U.S. Air Force Secretary Appeals for More ORS Satellite Funding

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley is urging Congress to boost funding in 2009 and 2010 for an Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office reconnaissance satellite that otherwise will fall behind schedule.

Donley wrote House and Senate authorizers and appropriators July 21 asking for $28.1 million more than was appropriated for the ORS-1 satellite this year and $23.4 million more than the Air Force requested for the effort in 2010. The letters, copies of which were obtained by Space News, were sent to Sens. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Thad Cochran (D-Miss.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Carl Levin (D-Mich.); and Reps. David Obey (D-Wis.), Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), John Murtha (D-Penn.), C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), and Howard McKeon (R-Calif.).

The ORS-1 satellite was conceived last year in response to an urgent need for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data from U.S. Central Command and is planned for launch in late 2010. But the ORS Office has warned that the program needs additional funding to stay on schedule.

Goodrich ISR Systems of Danbury, Conn., was awarded the prime contract in October for the ORS-1 satellite, which features a modified U-2 spy plane payload mounted on a platform built by Alliant Techsystems of Minneapolis. A preliminary design review was recently completed for ORS-1, and Donley gave his approval July 15 to proceed with production of the satellite, according to the letters.

“Your support of our requests … are required to maintain the rapid pace necessary to meet U.S. Central Command’s urgent need,” Donley wrote.

The ORS-1 satellite was among the top items on the Air Force’s list of unfunded priorities for 2010. The House and Senate defense authorizations bills recommended adding $23.4 million and $40 million, respectively, to the Air Force’s request for ORS-1. The House Appropriations Committee did not add any money to the Pentagon’s request for the satellite; the Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet marked up its version of the bill.