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New Bismarck research project makes Sky Range a statewide initiative

Published: Mar 28 2024
New Bismarck research project makes Sky Range a statewide initiative - Photo
Senator Hoeven outlines $8.3 million for satellite-based system to bolster hypersonic missile testing, includes research & development and college-to-career pipeline in Bismarck

As part of his military tour of North Dakota, U.S. Senator John Hoeven today, along with Bismarck State College (BSC) President Dr. Douglas Jensen and leaders from BlueHalo, announced funding for a new research project that will support hypersonic missile testing and create opportunities for students to train for high-tech defense industry jobs in the state. As a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, Hoeven secured $8.3 million to fund the Space-based Telemetry Phased Array Antenna Systems (STAPS) project, which supports a new partnership between BSC and BlueHalo and develops technology to enhance the Test Resource Management Center’s (TRMC) Sky Range program at Grand Sky. This comes as part of the more than $100 million that Hoeven included for defense research and development across North Dakota in the fiscal year (FY) 2024 funding bills.  
  • Under the STAPS or the Space-based Telemetry using All-digital Phased Array Antenna System Project, BlueHalo will use the $8.3 million:
    • For research and development of digital phased arrays for satellites to support Sky Range’s hypersonic missile testing, building on BlueHalo’s PANTHER phased array antenna carried on the Range Hawk.
    • To train students for new careers, in partnership with BSC and local businesses, at a space engineering and manufacturing hub in Bismarck, including a college-to-career pipeline.
  • The project aligns with the senator’s broader efforts to secure full funding for TRMC and the Space Development Agency to execute their missions at Grand Forks and keep it the tip of the spear for space and hypersonic missions.  

“This $8.3 million lays the foundation for a new partnership, benefiting students and businesses in Bismarck, while enhancing the Sky Range mission in Grand Forks. But more than that, this is about the future of our nation’s defense, staying ahead of our adversaries and North Dakota’s growing role in such essential missions,” said Senator Hoeven. “Sky Range provides a more efficient and effective way to test hypersonic weapons, which are currently tested using ships at sea, an expensive, slow and insecure method. Now, Bismarck gets to be an important part of this initiative, providing both technology development as BlueHalo adapts its phased array antenna for satellites as well as the workforce needed for our state’s dynamic, high-tech defense industry.”  

“The partnership announced today marks the beginning of an entire defense technology ecosystem we are building with Bismarck State College in central North Dakota and continues BlueHalo’s work to develop generationally important technologies in support of the mission,” said James Batt, BlueHalo Chief Growth Officer. “The technological advancements we will make, the workforce we will train, and the opportunities this will provide are only possible because of the support we have received from North Dakota leaders, like Dr. Jensen and Sen. Hoeven, who understand the importance of delivering critical technologies to address the most urgent national security priorities. We are excited to see what we will accomplish together.”  

“When we embarked on our journey to add an 88,000-square-foot Polytechnic Advanced Technology Center to the Bismarck State College campus, we envisioned a strong industry partnership to help our students develop the real-world experience and skills needed to excel in today’s workforce,” said Dr. Jensen. “We appreciate Senator Hoeven’s work to lay the foundation for this partnership with BlueHalo. Together, we are committed to developing a focused curriculum, providing students with hands-on learning experiences, and propelling graduates to successful defense technology careers in our community.” –

Developing Space-Based Arrays for Sky Range  
Phased arrays create a beam of radio waves which can be electronically pointed in different directions without physically moving the antennas. BlueHalo already provides its PANTHER phased array for the Range Hawk unmanned aircraft used by Sky Range to track hypersonic missiles. The company will adapt this technology for satellites to augment and build upon the Range Hawk test data. At the same time, BSC students will have the opportunity to work on BlueHalo’s phased array systems, for both unmanned aircraft and satellites. While doing so, the students will secure the training and certification needed for a range of high-paying, high-tech defense industry jobs.  

Standing up Sky Range  
Hoeven continues working with TRMC Director George Rumford to fund and advance construction of the Sky Range complex, with the program currently operating out of a temporary hangar at Grand Sky. The complex will be complemented by a data processing center that TRMC will establish at the former 119th Wing MQ-9 operations center at Hector Field in Fargo.

Currently, the Department of Defense (DoD) uses an aging fleet of ships deployed across a Pacific Ocean corridor to test hypersonic missiles. This process is expensive, takes weeks to set up and signals the testing schedule to America’s adversaries. Sky Range will replace the ships with modified unmanned aircraft that can deploy quickly and will increase testing capacity.  

North Dakota’s Growing Role in National Defense  
Senator Hoeven is holding meetings across North Dakota to highlight the state’s growing role in U.S. national defense and to outline important priorities included for the state’s missions in the FY24 defense funding legislation, which he helped author. Hoeven secured more than $100 million for defense research and development across North Dakota in the FY24 funding bills. The tour so far has included a meeting on modernizing the dual-nuclear mission in Minot and today’s announcement in Bismarck, with meeting to follow in Grand Forks and Fargo over the next week.