The Space Development Agency (SDA), established in 2019, must be transferred from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to the U.S. Space Force by the start of fiscal year 2023, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s defense authorization bill markup states.
The committee released the full text of its markup of the FY ’21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) June 23. In it, SASC states its intent for the SDA to maintain the same organizational reporting requirements and acquisition authorities as the Space Rapid Capabilities Office, located at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.
The bill supports the SDA mission to lead the department in “developing and demonstrating a resilient military space-based sensing, tracking and data transport architecture that primarily uses a proliferated low-Earth orbit.” Lawmakers agree that the agency should lead the integration of next-generation space capabilities and sensor and tracking components, to include a hypersonic and ballistic missile-tracking space sensor payload, into that new proliferated LEO architecture.
The markup language also adds $250 million for research-and-development efforts through 2027 that would help launch providers prepare for the next stage of the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) competition. The Air Force is expected to award two contracts for the NSSL Launch Services Procurement Phase 2 competition this summer, and while lawmakers support that plan, their bill would mandate the service continue R&D funding agreements for companies who didn’t win Phase 2. Those R&D efforts would allow the companies to prepare to recompete for Phase 3, per the bill’s language.
“The Secretary of the Air Force shall establish a program to develop technologies and systems to enhance phase 3 National Security Space Launch requirements and enable further advances in launch capability associated with the insertion of national security payloads into relevant classes of orbits,” the bill says.
SASC also wants the Air Force to study whether the acquisition strategy for the NSSL program – for which the two Phase 2 winners would split up to 25 launches on a 60/40 basis through 2027 – might impact foreign countries’ ability to enter the global commercial space market. The committee’s bill highlights China specifically, and wants the secretary of the Air Force to submit a report on the subject within 90 days of the bill’s enactment.