Behind the red glare of the Falcon 9 launch on Tuesday that delivered a U.S. Military advanced global positioning satellite into orbit, is the revolution of the commercial government enterprise of cost reduction and mass delivery to rapidly deploy in Space. This launch was the first major national security launch with the SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket, beginning a new era of cooperation between Space Force and the private space industry. What was delivered was a new GPS 3 satellite that has three times more accuracy and eight times more anti-jamming power than what’s up there now at an approximate cost of $2500 per pound compared to the NASA average of $8,000 per pound for the Space Shuttle program.
SpaceX has broken barriers with rapid innovation, particularly with its reusable booster engines. Its turnaround time for reusing booster engines has reached a low of 62 days and it has become the first major reusable rocket booster. SpaceX has the stated goals of reaching a turnaround of 24 hours between the uses of the Falcon 9 boosters to establish its StarLink network with 10,000 satellites, eventually reaching over 60,000 satellites.
In parallel, in the Department of Defense, the Space Development Agency (SDA) has developed a sound space Architecture and is operating to rapidly deploy technologies at a rate faster than that of other agencies with a goal of approximately 1,200 satellites up, beginning with 20 satellites in 2022. MDA is supporting the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensors (HBTSS) satellites for the SDA’s space sensor layer. The HBTSS satellites are designed to track and target Hypersonic Weapons with a constellation of Medium Field of View (MFoV) satellites and will accompany the constellations of Wide Field of View (WFoV) and transport layer satellites. Less than 18 months old, the SDA was stood up as a direct challenge to the Defense status quo. “We know that this can be done,” said Dr. Michael Griffin, Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, of the space sensor layer. “The Pentagon takes on average 16 years from “stating a need to initial operational capability”, a reality Griffin sought to challenge.
The genesis of SDA was to be built as a primer before Space Force to put forward an independent entity mirroring some of MDA’s principles to rapidly develop and deploy space assets. Today the Space Force is formed and the role of SDA will be the Space Force’s rapid acquisition group and could eventually become the US Air Force’s (USAF) rapid development group alongside the USAF’s traditional acquisition for Space, the Space and Missiles System Center (SMC) based in Los Angeles, California. MDA supports SDA and the build-up and deployment of the SDA’s space sensor layer and working cooperatively together in the development of the HBTSS satellites.
To light up the rockets of this revolution, earlier last month, the Department of Defense released their new Defense Space Strategy (DSS). This new DSS is the first major long-term strategic plan to include the new Space Force and Space Command. The DSS lays out four specific lines of effort (LOE) oriented on achieving this solution. These LOE’s include building a comprehensive military advantage in space, using and integrating space assets to achieve national, joint, and comprehensive military advantages, shaping the strategic environment, and promoting cooperation with allies, partners, industries, and other U.S. government departments and agencies LOE highlight the need for an agency with acquisition authority and the ability to develop technologies on an accelerated schedule. The LOE Highlights the requirement for the Space Development Agency.
Let the fireworks begin and the rockets’ red glare.
Happy Fourth of July!