The Space Development Agency (SDA) would like to link its planned constellation of satellites for transferring military data to warfighters with commercial satellite systems that can provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance of the battlefield, boosting military capabilities and further providing commercial opportunities, the chief of the agency said on Tuesday.
The SDA already is contracting with Capella Space, which provides commercial synthetic aperture radar with its satellites to various government customers, to include compliant optical intersatellite links (OISLs) on their satellites to connect with the agency’s transport layer, Derek Tournear said during a panel discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The benefit to the government is “it allows us to take those tactical data from whomever has the sensing solution, fuse it with other data that could be coming from government systems or it could be coming from other commercial systems, fuse those onboard, and use that to actually send down in theater over our protected tactical data links directly to the warfighter,” Tournear said.
For industry, adding the OISLs to their satellites gives them a new market offering, he said, which the government could pay “by the data stream or have some other kind of subscription surface.”
U.S. government agencies, including in the intelligence community, are increasingly leveraging commercially-available satellites and their data to meet mission needs. Tournear said that the SDA would like to create a market where his agency will purchase “hundreds of satellites” every two years, which would enable industry to plan accordingly and invest to the point where a lot of the components used in satellites would be “commoditized” and the production lines would continue to run.
“In addition, it would be great if they got into the model of keeping enough stock on hand to where when we bought from them it wasn’t starting from scratch and you have all these long-lead items and they were able to just pull off the same parts they were using to develop and build their commercial satellites for either themselves or other commercial companies and pull that in,” he said. “So that’s what SDA’s looking at. Set a very stable, very predictable market that industry can feel empowered to invest toward and know that they can go after and win a portion of that market share.”