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Home : News
NEWS | Oct. 5, 2022

U.K. makes history, leads SACT Meridian cell for the first time

By Ms. Bridget Bonnette Joint Task Force-Space Defense Public Affairs

Following two weeks of training with the Joint Task Force-Space Defense Commercial Operations Cell (JCO), the United Kingdom successfully led its first Sprint Advanced Concept Training (SACT) Meridian cell shift out of High Wycombe, England, Aug. 1-5, 2022.

The SACT event series is a tri-annual live-virtual experiment and exercise series that provides opportunities for commercial vendors of space data and analytics capabilities to explore integration of their products in a realistic space operations environment.  

SACTs were created to provide a venue for rapid innovation and improvement to current space operations and provide commercial vendors with an accessible entry point, supporting both commercial and military space integration efforts. The JCO, operating at the non-classified level, allows acceleration of integration at commercial speeds, ultimately raising the state-of-the-art capabilities in space domain awareness.

Throughout the event series, space operators leverage ideas to innovate current capabilities and simultaneously test developmental capabilities to decide how they might be incorporated into mission needs, ultimately driving innovation in space enterprise execution.

These events began in 2019 involving just a handful of commercial partners with the goal of leveraging commercial technologies in supporting international space domain awareness efforts.

The SACT series is used as a technical assessment of capabilities for burgeoning commercial providers looking to demonstrate their capabilities, such as how well they can track satellites or perform maneuver detection and threat assessments.

The SACT series runs for an entire week and includes two, 24-hour operations cycles, during which time, participants are faced with an aggressive series of space operations desired learning objectives (DLOs) using end-to-end operational systems. *

According to Sprint Advanced Concept Training (SACT): A renaissance in collaborative international space operations, the DLOs are designed by representative sponsoring agencies, including U.S. Space Command and the Department of Commerce, to understand where the true commercial capacity in space surveillance stands with respect to operational Space Domain Awareness and Space Traffic Management needs. *

“Our SACT experiment series provides a venue for exploring a wide range of space domain awareness technologies and opportunities for collaboration in support of our protect and defend mission,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Tom James, commander of the JTF-SD.

Teams experience routine and adversary threat engagement simulations such as Search and Recovery (SAR); Closely Spaced Object (CSO) discrimination; satellite characterization; high-cadence surveillance; conjunction assessment; and Rendezvous and Proximity Operations (RPO) analysis, all while continuously executing real-world events.

Current SACTs involve participants from all over the world comprising of over 70 commercial companies, universities, and military organizations, demonstrating the exponential growth in participation in just a few years.

The August SACT included participation by not only the U.K., but also from numerous international teams including Australian (AUS) Defense Space, Canadian Defense Research and Development Canada (DRDC), AUS Responsive Space Operations Center (RSOC), AUS Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG), Chile Air Force (FACh), and others.

The JCO ordinarily leads these SACTs from the Americas cell, made up in total of the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Chile, here in Colorado Springs. However, U.K. Space Command, through the direction of Fg Off Hallchurch, led the Meridian Cell from RAF High Wycombe, England, enabling the United Kingdom to become the first country to independently lead a SACT cell.

This SACT also allowed for a practice hand-off between the Pacific, Meridian, and Americas cells.

“It just so happens that our strongest allies are 8 hours apart in both directions,” said Joe Gerber, aerospace engineer and lead integrator for the JCO. “With our core team of allies doing shift work, or the ‘follow the sun’ model, this allows the JCO to perform 24/7 operations so that each cell is only operating during normal business hours.”

In preparation for this milestone, U.K. Space Command personnel participated in training at the JCO during the last two weeks of July. The training involved side by side operations between JCO and U.K. Space Command personnel to demonstrate the JCO’s methods of completing tasks and involved executing different functions such as launch processing, mission management, and ballistic trajectory dissent processing.

"The training we received from JCO Americas was a very important step in our development", said Cpl Ryan, space systems operator at the U.K. Space Operations Centre. "The opportunity to see how a well-established JCO crew conducts day-to-day operations is something that we were keen to take back. JCO's capabilities are extensive, and we look forward to playing a critical role, together with our partners from the Pacific and Americas cells, in delivering 24/7 operations in the near future."

Now that the SACT has concluded, the JCO plans to conduct follow-on training to address learning outcomes and enhance space operations knowledge.

Because space is no longer a benign environment, other countries are now recognizing the importance of space operations, accelerating their own technologies, and advancing their own space capabilities. By collaborating with the JCO, our international partners can team with the United States in space operations and advance the protection and defense of their own space systems.

Achieving 24/7 JCO operations is being proven through the SACTs, with the aim of incorporating allies and partners permanently into a continuous 24-hour operations cycle that spans the globe.

* Please visit https://amostech.com/2020-technical-papers/ to download the full paper, Sprint Advanced Concept Training (SACT): A Renaissance in Collaborative International Space Operations.