White Paper Ushers in New Era of Thought Leadership for Space Community 

Elara Nova’s Call-to-Action to Modernize the Satellite Control Network Sets Precedent for Industry-Leading Advocacy 

Considered the ‘backbone’ of space operations, the Satellite Control Network (SCN) is the network of ground system antennas that enable command and control communications between operators on Earth and the Department of Defense (DOD) satellites on-orbit. But an increasingly populated space environment, coupled with chronic under-funding and advancing satellite technology, is overextending the SCN’s capacity to support national security space needs. Now, Elara Nova is leveraging its platform to advocate for modernizing the SCN, setting an industry-leading precedent for thought leadership with its inaugural White Paper, “Time for a New Approach with the Satellite Control Network.” 

“The Satellite Control Network is a nationally critical infrastructure because it supports so many different aspects of our nation’s ability to successfully conduct satellite operations: across the Air Force, the Space Force, the intelligence community, and even NASA,” said Maj Gen (Ret) Roger Teague, founding partner at Elara Nova and co-author of the White Paper. “One of our key recommendations is to bring both the intelligence community and NASA into the conversation to determine what the system’s future operations and capabilities are going to look like.” 

The aging SCN infrastructure reflects the growing complexities of an interconnected space domain. Through programs like the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture, there is a growing trend for de-centralizing space architectures to facilitate greater resiliency in space-based capability. The ground network supporting these architectures, however, has remained the same. 

“We have more satellites coming on-orbit than ever before, all of which are trying to make contact with the SCN antennas as they pass over the Earth,” said Col (Ret) Mark Hughes, partner at Elara Nova and co-author of the White Paper. “The SCN is not designed to handle multi-path connections, so it’s getting to the point of oversubscribing the system’s capability so much that we have to prioritize connections across multiple missions. Therefore, the command and control mission has become more complex at a time when we have to be more responsive in a dynamic space environment.” 

The Command and Control Imperative 

Perhaps no mission supported by the SCN is as vital as the DOD requirement for command and control of its space assets. 

“The SCN is the primary node for command and control of forces in the field, and so it becomes a liability as a single network,” Col Hughes said. “Our adversaries will look to take out this primary node because without it, we can’t ensure that the right space assets will be in the right place, at the right time, in order to get the desired results. We have to move beyond this single network for command and control, which means creating multiple nodes and connection points to ensure greater reliability and security for the Department of Defense.” 

Therefore, Gen Teague and Col Hughes argue that the time is now for the ground system supporting these architectures to de-centralize, as well. If it doesn’t, the SCN will remain an ‘Achilles’ heel’ of the United States’ space architecture.  

“The SCN’s antenna locations are well-known, and so a kinetic strike would do incredible damage,” Gen Teague said. “The system is also subject to constant cyber attacks. So it’s important to consider future requirements that have resilient command and control options available, so that we’re not solely dependent on the current infrastructure associated with the Satellite Control Network as it exists today.” 

Implications for the General Public

While the need to modernize the SCN is already well-known among senior military officials, a successful attack would also carry wide-ranging implications for the general public. To this end, Gen Teague co-authored an opinion editorial with Gen (Ret) John E. Hyten, senior principal advisor at Elara Nova, to amplify the potential consequences of inaction. 

“It is the stated doctrine of both Chinese and Russian leadership to expose vulnerabilities and cripple the space capabilities of the United States, and so the SCN will certainly be in their crosshairs,” Gen Teague said. “That should be a wake-up call to all Americans, because our way of life is being threatened to its core. Space is integrated throughout our daily activities, from driving to the grocery store with GPS navigation, to executing a banking transaction or filling up your car with gas. Therefore, an antiquated SCN architecture creates a vulnerability that we must address as soon as possible.” 

A Call-to-Action for Modernization

In response, the White Paper calls for collaboration within the DOD, and across industry, to develop innovative solutions and operating concepts for the aging ground network.  

“In the past, there have been individual contracts through the respective acquisitions or operations commands, but they haven’t been integrated in their capability delivery like General Saltzman wants,” Col Hughes said. “Commercial space companies should also view this call-to-action as a revolutionary approach to developing the next generation of ground systems, because this modernization will require multiple hardware and software configurations to be integrated with multiple interfaces and configuration controls.” 

Despite what appears to be an overwhelming challenge in modernizing this national infrastructure, achieving a de-centralized ground network remains possible. As an example, the White Paper draws parallels to the Eisenhower administration’s development of an interstate highway system after World War II.  

“General Eisenhower realized the military necessity of a highway system after he saw how efficiently German forces logistically moved capability during World War II,” Col Hughes said. “Then in a presidential role, he recognized that the states were building their own, non-connected, non-standardized and non-integrated road system, which wasn’t going to be sufficient. So he raised the issue up to a federal level, because national infrastructure is so critical for not only rapidly moving military capability, but facilitating our economic growth. That’s the lesson that we can use to inform the Space Force as it considers this national infrastructure problem.” 

Aligning the Ground Network to Achieve Space Force Doctrine

With a robust, de-centralized ground network in place, the Space Force can follow through on its objective known as Line of Effort #1: fielding combat-ready forces.  

“General Saltzman’s edict is about more than just deploying technology hardware at ground stations,” Gen Teague said. “It has to include the people who operate, acquire and sustain this ground network as we ultimately transition to Integrated Mission Deltas. So the White Paper gets back to the core objectives that General Saltzman is trying to achieve: bringing the acquisition, operations and sustainment communities together to field an operating capability of a modernized system at a much faster pace.”  

An escalating threat environment in space, particularly from peer adversaries like Russia and China, signals that time is of the essence to implement a new, modernization strategy.  

“The number one take-away for the audience is that the time for action is now,” Col Hughes said. “The SCN has been a neglected part of the critical infrastructure for too long. The mandate for space forces is to unify our understanding of the requirements and come up with a new approach to build a more resilient and technologically responsive ground system for the warfighter and civilian agencies.” 

Elara Nova and Thought Leadership for the Space Industry

That is why Elara Nova’s efforts go beyond the advocacy role of its White Paper, to include facilitating collaboration across the space community to develop innovative solutions and operating concepts.  

“We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback for highlighting the Satellite Control Network – which truly affects everyone,” Gen Teague said. “But there still needs to be a conversation about determining the appropriate resources to modernize it. As the White Paper suggests, we must bring forward an Integrated Mission Delta approach, to include the intelligence community and NASA, to develop a solution for this issue and field a new capability quickly.” 

The SCN, however, is not the only system under the Space Force’s purview that will require modernization. Therefore, after successfully establishing itself as a thought leader within its first year of operations, Elara Nova is embracing its emerging role in delivering industry-leading research to meet the demands of national security space.  

“The Department of Defense and the U.S. Space Force have a number of different systems that have similar stories to the Satellite Control Network, in that they’re aging and outdated,” Gen Teague said. “This White Paper is part of a broader initiative within Elara Nova for thought leadership, as we look to address the space security issues of today and into the future. So as we look through our leadership lens, we are going to be engaging on a number of different topics in the days, weeks and months ahead to address these issues from an independent perspective, because we have to get it right.”  

Elara Nova is a global consultancy and professional services firm focused on helping businesses and government agencies maximize the strategic advantages of the space domain. Learn more at