U.S. Air Force photo by Kathryn Calvert
- The Air Force named new software “Kobayashi Maru“, designed to monitor man-made objects in space.
- The program was named after the Kobayashi Maru simulation, a supposedly unwinnable scenario in the Star Trek universe.
- The software package will replace 40-year-old legacy systems and help tie the Space Force into America’s “Five Eyes” allies.
The U.S. Space Force announced the development of a brand new software package designed to track and monitor objects in space. Dubbed “Kobayashi Maru,” the cloud-based program was designed to modernize the way the U.S. Air Force—and now the U.S. Space Force—interoperates in space but with its allies in the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing alliance.
The package, developed by Silicon Valley-based Palantir Systems, is supposed to simplify the tracking of objects in space. It also provides data streaming and storage technologies for the U.S. Space Force, allowing it to easily access key data on objects circling the Earth. The Air Force in 2019 described it as providing “a real-time data display of high-interest information pertaining to the global space community such as upcoming space launches, potential satellite conjunctions, atmospheric re-entries of objects in space, sensor status, and other pertinent information.”
The Kobayashi Maru is particularly designed to share space data with allies, enhancing “space domain awareness” among all. The Five Eyes alliance, composed of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand cooperates on various aspects of intelligence, from human intelligence (spies) to space intelligence, with a goal of sharing the information for use against common adversaries. This new system allows other non-American members of the alliance to access American-gathered space data in a streamlined fashion.
The system is named after the Kobayashi Maru simulation, an exercise all cadets at Star Trek’s fictional Starfleet Academy must participate in. The simulation places a starship captain in an unwinnable situation as a test of mettle and testing a captain’s ability to in the face of certain death
According to a 2019 article, the Air Force named the program Kobayashi Maru after Kirk’s famous bending of the simulation’s rules. The service felt strongly that the existing software procurement system was too slow and bureaucratic to produce the software it needed. The service wanted to bypass the bureaucracy, bending its own rules, in order to get the new space software up and running.
The Kobayashi Maru is yet another space pop culture reference for the Air Force/Space Force. The Space Force’s official logo bears a resemblance to the logo of Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets. The Space Force also features a Space Operations Center, or SPOC, which is way too much like “Spock” to be a coincidence.
But Star Trek isn’t the only pop culture reference to find a home in the Space Force. The service also has the Kessel Run, a software division named after a smuggling route used by Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon. The Space Force is also developing two software packages named after science fiction video games: Starfox, which “provides accurate and timely radio frequency windows for military, commercial, and mission partners,” and Metroid, a “high-interest event tracker” that provides information on such events across the Department of Defense space community.
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