USSF’s EPS-R Program on Schedule for Historic Polar Mission

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  • By SSC Public Affairs
A unique partnership with Norway and the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command will extend satellite communications for U.S. polar forces and save taxpayers millions of dollars.
SSC’s Enhanced Polar Systems-Recapitalization (EPS-R) program successfully completed the ready-to-ship review at the end of September for the first of two payloads to begin the integration process onto Space Norway’s space vehicles.
EPS-R is an Extremely High Frequency (EHF) MILSATCOM system designed to extend EPS (legacy) services into the early/mid-2030s. Its mission serves to provide 24/7 protected satellite communications for U.S. polar forces operating in the Arctic region.
“Right now, our legacy system EPS has a 10-year lifespan, and that’s currently on orbit,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Philichi, EPS-R Project Officer responsible for shipping at Space Systems Command. “The EPS-R fills the gap between the EPS and the ESS (Evolved Strategic Satcom), which is scheduled to launch in approximately 2033. Rather than create a separate program, this allows us to leverage all the documents, framework and team members to develop and launch two additional payloads to bridge the gap before ESS.”
Using a host space vehicle like Space Norway means it is imperative the SSC team meets its scheduled deadlines to coordinate with Space Norway, Philichi said. The second payload is expected to hit its ready-to-ship milestone just before Thanksgiving.
“I’m really proud of our team,’ Philichi said. “COVID definitely threw a large wrench in the works, but we were able to make an almost seamless transition to the new operating environment in order to find success. We look forward to delivering the payload, beginning integration with Space Norway, and soon becoming operational.”
USSF’s continued early success stems, in part, from its strong international partnered relationship with the Norway Ministry of Defense and Space Norway. EPS-R serves as a prime example of USSF and international ties joining to deliver capabilities on both fronts.
“The U.S. and Norway have a common interest in defense and recognize the benefits to be obtained from standardization, rationalization, integration, and interoperability of communications systems,” said William A. Leach, associate director, Global Partnerships at The Aerospace Corporation.
Leach was a member of the U.S. delegation responsible for supporting the negotiations and international aspects of the U.S.-Norway Arctic MILSATCOM agreement, (Arctic MOA) for the first-ever National Security Space payload to be hosted on an allied spacecraft.
“The U.S. is cooperating with Norway due to emerging threats and the need for strategic and protected tactical SATCOM for the joint warfighter,” Leach said. “There is a mutual desire to improve their SATCOM capabilities through the application of emerging technology.” 
“Satellite communications has become an indispensable part of military operations with the requirement for global coverage,” Leach added. “There are almost no services available above the 65th North latitude. Poor coverage in the Arctic can restrict operational capability, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) or search and rescue.  Both governments see the significant benefit of cooperating with each other to meet mutual needs.”
“The Arctic MOA will leverage each other’s resources to reduce costs, increase technical expertise, and share in any project risks and benefits,” Leach said. “Furthermore, this partnership will also provide increased resilience and interoperability between our nations, and it strengthens commercial, civil, and military relationships by collaborating on a significant space program for the Arctic region.”
Hosting the EPS-R payload on the Norwegian Artic Satellite Broadband Mission (ASBM) is projected to save the USSF more than $900 million dollars, and deliver Satellite Communication capability to the polar region three years faster than a traditional satellite acquisition program.
“Norway is a key U.S. ally in the polar region, and because of technology mitigation, the technical risk is low for integrating a National Security Space payload on their Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission (ASBM),” Leach noted.
By January 2022, EPS-R plans to have both of its Northrop Grumman-built payloads complete. The program is on track for a dual launch with Space Norway scheduled for early 2023.