Budget Shortfall Endangers Schedule of ORS-1

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  Space News Business

Budget Shortfall Endangers Schedule of ORS-1

By TURNER BRINTON
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 19 May 2009
03:01 pm ET






WASHINGTON
— The Pentagon’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office will need more money than was requested for it in 2010 to keep one of its high-profile satellite projects on schedule, according to a spokeswoman for the two-year-old organization.

Linda Strine said the U.S. Air Force’s $112 million request for the ORS-1 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance satellite is insufficient to launch the mission in late 2010 as planned. ORS-1, being built by AlliantTechsystems of
Minneapolis
and Goodrich ISR Systems of Danbury, Conn., is considered the ORS office’s first operational satellite.

ORS-1 funding is one of several issues to be resolved as Congress considers the U.S. Air Force’s 2010 funding request, which boosted overall funding for space programs but defers decisions on key capabilities. Notable among these is the collection of radar imagery from space, a requirement senior military officials say remains valid in the wake of the cancellation last year of the multibillion-dollar Space Radar program.

In a briefing with reporters May 11, Gary Payton, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space programs, said that for the past several months, the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard have been using radar satellite data purchased from the operator of
Canada
‘s Radarsat-2 satellite for an exercise in the
Pacific Ocean
that has been tremendously successful. There is money in the 2010 budget request to continue buying a small amount of data from Radarsat-2 and potentially other commercial radar satellites, but there are no plans to lease an entire satellite or begin a new acquisition program for the capability next year. The Defense Department over the coming year will formulate its strategy for acquiring radar satellite data and may decide on a way ahead beginning with the 2011 budget request, Payton said.

The ORS Office is considering building a radar satellite for its next operational mission, but a missile warning satellite recently emerged as another possibility in the wake of the Pentagon’s decision not to fund the Infrared Augmentation Satellite in the 2010 request, according to Peter Wegner, director of the ORS Office. The Infrared Augmentation Satellite was proposed late last year after the failure of an existing Defense Support Program missile warning satellite increased the chances of a gap in coverage even as the new-generation Space Based Infrared System comes on line.

The ORS Office expects to receive directions from U.S. Strategic Command for its next project in late June, Strine said.

While the Air Force’s budget request leaves several questions unanswered, it does provide clarity on one major program, the Transformational Satellite communications system, which is being canceled. Instead, the Air Force will buy two more Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) secure communications satellites – for a total of six – from Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif.

The Air Force also requested more than a half-billion dollars to enhance its space situational awareness capabilities including: upgrading the ground-based radar network known as the Space Fence; purchasing a follow-on Space Based Surveillance System satellite; and kick-starting a new command and control and data exploitation system for the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

The Pentagon in coming months will decide if and how it wants to upgrade future AEHF satellites with some of the technologies developed with the $2.5 billion spent on Transformational Satellite risk reduction work, Payton said. The Air Force on April 8 released details of a pending sole-source contract for the fourth AEHF satellite with an option for a fifth. If any upgrades to the AEHF system are made, they will be included beginning with the sixth satellite, Payton said.

While the Air Force plans to continue purchasing Wideband Global Satcom communications satellites from Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of Seal Beach, Calif., and is requesting money in 2010 for long-lead items for the seventh satellite in the constellation, there are no plans to upgrade the craft, Air Force Maj. Gen. William McCasland, director of space acquisition in the Office of the Under Secretary of the Air Force, said during the briefing.