U.S. Space Force’s function as the go-to organization for military space and the Space Force’s partnerships with other nations have led and will lead to a significant reduction in the duplication of military space efforts–a duplication of research and development and acquisition effort that has been prevalent in the past, Air Force Gen. John Raymond told a virtual discussion held by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) on July 24.
Raymond is the chief of space operations for the sixth and newest military branch, the U.S. Space Force, and also serves as the commander of U.S. Space Command. Previously, Raymond was the commander of Air Force Space Command between October 2016 and December 2019.
“Over the last few years, in my Air Force Space Command hat, we were building a satellite that was going to do space situational awareness while there was another organization, the NRO [National Reconnaissance Office], that was building a satellite that does space situational awareness and so when we looked at the strategic environment that we were facing and said, ‘Why do we need to build that satellite when somebody else is already building it?’, we canceled that program, partnered with the NRO and will deliver capability to our nation faster at a reduced cost,” Raymond said during the CNAS event.
In addition, the military has had a requirement to launch two communications satellites in an orbit that would help cover the Arctic region, and, instead of building its own satellites, U.S. Space Force decided to integrate U.S. communications payloads on Norwegian satellites to save funds, get the communications satellites on orbit more quickly, and deepen the U.S. bond with Norway, Raymond said.
The Space Force partnership with Norway on the two communications satellites “saved the United States a little over $900 million,” Raymond said on July 24.
In 2018, the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman [NOC] a $428.8 million contract for the two Enhanced Polar System-Recapitalization (EPS-R) payloads to provide enhanced military communications coverage for the Arctic region.
Space Force is striving to collaborate more with Arctic nation allies, including Canada and Norway, and the Air Force and Space Force released an Arctic Strategy this week.
The most significant effort that Space Force has underway to lessen duplication may be the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next Gen OPIR) program.
Next-Gen OPIR is to provide better missile warning capabilities than the current Lockheed Martin [LMT] Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS), and Next-Gen OPIR’s first block of satellites will include five space vehicles, three in geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) and two in polar orbit.
The Air Force requested $2.3 billion in research-and-development funding in the fiscal year 2021 presidential budget request.
Space Force, Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Space Development Agency (SDA) officials are considering what changes are needed for Next Gen OPIR Block 1 in the fiscal 2022 Program Objective Memorandum, or POM, budgeting tool. Such changes could include a hybrid constellation, although officials have suggested that such a constellation would likely delay fielding.
“If you look at the one [effort] that I’m really focusing on up front, it’s the missile warning/missile defense piece of this,” Raymond said of Space Force’s efforts to decrease redundant efforts. “There’s multiple, different organizations that are building aspects of that enterprise. What the Space Force allows us to do is pull that enterprise together and to unite efforts–somebody who can take an enterprise look at those various functions and make trades, save costs, reduce duplication of effort, get capability onto orbit, and get capability that the U.S. Space Command commander is going to need to be able to execute operations in a contested environment.”
Northrop Grumman and Ball Aerospace [BLL] team are on track to complete critical design review (CDR) for the team’s proposed infrared mission payload next May as part of the Next Gen OPIR Geosynchronous (GEO) Block 0 program, according to Northrop Grumman.
Raytheon [RTN] is building the other proposed infrared mission payload for Block 0.
Next May is the scheduled CDR for the two infrared mission payloads, while next September is the scheduled CDR for the overall system, including the space vehicle.