Lawmakers Add Funding to Keep ORS Sat-1 Launch on Schedule

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  Space News Business

Lawmakers Add Funding to Keep ORS Sat-1 Launch on Schedule

By TURNER BRINTON
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 16 June 2009
02:06 pm ET






WASHINGTON
— House lawmakers recommended June 11 that additional funds be provided next year to keep the first operational satellite being developed by the U.S. Defense Department’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office on track for a late 2010 launch.

In marking up a bill authorizing
U.S.
military space and missile defense programs for next year, the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee tracked closely with the U.S. President BarackObama’s funding request, making some changes at the margins. But lawmakers anticipate battles over programs including the
U.S.
territorial missile shield when the full House Armed Services Committee marks up the bill June 16.

The strategic forces subcommittee tacked $23 million onto the Defense Department’s $112 million request for the ORS Office in 2010, directing that the funds be used for construction of ORS Sat-1, an infrared intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance satellite that was conceived in response to an urgent need from U.S. Central Command. The ORS Office had planned to launch the satellite in late 2010, but the Pentagon’s budget request does not provide enough funding to keep it on track, officials said.

ORS Sat-1 and a proposed follow-on satellite were ranked No. 3 on the Air Force’s so-called unfunded priorities list for 2010, according to a May 18 letter to Congress from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. The letter said an additional $103.4 million beyond the Air Force’s $112 million ORS funding request is needed next year to keep those efforts on track.

The panel also eliminated $40 million requested by the Navy for a demonstration program called High Integrity GPS. Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis in August 2008 was awarded a $153.5 million contract by the Naval Research Laboratory to demonstrate an enhanced positioning, navigation and timing capability using signals from both GPS satellites in medium Earth orbit and the constellation of low Earth orbiting communications satellites operated by Iridium Satellite LLC of Bethesda, Md. Work was expected to continue through 2010.

The lawmakers also recommended trimming $20 million from the Pentagon’s $143.2 million request for development of the Third Generation Infrared Surveillance system. Formerly known as the Alternative Infrared Surveillance System, two experimental missile warning sensors were developed under this program, and one of them will be hosted aboard a commercial communications satellite operated by SES Americom of
Princeton
,
N.J.
, that will launch in 2010.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), who chairs the strategic forces panel, said during the markup hearing that lawmakers have cost and schedule concerns with both the High Integrity GPS and Third Generation Infrared Satellite System programs. Tauscher was nominated by Obama to serve as
U.S.
undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, and the Senate confirmed her appointment June 9.

The subcommittee also called for a pair of reports from the Air Force on communications and weather satellite capabilities. One report will detail a future strategy for protected satellite communications in the wake of the Pentagon’s cancellation earlier this year of the futuristic Transformational Satellite communications system; the other will examine options for restructuring the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, a joint effort with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that continues to be plagued by cost, schedule and management difficulties.

For the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, the panel recommended fully funding the Pentagon’s $9.3 billion request, which includes $900 million more than was appropriated this year for the theater-based Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system and Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system.

The subcommittee’s ranking member, Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), said he supported the bill but expressed disappointment in the overall funding decrease for missile defense. The president’s request for Missile Defense Agency programs is $1.2 billion less than this year’s funding level.

“I cannot reconcile why the administration has decided to decrease missile defense funding while daily news reports, substantiated by our own intelligence services, articulate an increasing missile threat,” Turner said. “Although I am concerned with the top-line cut to missile defense, I am deeply concerned about specific cuts to our national missile defense system. These include the 35 percent cut to the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system in
Alaska
and
California
and the administration’s decision to decrease the planned number of fielded interceptors, terminate construction of a missile field in
Alaska
that is partially complete and curtail additional GMD development.”

Turner said subcommittee members asked several weeks ago for any analyses, threat assessments and requirements to justify these proposed cuts, and to date, none have been provided. Turner plans to introduce during the full committee mark up an amendment to boost funding for GMD. He noted that production lines of some GMD component suppliers will go cold this year and next without a conscious effort to sustain them, and that the subcommittee’s bill includes a provision requiring the secretary of Defense to develop a plan for long-term sustainment and modernization of the system.

The bill also contains a measure that would make permanent the existing prohibition on placing long-range interceptors in
Europe
until the secretary of Defense certifies the interceptors will be operationally effective.