The U.S. Space Force is requesting a $1.1 billion increase over last year’s appropriated amount for lower orbit missile tracking systems–the so-called “resilient resilient missile warning/missile tracking” architecture.

The service’s request for the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) portion of the architecture is nearly $1.3 billion–a $480 increase over last year, while the Space Force’s ask for the Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) part is $538 million, about $130 million more than last year’s appropriation.

In addition, the Space Force requests almost $506 million for a new funding area for the architecture–the integrated ground segment.

The budget zeroes research and development funding for one of the three planned geosynchronous orbit (GEO) Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next Gen OPIR) missile warning satellites by Lockheed Martin [LMT], as the Space Force posits that having a band of many, smaller satellites in the lower orbits of LEO and MEO will complicate an adversary’s anti-satellite targeting and improve deterrence against adversary ballistic and hypersonic missile attacks (Defense Daily, March 15).

Last year’s appropriation for the Next Gen OPIR GEO satellites was nearly $1.7 billion, while the fiscal 2024 request comes in around $720 million–a reduction of more than $975 million.

Plans had called for the first block of the Next Gen OPIR constellation to have three GEO satellites to cover Earth’s mid-latitudes and two satellites in polar highly elliptical orbits (HEO) for upper latitude coverage. While the Space Force’s fiscal 2024 budget cuts funding for the GEO satellites,  the request increases the funding for the polar HEO satellites from $849 million last year to more than $1 billion in fiscal 2024.

Northrop Grumman [NOC] said this week that it has improved the two polar HEO satellites by leveraging digital technology called Highly Immersive Virtual Environment. Last March, Northrop Grumman announced its partnership with Ball Aerospace [BLL] to design and develop the two polar HEO satellite payloads in the first phase of a $1.89 billion contract from the Space Force.

“The architecture that we really need is one that’s survivable in a contested domain,” Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman told the Senate Armed Services Committee this week. “That’s the proliferated LEO and multiple orbits–to include Middle Earth Orbit–as well. That’s what the Space Development Agency and the [Space Force] SWAC [Space Warfighting Analysis Center] analysis that we did is progressing toward, and that’s the investment we made in FY 24 to make that pivot.”

“We have the plans with Next Gen OPIR for two GEO [satellites] and two HEO [satellites],” Saltzman said. “That constellation we are still supporting, and the FY 24 budget has those four satellites in it. That’s the long-term transition to the proliferated missile warning [architecture], but GEO satellites are too much of a target so having them in low-Earth and mid-Earth orbit creates a targeting problem for an adversary…It’s more resilient and creates a level of deterrence because they can’t attack those satellites.”