Space: JSSP Moves to ­Implementation Phase

© 2008 FrontLine Defence (Vol 5, No 6)

The Joint Space Support Project (JSSP) received Treasury Board approval and moves to the next phase: Implementation.

Why does the Canadian Forces need JSSP? Imagine you are the theatre Task Force Commander (TFC), and you have been given a heads up that there may be some action in your area of operations – you need to check it out.

In times past you may have had to risk lives or expensive sensor assets by sending them on a reconnaissance mission to observe and bring back the requisite information. This risk will be minimized with JSSP since many of these missions can be accomplished by downloading satellite imagery directly into theatre, enabling the TFC to identify threats without sending troops or assets into danger. Within 25 minutes of downloading the satellite imagery, TFC will have a detailed picture of what they may be facing.

A cost/benefit analysis has shown that off-loading missions from currently over-tasked and expensive assets to the satellites will result in cost savings.

This same TFC needs to consider and plan for the possibility that troop movements may also be observed by the enemy, as they too have access to satellite imagery. JSSP will also enable TFC to determine what satellites may be passing overhead, and the threat level associated with them.

In essence, JSSP will contribute in no small way to the maintenance of a number of principles of war, those being: economy of effort; surprise; maintenance of morale; flexibility; and concentration of force.
Eagle Vision System being loaded on a ­Hercules aircraft.

The JSSP project will deliver the following space-based tactical capabilities to the CF:

  • Unclassified Remote-sensing Situational Awareness (URSA) Capability: which will exploit commercial Earth remote-sensing satellites and leverage commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology to deliver a unique sensor contribution to the current array of Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) assets; and
  • Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Capability: which will fuse the satellite over-flight and satellite capability information to provide a reliable, coherent and easily accessible, tactical level space situational awareness to end-users in the form of automated web-based SSA reports, based on mission specific requirements.

URSA in Detail
Commercial space-based imaging sensors can be used to obtain valuable information about an adversary or the area of operations. Satellites are capable of supporting global operations and can legally over-fly and observe an adversary without it being considered an act of war.

While individual systems might only pass over an area of interest once or twice a day, a group of systems can provide significant coverage. This capability provides direct reception in the area of operations, allowing timely exploitation of unclassified surveillance and reconnaissance data while reducing the need for reach-back bandwidth. With appropriate agreements in place, this imagery could be shared with coalition members, government agencies, and/or released to the public.

JSSP will deliver a Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellite-tracking antenna (called a Ground Receive Terminal or GRT), includ­ing its associated control systems, image processing hardware and software. In conjunction with access agreements with commercial satellite image providers, this capability provides the TFC and his or her staff with direct access to commercial space-based imagery for mission planning, mapping and cross-cueing through a ­tactical ground receiving and pre-processing system.

The capability is compatible with the current Collection, Coordination Information Requirements Management (CCIRM) process, which endorses and assigns priorities in response to the request for information. The URSA capability will provide the Task Force Commander additional sensor options within the area of operations. This capability can be a great contribution to any international operation requiring fast access to commercial satellite imagery.

The United States is the only other nation with an operational system whose concept of operation is similar to URSA. Their six Eagle Vision ­systems have provided valuable information during dom­estic crisis and contingency operations, such as during the Katrina disaster. These Eagle Vision systems have been in operation for over 10 years, and are currently being upgraded to take advantage of the latest suite of satellites.
Eagle Vision System in operation (URSA concept).

SSA In Detail
Space is one of the many domains for which a deployed TFC staff develops and maintains situational awareness. Thus, SSA represents a component to the operational picture generated for a given mission, and may be characterized as possessing the knowledge of the existence, location, utility, threat potential and operational status of adversarial and third party commercial space-based surveillance assets.
JSSP will provide SSA modeling software and fund the establishment of the web page, allowing geographically ­distributed end-users to access Space Order of Battle (ORBAT) information. This capability delivers an analysis of space assets and provides the TFC and/or the CF Operational Headquarters with near-real time adversary and/or third-party commercial space ORBAT for a given ­theatre of operations and/or Canadian Forces Base. Included in this are items such as satellite over-flight data, sensor capability, operational status, and intelligence assessments and reports.

SSA provides the TFC with an enhanced ability to conduct effective cover, concealment and deception, mission ­planning, execution, deployment and ­redeployment.

JSSP Wins Accolades
URSA and SSA were prototyped in 2005, during the Brigade Training Event in Wainwright, Alberta. This large scale exercise (5000 troops) was aimed at increasing the readiness level of troops prior to their deployment to Kandahar. Information fed into the command cycle proved to be extremely valuable to the battle staff and troops. Knowing the future location of adversarial satellite assets influenced the conduct of operations and resulted in a positive outcome.

JSSP was presented with one of the five awards by Commander Land Force Western Area in recognition of its significant contribution to the exercise. The ­success achieved also resulted in a request by Commander Land Force Quebec Area to expedite the delivery of URSA in order to satisfy operational requirements for the Afghanistan mission.

With the project’s Treasury Board approval to move forward into implementation (granted on 17 April 2008), the Project Management Team is in the process of executing their plan so that this much-needed capability can be incorporated into the battle routine for the Canadian Forces as soon as possible.
Team JSSP: this project has involved a diverse number of personnel over several years to bring it to the current state of success. Questions can be addressed to Mr. Rene Rouette, JSSP Project Manager.
© Frontline Defence 2008