Building transformational satellites will take 'a generation of people'

NEW YORK ? Designing the Transformational Communications Architecture for the Defense Department's Global Information Grid over the next two decades is proving to be quite a challenge, the National Reconnaissance Office's Michael Regan said today at the Satellite Application Technology Conference and Expo here.

Regan, who heads NRO's communications functional integration office, said Congress has authorized NRO director and Air Force undersecretary Peter Teets to set up a common framework for national security in space.

In the Global Information Grid's heavily connected environment, Regan's office is cooperating with NASA, the intelligence agencies and the Defense Department to formulate "a set of standards and technical baselines for space communications that will serve for the next 15 years."

Information assurance is the toughest part, he said. "NASA is all public, but the intelligence community wants nobody to know they exist."

All three groups' requirements must be satisfied, and eventually the Homeland Security Department and emergency responders will have to share some of the Global Information Grid's information securely.

Bandwidth management and IP transition are serious challenges, he said, as is trying to put all types of communications on a single transport.

"The military services all provision their own satellite communications," he said. "The Defense Information Systems Agency leases 3.2 Gbps commercially. How do you hook all that up?"

Moreover, the Defense Department's plan for transformational satellites by about 2020 will put routers on a laser backbone in space, operating at tens of gigabits per second ? a space Internet analogous to the terrestrial one.

"We have a fairly clear vision for space technology," he said. "But the software environment changes so fast, that the TSAT software will have to be maintainable and even reprogrammable in space."

The toughest challenge of all, Regan said, is stable funding and a stable vision of a common architecture as administration policies and personnel change. "We will have to build a generation of people to see it through," he said.

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