Last month there was an excellent article in National Defense magazine. Titled “Air Force Continues to Ponder New Ways to Buy Satellites,” it laid out well the recent challenges and opportunities for military space programs.
The article references a recent white paper put out by the Air Force Space Command that proposes a fresh look at disaggregation. Air Force Space Command should be commended for leading US National Security Space in the first steps towards resilient and disaggregated architectures within DoD Space Modernization Initiatives.
If these initiatives are focused on incorporating hosted payload technologies and commercial provisioning of space accommodations and secure ground networks, DoD will enable innovation through competition and the modernization of the US Space architecture in a much more cost effective manner. US space modernization is possible even in the midst of declining budgets if the initiatives are focused on bringing government payload developments closer to commercial space provisioning opportunities.
One way for the Air Force to meet warfighter needs through resilient and disaggregated architectures is to find natural synergies in multi-mission payload technologies, “apps” development, and data integration tailored for specific warfighter, last tactical mile, and strategic applications. DoD can reduce the high cost of space programs by removing the custom development of capabilities that can be provided commercially, such as cloud computing, common ground infrastructure, satellite buses, ground networks, and data back haul services.
In other words, the greatest impact DoD Space can have on “revamping satellite acquisitions” is to focus on multi-mission as well as single mission payload technology that can be refreshed on more frequent cycles. This would allow DoD to leverage available commercial ground networks and much faster satellite build cycles of 24-36 months.
Modernization investments through this commercial provisioning provide a continual technology refresh and dispersion of space capabilities which can outpace and out maneuver US adversaries in space.
Space & Missile Systems Center has made significant progress in laying the ground work for modernization to occur through the Hosted Payload Solutions (HoPS) IDIQ contract. What is important for industry to understand is how this will be used to provide affordable alternatives for many of the US Air Force missions such as OPIR, Protected SATCOM and Positioning, Navigation, and Timing and how HoPS will interact with the existing program of records.
The way to get this right is by working together more collaboratively than ever before. DoD’s openness to new approaches for space modernization will strengthen US national security and will spur innovation within our country’s industrial base.