As the Pentagon moves forward with the development of new space capabilities, it often turns to the Space Innovation and Development Center (SIDC) to find the best way to employ them.
The work of the SIDC, which is located at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., includes such things as developing integrated solutions for monitoring what goes on in space and turning experimental capabilities into operational tools. The SIDC, which was initially named the Space Warfare Center, was created in 1993 following the recommendations of a blue-ribbon panel examining possible improvements to the Air Force’s space operations following Operation Desert Storm. It was renamed as the Space Innovation and Development Center in 2006 to reflect a broadening of its mission into areas like homeland security and disaster relief.
The SIDC’s current budget is $75.6 million. That figure could be reduced by about $500,000 in 2009 as part of a service-wide streamlining effort.
The center has 733 employees, which breaks down as 177 officers, 302 enlisted, 90 civilians and 164 contractors.
Col. Robert Wright, SIDC commander, says center personnel work closely with their Air Force colleagues to provide them the support they need. One of the top items on Wright’s agenda is finding ways to better support the Air Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, which leads service-wide training and tactics development. Wright said during a March 20 interview that he recently signed a memorandum of agreement with the Air Warfare Center to more closely integrate work with his organization.
Working more closely in support of the Air Warfare Center does not mean that the space mission will lose prominence, Wright said, noting that the Air Force Information Operations Center and the Air Force Expeditionary Center had signed similar memorandums of agreement with the Air Warfare Center. Closer integration will result in a whole that is worth many times the sum of its parts, he said.
The Air Force’s 2006 decision to move control of the 527th Space Aggressor Squadron from the SIDC to the Air Warfare Center was one previous step towards better integration between the two centers, Wright said. The move has worked out well because the space aggressors, who disrupt U.S. space capabilities during exercises, have remained at Schriever and continued to play a vital role within the SIDC, while at the same time more closely aligning the group with others who replicate the roles of enemies at Nellis, he said.
Recent activities for the SIDC include participating in exercises at the Pentagon in mid-March that were intended to examine the role that space can play in combat search and rescue operations, Wright said.
The exercises showed how data from satellites, including infrared missile warning sensors, can be integrated with sensors on airplanes and helicopters to reduce the time it takes to beat enemy forces in the race to find a downed pilot, Wright said. While the military has used satellites for this purpose in the past, the exercise was intended to examine how this could be done more efficiently, he said.
The exercises at the Pentagon also looked at possible responses to enemy use of anti-satellite weapons similar to the system demonstrated by the Chinese military in January 2007, Wright said. The SIDC used data gathered during the test to train operators on how to watch for and respond to similar events in the future, he said.
Dealing with a potential attack on U.S. space assets will come up again during the fifth in the series of Schriever space war games next year, Wright said. The 2009 game will have a greater focus on policy issues than the previous editions in the series, which began in 2001, he said.
One of the objectives for the upcoming game is to examine how space policy and operations come together in the case of an attack on U.S. space assets that can be clearly attributed to an enemy, Wright said.
The SIDC also is assisting in the space protection mission by participating in Space Command’s efforts to improve its space situational awareness capability, Wright said. The center has been looking for ways to better integrate data from a variety of existing assets operated by other military departments like the Missile Defense Agency, as well as non-military sensors operated by the U.S. government, commercial firms and allies, into the systems used by the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to monitor what happens in orbit, he said.
Taking this approach can result in a significant improvement to the military’s space situational awareness capability without requiring billions of dollars for the development of new hardware, Wright said.
In addition to transferring control of the Space Aggressor Squadron to the Air Warfare Center in 2006, changes at the SIDC around that time included establishment of the 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron. The 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron takes experimental space systems built by military laboratories and develops tactics, techniques and procedures for their operational use, Wright said.
The squadron also develops command and control systems that can be used to task the prototypes during operations, Wright said. This work has gone “wonderfully well” thus far, he said.
Another recent change at the SIDC, which occurred in November 2007, was the shut down of the Space Battlelab. The Air Force announced in early 2007 that it would shut down all of its battle labs, which included centers for command and control, unmanned aerial vehicles and information operations work, as part of an effort to fund other priorities while facing a tight budget for the future. Some of the projects that were taking place at the Space Battlelab have transitioned to the SIDC’s Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities office while funding budgeted prior to the elimination of the lab remains, Wright said.