Space Force’s troubled space-tracking system is officially shut down

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Col. Rhet Turnbull: 'Unfortunately, like so many DoD software programs, JMS failed to deliver after 10 years and a lot of money'

WASHINGTON — The Space Force has closed down the last remaining piece of the Joint Space Operations Center Mission System (JMS), a troubled software platform conceived more than a decade ago to help track satellites and orbital debris. 

The Space Systems Command in a news release Jan. 26 said it began the decommissioning of JMS Service Pack 9, the final component of JMS. The U.S. Air Force in 2018 decided to terminate JMS following years of cost overruns and criticism for the system’s poor performance. 

In place of JMS, the Space Force started an agile development software program called Space C2 (short for command and control) that relies on a commercial data analytics platform named Warp Core, provided by Palantir. 

“The operational acceptance of Warp Core on Oct. 1, 2021, along with the transition of modernized capabilities, data feeds, and secure connections being delivered to warfighters, allowed for the physical decommissioning of JMS,” said Col. Wallace “Rhet” Turnbull, director of the Space Systems Command’s cross mission ground and communications enterprise. 

The military’s space trackers need better tools to monitor objects and potential threats in outer space, said Turnbull. “Space domain awareness capabilities are more important than ever given recent events such as Russia’s anti-satellite test,” he noted. “The decommissioning of JMS demonstrates the progress we have made in this critical mission area.”

In a social media post, Turnbull said JMS was a program that “started with some really good ideas about how to use (then) modern software to replace an aging legacy system. Unfortunately, like so many DoD software programs, JMS failed to deliver after 10 years and a lot of money.” 

Space Systems Command is “making good progress on finally fielding a replacement over the next year,” Turnbull wrote. “We still have a lot of work to do but I’m confident we’re on the right path.”