Raytheon Co. [RTN] unveiled its Responder product, a rapidly deployable interchangeable, mission-specific sensor payload for satellites.
The move comes as many military officers and analysts worry that some potential enemies such as China might use anti-satellite capabilities to destroy or disable U.S. and allied military, commercial and financial satellites, meaning that those space assets would have to be replaced very rapidly.
Responder concept offers electro-optical and radio frequency payload configurations. Because the basic payload designs employ standard plug-and-play technology for easy integration with the sensor, Responder can significantly reduce total program cost and schedule.
According to Bill Hart, vice president for the company’s Space Systems group, Responder is based on experience Raytheon gained through its fast-track ARTEMIS and Mini-RF programs. Both were designed, built and delivered within 18 months of contract initiation.
"The Responder approach directly addresses the military’s defined need to be able to effectively augment or reconstitute critical space capabilities and infuse them with new technologies and operational innovations," Hart said. "With the basic building blocks matured through company-financed research and development and government contract work, we can respond swiftly to meet urgent customer needs."
Hart estimated that Responder production cycles would range between two and three years and cut costs 30 to 50 percent by enhancing efficiency in such areas as finance, supply chain management and contracts.
"Our experience on past programs that have been completed in short time frames has taught us a lot about what is required, not only on the manufacturing floor, but throughout a program’s lifecycle," he said. "That means streamlined processes that enable a program to start up quickly, keep it running efficiently, and deliver on a very aggressive schedule."
Expecting a continued need for large-scale, "build-to-spec" space programs, Hart said production processes for them could be run simultaneously with the Responder programs.
"We believe Responder is going to revolutionize the way space gets done in the future," Hart said. "By adding a more streamlined production capability for certain payloads, Responder will help to make access to space a more affordable routine than ever before."