Military Embedded Systems

The sky isn’t the limit for MOSA: New ways of doing business in space


June 09, 2023

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is changing the way it does business. Recognizing the need for speed and agility to rapidly onboard ever-evolving commercial technologies to benefit the warfighter, it has promoted a modular open systems approach (MOSA) and, in significant respects, reframed its business model.

The DoD’s new focus on industry collaboration and outreach has spawned an entire ecosystem of innovation units focused on transitioning commercial technology at scale (e.g., Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), AFWERX, SOFWERX, NavalX, Army xTechSearch). Defense industry players have started to pivot as well. One of these is Lockheed Martin, which has reorganized its team internally, opened up innovation cells, and embraced MOSA in several of its space projects. At the 38th Space Symposium (held in mid-April 2023), the Lockheed Martin team told attendees how it views space as anything other than business as usual.

Similar to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and its innovation hubs, Lockheed Martin instituted a national network of innovation centers, with the aim of enabling industry, government, and academia to develop technology together. At its OneLM Innovation Center at the Catalyst Campus for Tech­nology & Innovation in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for example, the company hosts industry days, community days, pitch days, expos, internship programs and an AFRL-sponsored Sherpa Program that guides campus cohort companies through an accelerator process and facilitates connections with potential end users from the DoD and other agencies.

The company also created a $400 million Lockheed Martin Ventures Fund to strategically invest in companies developing cutting-edge technologies in mutually beneficial core businesses and new markets. Emphasis areas include artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomy, sensor technologies, quantum computing, augmented reality, space, and more. Portfolio companies gain access to the company’s engineering talent, technologies, and research and development (R&D) as well as access to the company’s international business relationships and supply chain. One such beneficiary is Skydio, which is a DIU Blue UAS-certified autonomous uncrewed aircraft system (UAS) manufacturer.

On the workforce side, Lockheed Martin recently created IGNITE, an internal rapid tech-development team, with three primary missions: exploratory R&D, innovation with acceleration, and product innovation on both the hardware and software sides. “The goal of IGNITE is to move with speed and urgency … to show that its space tech is not only viable, but to also create it at scale,” says Dan Tenney, the company’s vice president of strategy and business development.

IGNITE – which ramped up to more than 1,000 employees – has in its sights the development of multiple internally funded on-orbit pathfinders. Among these are the LM 400 technology demonstrator (Figure 1) – the first satellite off the company’s new LM 400 production line – and the Tactical Satellite, known as the “TacSat.”

[Figure 1 ǀ LM 400 is a flexible, midsized satellite bus usable for military, civil, or commercial users designed to enable one platform to support multiple missions, including remote sensing, communications, imaging, radar, and persistent surveillance. It can operate in low, medium, or geosynchronous earth orbits and can be delivered to space in a range of launch vehicles in a single, rideshare, or multilaunch configuration. Lockheed Martin image.]

Both of these satellites have benefited from the company’s investment in three key areas: digital engineering to mature the platforms from a digital perspective, optimized production lines, and the use of flexible MOSA strategies. The leaders of both programs – belonging to the company’s modernized family of digital-enabled satellite designs have leveraged and emphasized commonalities across missions to produce the sats faster and at a lower cost to the customer.

Driving the bus

The LM 400, a scalable, modular midsize satellite bus, is one example of Lockheed Martin’s modernized family of digital-enabled satellite designs. The satellite was the company’s first satellite that “was truly born digital … seamlessly from laptop to hardware,” according to Paul Pelley, the company’s Global Security senior director. He refers to these digital origins as “‘digital DNA.”

“Digital DNA allows us to flex the design in ways not before possible,” Pelley explains. “It lets us do more of the work in the factory left of launch. We can lean into calibrating the bus and integrated space vehicle, before launch.”

These digital touchpoints help to mitigate schedule and safety risks, which ultimately save time and money for end users. One of the many features of digital design is the ability to rapidly reconfigure in the virtual world, instead of performing costly rebuilds in the physical world that just get scrapped.

Using digital models, the Lockheed Martin team designed the LM 400 to conduct a variety of Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2)-relevant missions, including remote sensing images, radar persistence, and surveillance. The LM 400 can carry out these missions across all orbit regimes: low Earth orbit (LEO), medium Earth orbit (MEO), and geosynchronous orbit (GEO).

The farther away from the Earth, the harsher the radioactive environment. Using digital models, Lockheed Martin has been able to infuse both higher resilience and power into the LM 400 bus, which ended up having four times the power of similar platforms, which enables higher-power payloads.

The team also built in launch flexibility: Users can launch the LM 400 in six-plus stack configurations, either solo or as part of a rideshare.

