Outsourcing Satellite Operations to Commercial Sector Viable Choice for the U.S. Air Force

The potential sequestration cuts in late 2015 and the ongoing pressure to reduce expenses are creating a new shift for the U.S. Air Force — to potentially outsourcing satellite operations to commercial providers.

Gen. John Hyten, the new Commander of Air Force Space Command, recently offered some dire predictions about the impact of sequestration at the Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference.

“If we go to a sequestration budget it will break Space Command,” he said in this Space News article.  “We’ve already taken every fungible asset we can try to figure out. Now we have to go after real capability. What is it you want to stop doing? You want to stop doing GPS? You want to stop doing [missile warning]? You want to stop doing ground-based missile warning? You want to stop doing deep space surveillance? What mission do you want to stop doing?”

By moving towards outsourcing most of its satellite operations, the Air Force could save money by allowing the service to reduce or possibly even eliminate much of its satellite control infrastructure, according to industry resources.

The Air Force recently awarded Intelsat General a study contract to provide concepts to commercialize the Air Force Satellite Control Network (AFSCN), which operates and controls many of US Government satellites.

The goal of the contract, known as the AFSCN Commercial Provisioning (CP) study, is to provide Air Force Space Command with a detailed plan for using commercial telemetry, tracking and command (TT&C) facilities and capabilities to substantially reduce operations and maintenance costs while enabling the government to meet national security space objectives and warfighter operational needs.

Intelsat General can deliver the technical solutions, operating concept, contractual terms, and the associated costs for providing commercial satellite TT&C services for the US Government – today and in the future.

Intelsat General has the legacy expertise from Intelsat’s 50 years of technical and service experience of employing a worldwide TT&C network architecture.  The company currently supports a global fleet of 75 spacecraft across every major satellite manufacturer and a variety of customers that require TT&C services.

Here is why Intelsat General would be ideally suited to provide this service to the Air Force:

  • Current Intelsat Infrastructure: The company’s 146 TT&C antennas, worldwide ground network, and satellite TT&C systems support a wide variety of spacecraft built by most of the major satellite manufacturers, delivering combined operations with a 99.999 percent network availability.
  • Teleport Facilities Equipped with TT&C Antenna Infrastructure: Strategically located in the United States and Europe, Intelsat’s teleports provide reliable and efficient access to service US Government satellite TT&C through a global presence.
  • Global, Scalable IP/MPLS Terrestrial Infrastructure via IntelsatOne: Intelsat’s terrestrial network consists of a full mesh fiber network providing secure, global coverage on the satellite industry’s largest IP/MPLS terrestrial network, fully integrated with the world’s largest satellite fleet.  The network is one of the very few, if not the only one, that provides triple redundancy.
  • Network Operations Center Supports Complete End-to-End Infrastructure Performance:  Further complementing Intelsat’s global infrastructure is a fully integrated, automated, state-of-the-art NOC designed to support any and all satellite, teleport, and/or terrestrial service requirements for secure and commercial services.

By moving to commercialize the AFSCN, the Air Force will be able to maintain mission effectiveness even in the face of additional potentially harmful sequestration cuts in 2016.

The United States needs effective and efficient satellite capabilities for global and national security missions.  The commercial sector has the experience, knowledge and technical skills to operate and manage the Department of Defense’s constellation of satellites.

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