Northrop Grumman has delivered two major components of the Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission (ASBM) and has started the next phase of pre-launch preparations for the US and its allies to operate in the High North theatre.

ASBM is a two-satellite constellation that the American prime has designed to protect satellite communications to the Northern polar region – one of the most difficult locations on earth to deliver communications.

The constellation is a combined effort between the US Space Force, Space Norway and Northrop Grumman. ASBM uses Northrop Grumman’s GEOStar-3 platform – which includes the main satellite structure and systems required to maintain operation, such as power, propulsion, communications, command and data handling, thermal control and guidance and navigational control.

The company has delivered the Control and Planning Segment (CAPS) ground system to the US Space Force; two Enhanced Polar System Recapitalisation (EPS-R) payloads and integrated them EPS-R onto both satellites; and completed the thermal-vacuum environmental testing on ASBM-1.

“[The] end-to-end space technology capabilities represent a powerful model for government and commercial partnerships in space, marked by greater agility and affordability,” said Tom Wilson, Corporate Vice President and President for Northrop Grumman Space Systems, “Our work to deliver protected polar satellite communications will fill a critical need for our customers.”

Operating in the High North theatre

Air and space power specialists attending the UK Chief of the Air Staff’s Air and Space Power Conference last month expressed particular concern when it comes to operating in the High North theatre.

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The Commander of the Swedish Air Force, Major General Jonas Wikman, suggested that “we still have to figure out what kind of investments” are required in the Polar region.

For the Air and Space Commander of the UK Royal Air Force (RAF), Air Marshal Harvey Smyth, one reason to develop our polar capabilities is to maintain an edge in the geopolitical contest to control regional resources. “China is increasingly investing in its activity in the [Arctic] region, pursuing a Polar Silk Road as an extension of [its] broader Belt and Road Initiative.”

From an industry perspective, the Senior Vice President for Strategy and Growth at Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems, Rick Beckenridge, stated that “when it comes to situational awareness, we need increased polar orbits in the space domain, as well as High Altitude Long Endurance [HALE] ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] systems in the air. This will be essential in providing the fidelity persistence that is required.”