• The TacPlanner allows the Satellite Operations Planning Cell to better manage satellite communication assets.
@3SDL
    The TacPlanner allows the Satellite Operations Planning Cell to better manage satellite communication assets. @3SDL
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Nova Systems is coming to the close of a multi-year program developing a tool called TacPlanner, which will allow Defence’s Satellite Operations Planning Cell (SatOps) to better manage the ADF’s satellite communication assets.

ADM spoke to Nick Pengelly and Neil Hathaway from Nova to talk about how their technology will improve the ADF’s communications environment by maximising the planning and management efficiency of the ADF’s UHF SATCOM Capability.

 “We knew UHF SATCOM Planning and Management needed to be more streamlined to support the growing space segment resources,” Pengelly said.

“We found that there was no quick and simple way for [SatOps] to grab a status shot for their UHF satellite communications.

“CIOG needed something that was streamlined, like some sort of software product that would actually save them a lot of time and money in overall UHF SATCOM management.”

Nova’s above-the-line program utilised an agile development methodology to find a solution to the problem, consulting regularly with Defence to generate iterative refinements of the software application.

“We would work in short time slices and at the end of every one of those we’d have a working version of the software, and so about every month we usually got the customer out and we got them handling the tool,” Hathaway said. “We got their feedback about what was adding value, what wasn’t really adding value and we tracked all that.”

One of the challenges to this iterative approach was getting passionate developers used to constructive criticisms from end users.

“If you think about a traditional high performing team of passionate people, if you tell them they’re now working on a slightly different requirement can lead to frustrations,” Hathaway said. “[But] they [the Nova developers] approached the agile process with a very positive attitude; every time the customer gives us some feedback, that’s a really good thing because it means we are adjusting to deliver the product they actually want in a more streamlined approach.”

The next step for TacPlanner could be into NATO, meaning the technology could become an export success story for Australian defence industry.

“We’ve had some preliminary discussions with NATO organisations. They use similar technologies in their UHF satellites and they’re looking at upgrading their systems in coming years,” Hathaway said.

According to Pengelly, some of the credit for TacPlanner’s success belongs with Defence.

“I think that they probably need some credit for supporting this innovative approach to developing a tool like this,” Pengelly said.

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