Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration Frank Calvelli speaks during the panel discussion “Driving Change with Speed” at the Air and Space Forces Association 2024 Warfare Symposium in Aurora, Colo., Feb. 13, 2024. (US Air Force photo by Eric Dietrich)

WASHINGTON — The Space Force is “transitioning” its repository for commercial and allied space monitoring data, the Unified Data Library (UDL), from a prototype to a program of record — with plans to ensure its contents can be more easily integrated with operational systems such as satellite command and control networks, according to a new report to Congress obtained by Breaking Defense.

The “Report on Process and Plan for Space Force Space Situational Awareness,” signed by Air Force space acquisition czar Frank Calvelli, was required by the fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA instructed him to detail a UDL integration plan, following criticism from the Government Accountability Office, as well as to explain the Space Force’s process “to regularly identify and evaluate commercial space situational awareness capabilities.”

Among other initiatives to improve the UDL, largely in response to the GAO’s critique, the report says that the “Space Force Requirements Office (SF/SS) is working with stakeholders to develop a UDL Capability Needs Statement.” Further, the service is “finalizing” a process for “onboarding” user organizations “that need to push data to, pull data from, or otherwise manage/use data in, the UDL” — a process that includes a case-by-case assessment of what obstacles, such as incompatible software, need to be overcome.

The report explains that the UDL, first launched as a pilot project by Air Force Research Laboratory in 2018, “is a cloud-based, multi-classification data integration layer providing a central location for data exposure/exploitation” that contains “government and commercially acquired data, enabling the USSF, government and allies’ access to a multitude of data sources from a centralized repository. …

“Ongoing UDL prototyping efforts continue to successfully support USSF operations. UDL currently counts among its users 150 academic, 1,700 commercial, 125 allied, and 2,000+ government accounts across 25 countries. It supports 12 programs of record, and up to 70 applications are pulling in over 200 million records from the UDL daily,” the report adds.

For example, the report notes that the UDL is “the foundational data layer” for the Joint Commercial Operations (JCO) cell, previously known as the US Space Command Joint Task Force-Space Defense Commercial Operations Cell, that provides “commercially augmented capability” to military space surveillance and operations support. The JCO, it explains, focuses “on ‘protect and defend’ missions involving U.S., allied, and partner high value assets (HVA), which are defined as satellites of strategic and national interest.”

Maj. Gen. Gregory Gagnon, Space Force deputy chief of space operations for intelligence, earlier this month praised the UDL’s operations by Space Systems Command. But a number of senior Space Force officials have admitted publicly that it remains cumbersome for users — with the service late last year kicking off a campaign of improvements. A key shortfall has been that the library does not directly interface with those operational computer systems used to gather space monitoring data from US military sensors and predict the likelihood of on-orbit crashes.

According to the report, future Space Force “C2 architectures will integrate with the UDL, enabling other USSF program offices, USSF operational users, and USSPACECOM organizations, such as the NSDC, to clearly see UDL’s role and ensure any necessary integration is accomplished. This is especially important for operational C2 programs, such as the Advanced Tracking and Launch Analysis System (ATLAS), which will use a service known as Warp Core to pull in data from the UDL.”

ATLAS, being developed by L3Harris, is supposed to serve as the Space Force’s primary space domain awareness command and control system, replacing the ancient Space Defense Operations Center computer system. Warp Core, built by Palantir, is a multi-layer software tool that serves as the data management layer for ATLAS. However, the Space Force also has been struggling to get ATLAS fully up and running.

The Space Force’s FY25 budget request asked for $35 million in research, development, test and evaluation funding for the UDL, down from last year’s request of $187.4 million. The budget justification documents show plans for steady funding at just about FY25 levels through FY29.