Report: Space Force improving delivery of orbit monitoring software

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Congress in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act requires an annual update on the $150 million Space C2 program.

WASHINGTON — Space-monitoring software apps used by U.S. military are now being updated every 90 days, says a new report delivered to Congress Aug. 21.

The apps are developed under a program known as Space C2, short for space command and control.

Congress in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act requires an annual update on the $150 million-a-year Space C2 program.

According to the report, Space C2 has transitioned from a slow military procurement effort to agile software development practices.

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett in the report said the Space C2 program office drops new software every 90 days and the Space Force is providing orbit monitoring apps to operators “using the most current industry software development practices.”

Space C2 is also known as the Kobayashi Maru project, named after a training program in Star Trek’s Starfleet Academy. It was started in 2018 by the Space and Missile Systems Center in an effort to replace the failed Joint Space Operations Center Mission System.

Congress for years was highly critical of the JMS program for failing to provide operators with modern tools to monitor what is happening in space. Space C2 software helps identify potential hazards to satellites, predict conjunctions and avoid collisions in space.

Although Kobayashi Maru has made progress, the program is not all smooth sailing, according to the report. One of the difficulties is finding enough qualified software engineers and programmers. “The talent pool across the Department of the Air Force is difficult to track and the assignments or hiring actions take longer than desired,” says the report.

Another issue that slows down the development of software is the Pentagon’s budgeting system which allocates funding for software into three different budget categories for development, procurement and maintenance. That means that when software transitions from one phase to the next, there are lengthy bureaucratic processes to move money, for example, from development to procurement.

The report said the Pentagon is aware of this issue and has asked Congress to allow a handful of software programs, including Space C2, to become test cases for a different budgeting process for software that consolidates all three “colors of money” into a single account.