Sigmatech Helps Launch the SARah-1 Satellite

SARah-1 at Vandenberg SFB
SARah-1 at Vandenberg SFB, copyright Airbus, courtesy of German MOD

Not many people would think that the failed attempt by Russian paratroopers to encircle Kyiv would lead to stronger combined operations in space, or the first ever “tactical” coordination between the Space Force and the U.S. National Guard. The Russian attack on Hostomel Airport, outside Kyiv, destroyed the world famous “Mriya” Antonov An-225, and disrupted the bulk air cargo operations that Ukrainians have provided across the globe. One of those transports was scheduled to transport the German Space Command’s new Synthetic Aperture Radar (SARah) satellites for launch at Vandenberg SFB, the first of which was scheduled for mid-June. The SARah constellation, an $840 Million German investment, gives the Bundeswehr worldwide imaging reconnaissance capability independent of the time of day or the weather, and provides support in the early detection and management of crises just like the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
SARah-1 was able to make its launch date in California because the German Space Command had friends in all the right places, and the U.S. Space Force had workable solutions to confront many obstacles.
The Global Partnerships Directorate (S5P) at Headquarters, U.S. Space Force learned of Germany’s transport problems, and approached one of their Sigmatech Inc. contractors to develop a solution. Mr. Doug Faherty, an international affairs specialist who joined the Sigmatech team last August, immediately pointed out that an existing treaty between the U.S. and German governments, the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA), gave the Germans an option to request American help. The ACSA serves as an open “ledger book” for the two nations to provide logistical support to each other’s military forces. It allowed the German Space Command to ask for American heavy airlift support and legally reimburse the Department of Defense for those services. Doug led his Associate Director at S5P, Mr. Garrett Haslem, directly to a former colleague, the Germany Desk Officer at OSD Policy (Europe/NATO Division), to confirm that this offer to support Germany firmly supported our national security objectives in space, and was the right course of action. Doug’s proposed solution then made it up the chain to the Chief Strategy and Resources Officer (CSRO) of the Space Force, Lt Gen Bill Liquori, who gave the green light to point out this option to the German Space Command.
According to the Department of the Air Force’s General Counsel, this is the first time the Space Force has ever invoked an ACSA agreement to support a partner nation. Doug ensured that both the CSRO and the Director of Space Forces at U.S. European Command (EUCOM) knew they had the General Counsel’s approval to apply the ACSA and proceed, and then continued to reach across the Atlantic. He linked the Defense Attaché Office and Security Cooperation Office at U.S. Embassy Berlin with U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) experts at EUCOM to address the technical details of transport with the German government.
All this was happening the weekend before the International Space Chiefs Symposium, and just days before Gen Raymond, the U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations, was scheduled to meet Major General Mike Traut, the Commander of Germany’s Space Command. When the Global Partnerships team was tasked to relay the support offer to Germany, Doug again had the answer. Doug knew the German Defense Attaché in Washington, DC, and had met General Traut while representing the Global Partnerships Directorate at a diplomatic reception. Professional contacts were already in place. At S5P’s direction, Doug made direct contact with General Traut who was in Australia, on his way to Colorado Springs for the Space Chiefs Symposium, and passed on the good news just days before his next high level engagement with U.S. Space Force leaders.
SARah-1, however, was built to live in space, and not here on the ground. The size of the satellite’s shipping container, and the generator that kept that container clean and cool, was too big for the U.S. Air Force transport options which drove the satellite’s manufacturers to ship SARah-1 by sea. Once it arrived at the Port of Baltimore, new complications in transport arose. State Highway authorities in the U.S. initially denied transport permits for the satellite, which included a large shipping container linked to a generator cooling system by a short umbilical cable. Two “separate” loads on one truck’s trailer aren’t allowed on major U.S. highways without special approvals. With just three days to arrive at Vandenberg SFB on schedule, and an obvious need to expedite highway permit approval, Mr. Haslem again approached Doug to recommend a solution.
That solution was to engage another old friend for help, and to call in the National Guard. Dr. John Finney has long served as the Political Advisor (POLAD) to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau (NGB). Doug explained the need for expedited highway permits, from across eight States, to get SARah-1 to California, and “Doc” Finney immediately had him explain the situation to the NGB Commander’s Action Group (CAG). Overnight, Doug prepared a short mission brief for CAG, paving the way for General Raymond to coordinate directly with General Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, the next morning and gain his assistance. General Raymond knew the importance of building combined capability in space with a close NATO Ally and partner in the Combined Space Operations (CspO) initiative, and General Hokanson understood the importance of making a launch date on time. Before the end of the day, General Hokanson contacted the Adjutants General in charge of the National Guards in each of the eight States, asking them to expedite SARah-1’s movement permits with their local government partners.
The NGB CAG and Space Force Global Partnerships Directorate tracked the successful movement of SARah-1 over a Spring weekend through Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Every State stepped up to make sure this very sensitive cargo made it to Vandenberg SFB, even providing a special police escort when it passed through cities like Nashville. In another first, the direct coordination between two members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff led to the first tactical support to the Space Force mission, and the USSF’s international partnerships, by the National Guard.
Upon arriving at Vandenberg SFB, Lt Gen Liquori summed up the effort to General Raymond as “great cooperation between the German MoD, USSF, NGB, and individual states to get the satellite to the launch base after the AN-225 transport aircraft was destroyed in the Ukraine conflict. Kudos again to Garrett Haslem and Doug Faherty for recognizing the possibility to support an Ally and pushing to make it happen.”
SARah-1 successfully reached orbit on the morning of June 18th, just as scheduled. The German Space Command is already planning the launch of two reflector satellites (SARah-2 and -3), to complete the constellation before the end of this year. With the groundwork now laid to implement ACSA for these smaller satellites, the U.S. Space Force, with the heavy lift of the U.S. Air Force, is prepared to arrange air transport as needed in support of the German Space Command. Furthermore, these actions have now paved the way for greater international cooperation with other allies who may have been relying on a lift from the Antonov An-225.