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U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command: fiber optics offers new capability at Reagan Test Site.

A new undersea fiber optic cable from Kwajalein to Guam and with a direct link to the United States will enable U.S. Army at Kwajalein Atoll, Reagan Test Site, or USAKA/RTS, to distribute mission operations and personnel positions back to Huntsville, Ala. This initiative is scheduled to be completed March 2008.

Located in the Republic of Marshall Islands, USAKA/RTSs principal mission areas are primarily ballistic missile defense testing and space surveillance operations. The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/ARSTRAT is the Army's proponent for space and missile defense and is responsible for the operation of Reagan Test Site and other facilities located at Kwajalein Atoll.

Equipment installed at the test site includes various tracking radars, stationary and mobile telemetry, optical recording equipment, and a secure intra-atoll fiber optic data network via submarine fiber optic cables. The Reagan Test Site also serves as a space launch complex, as a tracking station for manned space flight and NASA research projects.

Optical fiber systems have many advantages over satellite-based communication systems, the most noteworthy of which is wide bandwidth and low data latency. The key advantages of long-haul undersea fiber over geo-synchronous satellite are the significantly higher bandwidth (more data) and low data latency (shorter path/near instantaneous). More bandwidth will allow for massive amounts of mission data required for running missions in the new operations center in Huntsville. The low data latency advantage is due to the shorter terrestrial fiber path versus the long satellite path to a satellite 93,000 miles in space. Near instantaneous data are essential for command and control of flight test missions as well as control of remote range sensors and the space surveillance mission. In addition, fiber is not affected by atmospherics and is more secure. Emerging technologies promise even greater distances in the future.

The success of the relocation initiative to Huntsville involves using the concept of distributed operations, a remote capability that enables authorized, geographically dispersed users to gain secure access to a common set of data files. USAKA/RTS is implementing distributed operations in three phases:

Phase 1 Kwajalein Modernization and Remoting

The goal of this successfully completed phase was to provide the enabling architecture via fiber for future distributing operations to the mainland. During this phase, a fiber-optic network was installed locally throughout the command's key range operations, which included establishing remote operations capability from Roi-Namur to Kwajalein.

Phase 2 Demonstrate Distributed Operations in Huntsville

During this current phase the Army will attain fiber optic connectivity from Kwajalein and to the Continental United States. Additionally, the Kwajalein Space Operations Control Center was established at the U.S. Army Space and Missile Command/ARSTRAT in Huntsville. Initial Operation Capability is scheduled for 2007.

Phase 3 Mission-Capable Distributed Operations--FY08 and Beyond

The final phase is the realization of space and missile testing operations from the United States, where all the appropriate functional and technical staff will be relocated. Additional benefits for the customer will be the ability to access critical mission data from the continental United States and the reduction of customer travel costs to Kwajalein.

Total cost of this initiative is expected to be $55 million, with $6.3 million per year being allotted for lease of the required bandwidth annually for 15 years. USAKA/RTS is committed to moving the majority of the operational mission to Huntsville, where it will be a valued addition to the hub of the Space and Missile Defense Command System Integration, Test and Evaluation Directorate.

Taylor is a senior program analyst with the U.S. Army Space & Missile Defense Command/ARSTRAT, Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Ala.
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Title Annotation:In the News
Author:Taylor, Paula Y.
Publication:Defense AT & L
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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