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Program Management

This Is An Example Of Fast Space Acquisition

This Is An Example Of Fast Space Acquisition

This Is An Example Of Fast Space Acquisition
Steve Skotte

I spent most of my Air Force career acquiring space systems and the Space Development Agency (SDA) has done something truly remarkable in my opinion. SDA has delivered the first 10 satellites of the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA) on-orbit, two-and-a-half years from contract award to launch. These satellites that will demonstrate the low-latency communication links to support the warfighter with a resilient network of integrated capabilities, including tracking of advanced missile threats, from low-Earth orbit (LEO).

A SpaceX Falcon 9 reusable, two stage rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, launched the first 10 of the planned 28 satellites. Once completed, the constellation will include 20 optically-connected data transport satellites and eight optically-connected missile warning/missile tracking satellites equipped with wide-field-of-view sensors. A second SDA launch of satellites is scheduled for June.

"This is a major accomplishment for SDA and for the whole Department of Defense. It shows that our key pillars, proliferation and spiral development, can deliver for national security space," said the director of SDA. "Through this launch, we've demonstrated that SDA can keep a schedule to deliver enhanced capabilities every two years. This revolutionary approach is enabled by growth in the commercial marketplace, allowing the PWSA to move forward to deliver warfighting capabilities in each future tranche."

The constellation will serve as the warfighter immersion tranche and support military exercises, including advanced missile tracking tests, in the summer of 2023 and beyond. Tranche 0 will demonstrate the feasibility of the following:

  • Low latency data connectivity
  • Beyond line of sight targeting
  • Missile warning/missile tracking
  • On-orbit fusion
  • Multi-phenomenology ground-based sensor fusion

SDA transferred to the Space Force as a direct reporting unit in October 2022. SDA brings a unique acquisition strategy that enables faster and cheaper capability delivery by designing and rapidly deploying a threat-driven resilient constellation of small satellites in LEO. SDA programs provide an integral part of the national security hybrid space architecture in the areas of communications, data transport, and missile warning.