The space domain is critical to national security. It also has become increasingly chaotic and crowded over the past decade as the burgeoning space industry launches constellations of satellites. To conduct their missions, military commanders need timely and accurate information from space assets, as well as robust and reliable communications. Since its inception in 2015, DARPA’s Hallmark program has successfully developed tools providing increased space situational awareness and strategies for asset management and protection, similar to the approach the Air Force has been perfecting for the air domain over the past 100 years. As Hallmark concludes at DARPA, discussions are ongoing with multiple Department of Defense and other national security organizations, as well as commercial entities, to incorporate elements of the program into future efforts.
“The Hallmark program is ending in 2020, but the technologies and processes we developed for command and control in a contested environment will continue to yield positive results for the operational community,” said Fotis Barlos, DARPA program manager for Hallmark. “Several organizations are already using parts of the system. In addition to the Department of Defense, we’re talking to the Department of Commerce to address the important problem of commercial space traffic management.”
Over the previous five years, Hallmark successfully integrated more than a dozen software tools into two separate testbeds, one each from Ball Aerospace and BAE Systems. Volunteer space operators have evaluated each of the testbeds on a rolling three-month cycle using a cognitive evaluation framework to assess overall situational awareness, workload, and an understanding of ground truth. Each cycle has built on the technical and cognitive evaluation from the previous iteration.
“We have a finite number of end users and space operators who need to sort through immense amounts of information to determine what’s going on,” said Col. Jeremy Raley, director of the Strategic Capabilities Group, U.S. Air Force Space Rapid Capabilities Office. “Hallmark provides a framework to create tools to do what operators commonly do, but in a quicker, more reliable, and consistent manner.”
The Hallmark program focused on the development of three different classes of capabilities. The first is indications and warnings - using machine learning technologies to detect threats and raise appropriate alerts. The second is space situational awareness, which fuses various indication and warning messages into a coordinated picture that assesses the threat posture from multiple perspectives. It also anticipates events that could have catastrophic effects, such as a potential collision due to an unplanned maneuver. The third is course of action (COA) development, using artificial intelligence to provide an operator a sequence of actions to respond to an identified threat in the most efficient and effective way.
Hallmark also has introduced an experimentation and acquisition approach that optimizes technologies to mission objectives, leading to higher flexibility and agility in integrating new tools as requirements change and technologies evolve in the future. In this mission integration model, responsibility of ensuring successful integration falls on the tools themselves, rather than on a single government integrator. In this way, developers are allowed the flexibility to attempt various creative solutions to the given problem without being bound to a formal set of requirements.
Other DARPA programs have adopted the concept successfully; and in some cases, the military services have expanded this mission integration model to accelerate the acquisition process, delivering capabilities based on operator needs rather than long, fixed development approaches designed prior to the emergence of data and learning technologies.
The final Hallmark stakeholder demonstrations took place in late January and early February at Ball Aerospace and BAE Systems facilities.
Image Caption: Operators evaluate Hallmark tools on testbeds in Ball Aerospace and BAE Systems facilities
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