Northrop Grumman’s Enhanced Polar System – Recapitalization (EPS-R) Control and Planning Segment (CAPS) program is essential to provide continuous coverage for secure, jam-resistant, strategic and tactical communications in the Earth’s North Polar Region.

As the company works on the program that facilitates military satellite communications, the team is implementing Agile methodologies to better enable increased customer collaboration, rapid adjustment to changing mission requirements and quality-enhanced efficiency. The program is working to move quickly and efficiently in bringing capabilities when and where the U.S. Space Force needs them most.

“Understanding the speed at which space operates in today’s contested environment, we can’t afford to continue developing space capability at the tempo of the past,” said 1st Lt. Brandon Lopez, EPS-R CAPS lead, Space Production Corps, Space and Missile Systems Center. “Our move to an Agile framework with DevSecOps, an approach that creates a cohesive collaboration between development, security and operations working towards continuous and rapid integration and delivery, demonstrates our commitment to accelerate war-fighting capability delivery and to the future of space systems development.”

Most recently, the legacy EPS CAPS program was called upon by the U.S. Navy to assist in exercises taking place in the Barents Sea with vessels returning to the area for the first time since the mid-1980s. EPS CAPS helped reinforce the foundation of Arctic readiness and assisted in building trust across the region. As the follow-on EPS-R CAPS program moves forward with an Agile framework and DevSecOps development principles, assisting in similar future missions will come with reduced time and labor, expenditures of software development and fully automated creation of the software build.

Why Agile?

In 2019, EPS-R CAPS customer leadership under the direction of Maj. Craig Zinck, EPS-R Ground program manager, U.S. Space Force, asked the program to provide an Agile Transformation Plan and path forward. Transitioning to an Agile framework with DevSecOps development would provide greater transparency and lead to increased cost savings. Agile and DevSecOps are complimentary approaches that promote a cohesive collaboration between development, security and operations working towards continuous and rapid integration and delivery. This is achieved through intimate and transparent collaboration across program teams and disciplines.

“The transition to Agile and DevSecOps practices is a perfect example of our team’s flexibility and Northrop Grumman’s commitment to helping our customers,” said Rob Fleming, vice president, strategic force programs, Northrop Grumman. “By transitioning to Agile we are able to work more collaboratively with our Space Force customer and quickly adapt to changing mission requirements, as we work to consistently and rapidly deliver important capabilities.”

To begin the transition process, a certified agile coach conducted agile 101 training for Northrop Grumman program personnel and the U.S. Space Force’s EPS-R CAPS program office. The team instituted agile scrum events, including sprint planning, sprint execution and reviews/retrospectives that are key elements in building an agile framework. A continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline was created and as a first step in this process. The software build creation is now 100 percent automated, reducing build time from 2-4 days to a couple hours.

In addition, increased transparency has been realized as part of the agile sprint-planning, reviews and retrospectives. Even as employees have had to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has been able to hold virtual sprint reviews that demonstrates the progress being made at the speed of need.

The agile methodology has reduced costs and provided increased efficiency on the EPS-R CAPS program. The long-term plan for the program is to keep improving and evolving processes leading to updated, high-quality deployments to operations at a higher frequency. To execute this vision, the program will continue to incorporate a collaborative, cross-functional, cross-segment approach incorporating customer and end-user feedback.