Space Force, DoD agencies, NRO try to get on the same page on future acquisitions
WASHINGTON — The Space Force announced in June that one of its major field organizations will be an acquisition command that will unify the current mishmash of agencies that handle space programs.
The new organization, the Space Systems Command, has not yet been stood up. In the meantime, representatives from several space buying agencies will be meeting regularly in an informal “program integration council” led by the Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center.
“We want to make sure that there’s alignment across programs,” Col. Dennis Bythewood, the Space and Missile Systems Center’s director of special programs, told SpaceNews in an interview.
The integration council is run by the Space and Missile Systems Center. It includes representatives from agencies that operate independently from the Space Force but have space programs in their portfolios such as the Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities, the Space Rapid Capabilities Office, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Space Development Agency and the Missile Defense Agency.
Each of these agencies procures space systems but their projects in the past have not always been coordinated with what other agencies are doing. Bythewood said the integration council will seek to ensure that programs, for example, use common standards so satellites are compatible with the ground infrastructure and can share data with other military systems.
“We want to ensure that ultimately we deliver an integrated warfighting capability to our operators,” Bythewood said.
The Space and Missile Systems Center also assigned a team of experts to deal with technical issues such as compatibility of command and control systems, said Lt. Col. Peter Mastro, head of cross mission integration for the Space and Missile Systems Center’s portfolio architect.
“It’s what we call the space command and control technical agent,” Mastro said. “It’s a body of folks that can look across the space command and control side and make sure that all those interfaces and pieces tie together.”
Bythewood said one area the council will focus on is the architecture for missile warning satellites, known as overhead persistent infrared, or OPIR. Several agencies, including the Space and Missile Systems Center, the Space Development Agency and the Missile Defense Agency, are developing OPIR constellations.
The new integration council “would be look to ensure is that the data standards for how those systems pass data between themselves and to the users are common, and understood,” said Bythewood.
The OPIR architecture, or lack thereof, has been criticized by congressional appropriators. In the fiscal year 2020 defense appropriations conference report, lawmakers said DoD “lacks consensus on its space architecture plans to meet requirements for strategic and tactical missile warning, missile defense, and battlespace awareness mission areas.”
The Department of the Air Force, Missile Defense Agency, Space Development Agency, and others are “planning to spend tens of billions of dollars pursuing various potential satellite constellations, with a variety of sensor types, constellation sizes, and orbits ranging from proliferated low-earth to geosynchronous and others. The Department has yet to synchronize or harmonize these proposals into a clearly articulated executable and affordable integrated enterprise space architecture.”