will now have to conjure up solutions for ground systems that will support ISTARI. In addition, the MoD is aiming to test and demonstrate a range of agile software in 2025. So the pressure is on. 

BEROE & Lockheed Martin’s Solution

The ground segment portion of the project is titled BEROE, and is led by the MoD. Both companies are now drafting their BEROE plans, which will in turn, support ISTARI whilst in low Earth Orbit. The ground systems will offer “a secure, open source… software solution to task, monitor and control… future space capabilities”, Lockheed Martin said. 

Firstly, Lockheed Martin was awarded their BEROE contract in the latter half of 2023. However, they have only just announced it this month. Nonetheless, they said their portion of the system will leverage their Integrated Multi-Mission Ground (IMG2) product. IMG2 will “support diverse space missions, orbital regimes and constellation sizes with mature, reconfigurable components and technologies within a hardened ground system.” 

RHEA Groups’ Solution

Secondly, the RHEA Group will spend the next 20-months – or up until March 2025 – reconfiguring their ASTRAL product. Once complete, “it will provide BEROE with integrated systems for operations procedure preparation,” they said. Additionally, RHEA said their system is proven to supply “automated constellation operations”. 

Whilst there are many bells and whistles intrinsic to ASTRAL, only minor adjustments and additions will be made. Due to ASTRAL being designed with multi-missions in mind, RHEA said they will only need to make minor alteration. That being, adapting the “satellite commanding and monitoring” systems for BEROE. 

Principal Solution Architect for RHEA UK, Alastair Pidgeon, remarked: “Our BEROE ground segment is being designed to enable efficient, highly automated operations of a constellation of diverse spacecraft in low Earth orbit, which may use different space-ground communication protocols to connect to the UK MoD’s new generation of ground stations.”

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