Safran Data Systems: winner of the NATO’s NITEC Connect pitch-day for enhancing space domain awareness
On June 17th 2021, after a thorough down-selection to 6 pitching companies, Safran Data Systems has been declared winner of the finals of NITEC Pitch session by a board of selected NATO officials. Beyond the straightforward presentation of WeTrack sensors already deployed worldwide and working 365 days throughout the year, Thierry Balanche (sales director) highlighted the “quick double win” of using Radio Frequency (RF) technology for space domain awareness. The very same technology basis also empowers defense and intelligence organizations to conduct Satellite Communication Intelligence such as geolocation of interferers, monitoring of spectrum evolution, therefore complementing the Space Situation given by WeTrack.
While Space Domain Awareness is often limited to getting an accurate and refreshed view of the orbital positions of satellites and debris, the congestion and contestation in space is also in the immaterial domain: the radio frequency spectrum. Attacks can be in the form of signal jamming or VSAT network intrusion while anticipation of threats can be through the mapping of ground stations, and there are many other application cases… The study and understanding of the spectrum not only provides a unique tool to accurately track the satellite positions, but also complement the global picture of how it connects with Earth.
After a 10-minute presentation, Thierry Balanche addressed a live Questions & Answers session which complemented his pitch. Radio Frequency (RF) technology uses fully passive sensors able to sense satellite and ground-originated communication signals, without having the need to understand them. WeTrack (a Safran Data Systems –owned and –operated ground network of RF sensors) is already used by the leading space fairing nations and their space commands, complementing the other traditional sensors (eg optical telescopes, ground-based radars), and gathers years of satellite tracking data as well as their maneuvers, refreshed in quasi real-time. This technology works on any signal transmitted by the satellite. Some of these signals are originated from ground and are relayed by satellites: on such signals, ground RF sensors may also determine their point of origin on Earth after complex mathematical and geometrical calculations based on the analysis of very low power signal variations.
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) also has stakes in Space Domain Awareness, with a need to protect its and to build a comprehensive knowledge of what is above us and for which purpose. NATO houses the NATO Space Centre at the NATO’s Allied Air Command in Ramstein, Germany, and will soon open an Space Domain Centre of Excellence in Toulouse, France. By selecting Safran Data Systems as the winner of the pitch day, NATO creates a one-on-one channel of discussion with Safran Data Systems to pave the way for outlining the future of Space Domain Awareness within NATO.