Three innovative ideas win fast-track funding in SSC’s inaugural Fight Tonight Competition

  • Published
  • By Linda Kane, SSC Public Affairs
Making innovation go faster-- and our space capabilities go further -- were driving forces behind Space Systems Command’s Fight Tonight Competition. The inaugural contest did not disappoint.

Modeled after TV’s “Shark Tank” series but with a clear goal of space superiority in sight, Fight Tonight challenged everyone within SSC to put their best thinking forward in the race to resiliency by 2026. More than 80 ideas were entered into the competition, seven made the final round, and three were chosen for immediate implementation.

“Fight Tonight demonstrates how quickly we can move by creating a culture of out-of-the-box thinking combined with a focus on creative ways to advance what we have today to address the threats of tomorrow,” said Capt. Darrell Dancy, Fight Tonight’s lead action officer and an acquisitions program manager.

Instead of building from scratch, the three ideas selected for funding leverage existing technologies to elevate current systems to new levels of performance. All three are expected to generate new capabilities for the warfighter over a timeline that can be measured in months rather than years.

“These ideas exemplify the new culture of SSC acquisition, which is to use what we have, buy what we can, and build only what we must – a driving strategy that is moving us closer to our goal of space capability resilience by 2026,” said Dancy. “Each Fight Tonight entry delivered value to our force and embodied this desired mentality, and as a result, has collectively helped us save at least five to seven years in development time.”

First place went to the idea of using  machine learning for more effective and efficient missile detection. Two additional ideas received honorable mention. One involves using  local area networking for greater alignment of space sensing plans with warfighter needs. The other focuses on using  space-based computer simulations for advanced readiness training.

“To be the Space Force that we need for the future, our ability to maximize today’s capability while leveraging the necessary resources without taking a step back on our progress is critical now more than ever,” Dancy further explained. “It’s an ideal that our leaders cannot carry alone. We need every member within our Space Force organization to maneuver with the same operationally-sound mindset.”

The summaries below provide a brief overview of each funded idea, along with insights into how they will empower the warfighter.

First Place Idea: False Track Reduction Using Machine Learning
Space Force personnel track more than 6,500 potential missile events each month. For every real event, there are some 1,200 false alarms. Ongoing satellite additions, a shifting geopolitical landscape, and real-world events (e.g., missiles, walkers, special events, etc.) are expected to increase the number of tracks, real or false, even further. To meet the 2026 need, machine learning technology using algorithms informed by operational data logs can significantly reduce false events presented to operators. Algorithms key in on dozens of features (e.g., motion, speed, and altitude) and assess them in real-time to distinguish events as real or false. A proof-of-concept study incorporating more than 100,000 false and real tracks proved false missile tracks could be reduced by 80% without discarding any real-world events. This capability can be quickly inserted into the current operational system without disruption to existing mission processing algorithms

Additionally Funded Ideas:

Red LAN Integrated Ops Support System (IOSS)
Space domain awareness (SDA) sensors help the Space Force manage space traffic, assure access to space, and disseminate decision-quality information throughout the spectrum of conflict.  By creating a secure local area network (LAN), space domain sensor plans can be combined and shared with Joint Forces and the Combined Space Operations Center for better integration with warfighting needs. This will be the first ever Consolidated Collection and Contact Plan (CCCP) for the entire 1st Space Operations Squadron constellation, enabling ops level planning with the remainder of the Space Surveillance Network for better resource management and to achieve specific effects.  LANs can also automate other sensor-related processes, improving efficiency and filling capability gaps. Enabling this initiative will allow for more rapid development of enterprise Pivot SDA capabilities in support of the orbital engagement mission by 2026.

Project Paladin
The objective of Project Paladin is to rapidly field on-orbit training assets designed to stress current tracking capabilities and test operator readiness. The unique payloads on Paladin enable the space vehicle to recreate various scenarios and stimulate ground- and space-based sensors, as well as the communications architecture between the sensors and end-user. It will be a focal point for improving warfighter readiness across the space enterprise. Lessons learned will help inform the United States Space Force's (USSF) future space systems' designs. By leveraging Aerospace Corporation's previous AeroCube architectures, Paladin will be developed and launched on an accelerated timeline, giving the USSF and USSPACECOM a critical testing and training asset significantly sooner than what has previously been possible.

From virtual reality training to space sensor networking, to spam filters for false missile events, the innovative thinkers at Space Systems Command are demonstrating that they are ready to Fight Tonight.

Congratulations to the winners and all who participated in the fight.