U.S. Space Command and officials at the Pentagon are examining what resilience a missile defense architecture needs to have and what DoD can afford, as officials assemble the Program Objective Memorandum (POM) for fiscal 2022 that may lay out a blueprint for Block 1 of the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR) program.
Air Force Gen. John Raymond, the commander of U.S. Space Command and the chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force, “had an excellent discussion with the JROC [Joint Requirements Oversight Council] where he outlined basically his overall plan and the overall architecture, and I think there was general agreement that that was the right way to proceed,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration Shawn Barnes told reporters in a virtual availability on July 30. Barnes is performing the duties of the assistant secretary of the Air Force (ASAF) for Space Acquisition and Integration until a nominee is identified and confirmed by the Senate.
“That [missile defense] architecture is what we’re advocating for as we go through the POM process,” Barnes said.
“It’s not particularly helpful to develop an architecture that you’re not going to fund,” he said. “I think a very significant role for the ASAF is to help ensure that the dollars are aligned to the architecture. That’s part of the challenge we’ve had in the past. There’s been some excellent architecture work that’s been done, but it hasn’t then been funded and resourced appropriately. Now, being a partner with Chief Raymond on this, it makes that whole concept a lot easier because he is the guy that’s buying into the architecture and then selling the architecture to the Joint Staff, or the JROC. That comes with the concept that, ‘Oh, by the way. I’m going to fund this now.'”
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 POM budgeting tool (Defense Daily, June 18). Such changes could include a hybrid constellation, although officials have suggested that such a constellation would likely delay fielding.
“We fully recognize that we need to have a more resilient architecture,” Barnes said. “It’s very difficult to project out 15 years from now…What we’ve done in this architecture plan is to show where we have on ramps and off ramps.”
Next-Gen OPIR is to provide better missile warning capabilities than the current Lockheed Martin [LMT] Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS). Next-Gen OPIR’s first five satellites–in Block 0–are to launch between 2025 and 2029–three satellites with Lockheed Martin payloads in geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) starting in 2025 and two Northrop Grumman [NOC] payloads in polar orbit by 2029.
The Air Force requested $2.3 billion in research-and-development funding in the fiscal year 2021 presidential budget request for Next-Gen OPIR.
“What the Space Force allows us to do is pull that [missile defense/missile warning] 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,” Raymond said last month.
Northrop Grumman and Ball Aerospace [BLL] teams 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 planned CDR for the overall system, including the space vehicle.