The Pentagon’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) efforts are
intended to usher in a new culture in satellite
procurement, launch and operations
, but the military’s traditional space prime contractors say they have plenty to offer in this emerging arena.
Companies like Lockheed Martin
and Northrop Grumman
traditionally have built large satellites that have cost more and taken longer to develop than those
under the ORS effort. However,
officials from those companies say that does not preclude them from
playing a significant role in ORS, which is intended to make space capabilities more responsive and readily available at the tactical level
Rick Ambrose, vice president for surveillance and navigation systems at in Sunnyvale, Calif., said in a recent interview that he
delivered that message to
the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board in February
. “I told them that we’re in the solution business to help our customers,” he
said. “Whether it’s a large or small satellite, we’ll provide it.”
While Lockheed Martin is best
large satellites for programs such as
the Space Based Infrared System
and Advanced Extremely High Frequency secure communications satellites, Ambrose said
the company has not been idle in the small-satellite arena.
For example, Ambrose said, Lockheed Martin built the Pentagon’s XSS-11 autonomous rendezvous experiment, which launched in 2005 and weighs about 140 kilograms
. The company
also is building a 25-kilogram spacecraft under the
Autonomous Nanosatellite Guardian Evaluating Local Space program, intended to demonstrate the idea of using small satellites as escorts that would watch out for potential threats to larger ones, he said.
Lockheed Martin also has built relatively small satellites for NASA and commercial customers over the years, Ambrose said.
Another key feature of ORS is the ability to launch satellites on short notice, and here too, Lockheed has relevant experience, Ambrose said.
One example is the Lockheed-built GPS 2RM navigation satellites, which are kept in storage on the ground with the requirement of being ready for launch within 60 days, he said.
Meanwhile, Ambrose said, Lockheed’s recent contract to add an extra civilian signal for demonstration purposes to one of the GPS 2RM satellites is relevant to the ORS concept of responding quickly on the development end to emerging military requirements. The Air Force contracted for the new signal, called L5, in a move designed to preserve its rights to radio frequency in the event that the follow-on satellite navigation system, dubbed GPS 2F, misses a regulatory deadline.
The Air Force’s 2008 budget request includes $87 million for ORS efforts, with $111.7 million planned for 2009. The House of Representatives added $30 million for ORS
in its version of the 2008 defense authorization legislation.
While the additional funding could help
is unlikely to reach its full potential without industry contributing its own investment, said Alex Lopez, vice president of Boeing Advanced Network and Space Systems,
Huntington Beach, Calif.
While various Boeing
play a role in ORS,
likely would take the lead
on small satellites. Boeing Advanced Network and Space Systems launched an experimental nanosatellite in March that it
developed with internal
funds, and plans to continue pursuing these types of
efforts in addition to
Pentagon contracts, he said.
Upcoming ORS launches include TacSat-1,
developed by the Naval Research Laboratory and
expected to launch this fall, and TacSat-3, which features a hyperspectral imaging payload developed by Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems of El Segundo, Calif. TacSat-3
is expected to launch in December.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Brian Arnold, vice president of
space systems at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, said in written response to questions
May 24 that the recently shipped sensor, dubbed the Advanced Responsive Tactically Effective Military Imaging Spectrometer (ARTEMIS),
is “a perfect example of what ORS can be.”
“Not only will ARTEMIS provide important advances in the type of battlefield information available to troops on the ground, but it also makes extensive use of proven components in a system that can be manufactured and integrated quickly for responsive launch needs,” said Arnold, a
commander of Air Force
Space and Missile Systems Center, which buys satellites and rockets. “ARTEMIS also demonstrates Raytheon’s ability to develop and deliver new technology on a highly accelerated timeline, in this case 15 months.”
Jeff Grant, vice president for business development at Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif., said
his company can build small satellites
, but noted that
designers have worked for years to make the capabilities of
large satellites more responsive to the needs of tactical forces. One example is the Transformational Satellite Communications System now
under development, which will respond to the needs of tactical forces by giving them access to secure bandwidth without
having to stop and erect large satellite
dishes, he said.