Research Summaries

Back The Bento Box: Modular and Recoverable Stratospheric Payload for Resilient C4ISR Infrastructure

Fiscal Year 2021
Division Graduate School of Operational & Information Sciences
Department Defense Analysis
Investigator(s) Gallegos, Christopher J.
Sponsor Naval Information Warfare Center, Pacific (Navy)
Summary Great power competitors have demonstrated the ability to target or degrade contemporary space and air-borne systems that provide critical C4ISR capabilities to U.S. warfighters and deployed systems. Stratospheric systems offer a novel solution to this issue as they are cost-effective to employ, expensive to target, can operate autonomously, and offer an alternative platform for technologies that are typically employed by satellites or aircraft. An opportunity exists to leverage stratospheric platforms to supplement or create resilient and redundant C4ISR infrastructures for use by deployed forces operating in air and space contested, disrupted, or operationally limited environments. To achieve the responsiveness required from stratospheric systems to rapidly build or reconstitute C4ISR networks, a standardized modular and recoverable payload concept must be developed. The objective of this effort at the Naval Postgraduate School is to prototype a modular payload, called the "Bento Box", for use on unmanned, high- and low- altitude systems, that is compatible with existing platforms. The Bento Box will be designed to minimize cost and time needed to integrate myriad C4ISR network components including communication, navigation, remote sensing, or other non-kinetic payloads onto stratospheric platforms. In contrast with current stratospheric system designs which commonly employ a single payload per system, the Bento Box will be designed to simultaneously operate multiple components of the C4ISR infrastructure on a single stratospheric system, such as a high-altitude balloon (HAB), persistently for periods stretching from days to months. Additionally, the Bento Box will be designed to be a "plug and play" subsystem for not only HABs, but high-altitude long-endurance aircraft and small unmanned aerial systems (UAS)' thereby opening the aperture for platform diversity and increased network resilience. Finally, as a crucial piece of the concept, the Bento Box is planned to operate for extended duration while integrated into a marsupial UAS suspended under a HAB with the intent to use the UAS as a recovery vehicle in the case the overall balloon system is threatened or destroyed. By designing the Bento Box to be employed in such a manner, our team intends to solve complex problems regarding payload recovery requirements for expensive or sensitive payloads, set the industry standard for future stratospheric payload and sensor design, unlock the door for stakeholder innovation, and accelerate development and adoption of unmanned stratospheric systems writ large. The Department of Defense, many private industry partners, and various academic institutions have shown increased interest in using near-space platforms to address current operational gaps particularly in the space and air domains. This project would further these interests and support the development of national capabilities to ultimately benefit the Naval Service and the warfighter.
Keywords C4ISR Resilient bento box high-altitude balloon modular payload stratosphere
Publications Publications, theses (not shown) and data repositories will be added to the portal record when information is available in FAIRS and brought back to the portal
Data Publications, theses (not shown) and data repositories will be added to the portal record when information is available in FAIRS and brought back to the portal