Editor's Note

Northrop Grumman Provides Updates on Polar SATCOM Programs

By Frank Wolfe | November 12, 2023
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Northrop Grumman said on Nov. 7 that it has finished thermal vacuum tests on the Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission (ASBM)–two satellites for broadband communications over the North Pole for the U.S. Space Force and the state-owned Space Norway AS.

Each satellite has the Enhanced Polar System-Recapitalization (EPS-R) payload for the U.S. Space Force, a Ka-band payload for Viasat and an X-band payload for the Norwegian Ministry of Defense. The Ka-band payload was originally under Inmarsat, but Viasat bought the latter in May.

“ASBM-1 has completed vibration testing with ASBM-2 to follow,” Northrop Grumman said on Nov. 7.

Space Force plans to launch the EPS-R payloads next year on ASBM–launches that Space Force has said will save the service more than $900 million and field advanced polar satellite communications three years ahead of a traditional acquisition program.  (Defense Daily, Aug. 7).

In December 2021, SSC said that it expected a dual EPS-R launch early this year.

“Delivery of the [ASBM] satellites is delayed due to a number of factors, including supply chain disruption from COVID, design complexities changing our GEOStar platform to perform in a HEO (Highly Elliptical Orbit), and the complexities of integrating three separate customer payloads,” Northrop Grumman said in July.

In March, Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC) said that Northrop Grumman had delivered the control and planning segment (CAPS) for EPS and EPS-R.

The new CAPS ground segment provides the software baseline for EPS and EPS-R. SSC has said that CAPS “is an innovative approach streamlining mission operations while reducing long-term costs of software and hardware sustainment for the ground segment” and that EPS-R “will extend the polar capability provided by EPS until the fielding of the next-generation Protected Tactical SATCOM (PTS) system expected to launch in the early 2030s.”

On Nov. 7, Northrop Grumman said that CAPS “is supporting compatibility testing with the payload and space vehicle segments and interfacing with the Satellite Operations Center (SOC) in Norway.”

“CAPS has completed formal acceptance and turnover and is ready for system activation,” the company said.

This story initially appeared in affiliate publication Defense Daily.

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