Satellite communications mission brings Space Force to Navy town

  • Published
  • By Lisa Sodders
  • Space Systems Command Public Affairs
San Diego has long been known for its strong U.S. Navy presence, but many people may not know it’s also home to part of the U.S. Space Force.

Space Systems Command’s Narrowband Satellite Communications program office was originally part of the Navy, delivering communications capabilities in the Ultra High Frequency spectrum to support deployments on land, air and sea, with voice services to data networks.

On Oct. 1, 2021, the program — including 76 manpower authorizations and 13 satellites — was transferred to the Space Force’s SSC. Since the creation of the USSF as a separate service, space-related capabilities that were previously spread out across the U.S. Department of Defense have been consolidated within the USSF to increase operational capability, readiness and improve efficiency.

Narrowband SATCOM is critically important to the warfighter, as the UHF spectrum can operate in both urban and jungle environments, through all weather, to support smaller, low-power portable terminals with omni-directional antennas, providing affordable, reliable communication for people on the move. The U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard all benefit from the space-enabled capabilities that USSF/SSC develops and delivers.

“Having such close connections to the actual users of our systems, from Navy ships to Marine Corps platoons, helps the program office deliver just what the warfighter needs and helps us better understand how to make improvements,” said Dave Russell, warfighter integration lead for the program. “We’re also keeping up with what’s going on in the commercial world and whether we should be using some of those capabilities as well.”

Technological changes have led to rapid improvements in everything from making rocket launches more affordable to improvements in data transfer and analysis, and the field continues to change rapidly, bringing with it new capabilities and possibilities.

“Being organizationally aligned under the Space Systems Command in Los Angeles and having the latest space technology and resources consolidated under the USSF is helping us look at other ways of doing business and leveraging common mission areas,” said Denese Cordaro, deputy director for SSC’s Narrowband SATCOM Acquisition Delta. “And that could mean anything from inserting new technology to how we operate our satellites.”

The program office’s responsibilities include the acquisition of the Mobile User Objective System and the sustainment of the UHF Follow-On system.

MUOS provides secure, beyond-line-of-sight worldwide satellite communications for joint warfighters. These satellites provide increased capacity, partial polar coverage, encryption, and better resistance to electromagnetic interference. In addition, it is Internet Protocol based, making it more interoperable with commercial and other U.S. Department of Defense systems.

For U.S. forces on the ground, the MUOS system provides mobile services, with the satellites acting as cellular towers that allow warfighters to communicate directly with each other and with commanders virtually anywhere in the world at higher levels of quality and much greater capacity.

The team is located at the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command in Old Town San Diego and has engineering and testing laboratories on Point Loma.

“Not a lot of people know there’s a U.S. Space Force presence here in San Diego; we are actively working to change that,” said Navy Capt. Pete Sheehy, SSC’s Narrowband SATCOM Acquisition Delta director. “Since the program’s transfer from the Navy to the U.S. Space Force, we’ve expanded our outreach to the local San Diego community to increase understanding of the U.S Space Force mission, and the exciting opportunities here in San Diego to support that mission.”

Narrowband SATCOM provides connectivity to the warfighter and this Space Force office, in the middle of the Navy town of San Diego, is delivering that critical communications capability to the Joint and Coalition Forces around the world.