The Pentagon Plans To Build New Military Space Architecture
The Space Development Agency Talks Preventive Defense
National Harbor, MD – The Pentagon is moving forward with plans to build a new military space architecture aimed at defending what is often referred to as "the ultimate high ground."
The Space Development Agency (SDA), led by acting director Derek Tournear, intends to prevent adversaries from disrupting US military space assets by creating a multi-layered system.
While the Air Force and the US Space Command will continue to develop and control large satellites for GPS and protected communications, the SDA's architecture will consist of seven layers. This includes 200 to 400 small and quickly replaceable spacecraft to ensure resiliency through proliferation. By employing a large number of spacecraft, adversaries would be unable to destroy an entire system.
There will not be a single winner-takes-all contract for these fleets. Resilience calls for multiple satellite makers to provide spacecraft to eliminate a single point of failure. This also ensures interoperability within the system.
Each layer serves a specific function, such as communications, sensing, and targeting, with the goal of providing services to combatant commanders in the field. Strategic missions like GPS and global communications will be handled by existing Air Force systems and the National Reconnaissance Office.
The first layer will focus on command-and-control on the ground, while the second layer will be a space-based communication system for all other layers.
This "backbone layer" will be built out first, with a plan to launch a pair ofdemonstration satellites in fiscal year 2021 and a fleet of 200 to 400 spacecraft by 2024. Laser communications will enable satellite-to-satellite connections within the mesh network.
According to Tournear, this system will facilitate communication from satellite systems to tactical users in the field. Existing user equipment will be utilized, as the transport layer will directly communicate with fielded weapon systems. The spacecraft will undergo a technology refresh every two years and have a lifespan expectancy of five years, allowing for the continuous introduction of new capabilities.
The architecture will also include three sensing layers. The first is the "tracking layer" for advanced missile threats, with plans for an initial capability in 2024 in collaboration with the Missile Defense Agency.
The "custody layer" will track ground objects approximately the size of a truck, while the "deterrence layer" will provide space situational awareness from geostationary orbit to the region around the moon. This layer aims to detect and identify potential threats orbiting beyond geostationary orbit.
The SDA's vision for a new military space architecture brings together various components to enhance US defense in the space domain. By creating a resilient and proliferated system, the Pentagon aims to protect vital military space assets and prevent adversaries from disrupting operations. With an initial operating capability targeted for 2024, the SDA's efforts are poised to reinforce the US military's capabilities in Space.