In the LM 400 design, the company kept MOSA top of mind, exploring widely accepted standards, such as Common Payload Interface Specifications and NASA’s Common Instrument Interface electronics standard. (Figure 2.)

[Figure 2 ǀ The Lockheed Martin LM 400 customizable mid-sized satellite will launch in 2023 as a technology demonstrator. Lockheed Martin image.]

“By taking this open standards approach we’re able to provide even greater flexibility for our customers. As mission needs change or enhanced capabilities become available in the future, this versatility allows us to easily adapt and integrate new technology into the LM 400,” Pelley adds.

The company also used its own software-defined tech, integrating its HiveStar intelligent mission orchestration system into this bus. With HiveStar, if one satellite experiences an anomaly, another satellite can pick up the mission function autonomously. Also used was SmartSat: Similar to the iOS on an iPhone, SmartSat can push updates and corrections to the satellite after they’ve been worked on from the ground.

The LM 400 will flow across a state-of-the-art production line located in Lockheed Martin’s 266,000-square-foot Gateway Center satellite manufacturing facility in Colorado. The bus for the first satellite just successfully completed Electromagnetic Interference/Electro­magnetic Compatibility testing, ensuring that its bus components’ signals will not interfere with critical payloads during operations.

“This successful testing of LM 400 helps prove the satellite’s design integrity and operational capabilities,” says Malik Musawwir, Lockheed Martin Space’s satellite center of excellence vice president. “This is a significant accomplishment for this new satellite and the space vehicles that will follow from our advanced digital LM 400 production line.”

The next step is thermal vacuum (TVAC) testing, meant to ensure that platforms will work under the extreme thermal stress across all orbital environments. The first batch of three buses will be used in Raytheon’s missile-tracking system supporting the planned U.S. Space Force (USSF) Missile Track Custody in MEO. The USSF has set 2026 as the target date for this capability.

Supporting boots on the ground

A bit closer to Earth, and with a shorter time horizon, Lockheed Martin plans to launch its Tactical Satellite (TacSat) during 2023. It provides advanced, reconfigurable connectivity, sensing, and processing designed to interoperate with tactical systems in Joint All Domain Operations (JADO) activities and military demonstrations of cross-domain F2T2EA [Find, Fix, Track, Target, Engage, Assess] kill-webs. It will be the first Lockheed Martin platform to provide tactical LEO-based 5G network communications to users on multiple platforms for space-enabled warfare. (Figure 3.)

[Figure 3 ǀ The TacSat will be the first Lockheed Martin platform to provide tactical low-Earth orbit (LEO)-based 5G network communications to users on multiple platforms for space-enabled warfare. Artist’s rendering/Lockheed Martin.]

John Schierling, director for Lockheed Martin’s Tactical Space Programs, states that “The TacSat began with the end in mind for the tactical warfighter. We made it to address the growing demand of war­fighters to prosecute maneuvering threats at long ranges in contested and denied environments on compressed timelines.”

The Lockheed Martin team designed the TacSat with MOSA as one of its two core prerequisites. “It had to be interoperable with the existing weapons systems our forces already have,” Schierling asserts. The other requirement was that those forces had to both own and operate it.

The company designed the TacSat in the digital world and did so in a cross-disciplinary effort. This started by funding the project at corporate level, as opposed to Lockheed Martin Space level. Schierling describes how he matched the expressed customer needs with the tech located across multiple Lockheed Martin departments: “We did what Ford does with the Crown Vic [automobile] for law enforcement. They took some things off of this thing and put some things onto that thing to create a Police Interceptor. That’s how we approached the TacSat design.”

For example, the TacSat leverages a proven infrared (IR) sensing payload, previously developed by Lockheed Martin for another domain. In the TacSat, this IR payload will be used with advanced multiphenomenology mission processing to demonstrate indications, warning, tracking, and targeting of threats.

This low-SWaP [size, weight, and power] satellite – weighing in at about 300 kg or 660 pounds, about the size of a small dorm fridge, and consuming under 300 W of power – also performs onboard processing and uses a new antenna to enable the upload and demo of a wide range of tactical waveforms and datalinks.

“This about being ‘ahead of ready’,” Schierling explains. “We can’t operate in a networked environment and remain a stovepiped platform-centric model. Satellites are just another node in a larger JADO network. Space is the interstitial tissue between platforms and effectors.”

Lockheed Martin seeks to demonstrate the TacSat in upcoming exercises to definitively prove how JADO can be enhanced from space and also to demonstrate how new ways of conducting space business will unlock unprecedented value for the warfighter.

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