Panel Urges Government, Industry Action to Improve Battered Space Supply Chain

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

LONG BEACH, Calif. — The question of how to strengthen the U.S. space industry’s weakened supply chain, which has been battered over the past two years by the global COVID-19 pandemic, was the subject of a panel discussion at the Space Tech Expo last week. The answers boiled down to the Pentagon adopting an agile approach to developing and acquiring technology, and reversing a decades-old trend by industry of outsourcing manufacturing abroad.


Russian Defense Ministry Boasts of ASAT Accuracy, Dismisses Orbital Debris Risk & Blames United States for Militarizing Space

Location of the 24,000 debris larger than 10 cm in low orbit in 2020. (Credits: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite condemnation from Western governments, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu seemed rather pleased with the results of an anti-missile test (ASAT) test that destroyed a defunct Soviet satellite, scattered more than 1,500 pieces of debris in Earth orbit, and endangered the seven-member crew of the International Space Station (ISS). TASS reports:


Mike Griffin Alienating Friends & Enemies Alike, Firing Scientists at New Pentagon Job

Mike Griffin

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has had a tumultuous time since taking over as undersecretary of defense for research and engineering in February.

In his role as the Defense Department’s chief technology officer, Griffin has been criticized for his efforts to overhaul the Pentagon’s costly and time-consuming development and procurement of new systems through the newly established Space Development Agency (SDA).

Key personnel have departed as critics have attacked Griffin for what they view as his erratic management and decision making. In addition to SDA, he is in charge of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU).


Space Development Agency Seeks Next-Gen Architecture in First RFI

Figure 1: Notional architecture from SDA 60-day study. (Credit: Space Development Agency)

Space Development Agency
Next-Generation Space Architecture
Request for Information
July 1, 2019
[Full Solicitation]

SDA requests information from industry related to satellite bus, payload, applique, and launch concepts that can contribute to an agile, responsive next-generation space architecture. SDA has developed a notional suite of capabilities, as depicted in Figure 1, to include multiple constellations (or “layers”) addressing the eight priorities listed above. Each layer provides an integral and integrated capability to the overall architecture.

The SDA’s notional architecture is predicated on the availability of a ubiquitous data and communications transport layer and assumes the use of small, mass-produced satellites (50-500 kg) and associated payload hardware and software. The SDA is considering the use of transport layer spacecraft as substrates for other layers, allowing for the integration of appropriate payloads based on each layer’s needs.

Seven layers are proposed:

  1. Space Transport Layer: Global, persistent, low-latency data and communications proliferated “mesh” network to provide 24×7 global communications.
  2. Tracking Layer: Indications, warning, targeting, and tracking of advanced missile threats.
  3. Custody Layer: 24×7, all-weather custody of all identified time-critical targets.
  4. Deterrence Layer: Space Situational Awareness (SSA) of, and rapid access to, the cislunar volume.
  5. Navigation Layer: Alternate Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) for GPS-denied environments.
  6. Battle Management Layer: Distributed, artificial intelligence-enabled Battle Management Command, Control and Communications (BMC3), to include self-tasking, self-prioritization (for collection), on-board processing, and dissemination, supporting delivery of perishable space sensor-derived data products directly to tactical users.
  7. Support Layer: Mass-producible ground command and control capabilities, user terminals, and rapid-response launch services (small- to medium-class).

Proposed concepts should align to one or more of the layers described above. SDA prefers comprehensive solutions that include open architectures (e.g., buses that support multiple payloads and software appliques, and payloads/software capable of integration aboard multiple buses) and leverage commercial capabilities, existing or planned.

Debate Rages Over Usefulness of Pentagon’s New Space Development Agency

Mike Griffin

A debate has raged in the Pentagon over whether the new Space Development Agency will transform the acquisition of new systems, or merely unnecessarily duplicate existing capabilities within the Defense Department’s sprawling bureaucracy.

On one side of the argument are the agency’s champions, Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. Griffin oversees the new agency, which is run by Fred Kennedy.


Video Remembrance of the Sept. 11 Attacks

Following the September 11th attacks, there was a celebrity telethon to raise money for relief efforts. Here is Jim Carrey telling a story about a rescue in one of the Twin Towers in New York.

I filmed this from my 10th story apartment in Pentagon City that had a view of where the plane at hit the building. I didn’t see the attack, but I watched the building burn all through the day. It was still on fire the next morning.

After the 9-11 attacks, a makeshift memorial was created along a wall of Arlington National Cemetery opposite of the wing of the building where the plane hit. I walked over from my apartment in Pentagon City one night to visit.

While I was there, a storm was moving in. I made it back to my apartment building just as the rain was beginning to fall. I returned to my darkened 10th floor apartment and, as the rain came down and lightning flashed outside, looked back at where the gap in the building where the plane had struck.

What I remember vividly in the weeks after the attack was the silence. Air traffic into National Airport had been suspended. But, there were planes up there. Late at night when everything was quiet, I could lie in bed and listen to the fighter jets as they circled over head, on constant guard for another attack. The sound would appear, fade out and then reappear a short time later. it was eerie thing to hear as I drifted off into a frequently uneasy sleep.

Approaching Manhattan on the Staten Island Ferry on a muggy evening in June 2001. It had rained earlier, and clouds still hovered over the city. It would be the last time I saw the Twin Towers standing.

Jim Carrey on the September 11th Telethon

Video Caption:
Following the September 11th attacks, there was a celebrity telethon to raise money for relief efforts. Here is Jim Carrey telling a story about a rescue in one of the Twin Towers in New York. I filmed this from my 10th story apartment in Pentagon City that a had a view of where the plane at hit the Pentagon.

Pentagon Opens Up Launch Market to Competition

Launch of Atlas V NRO satellite on June 20, 2012. (Credit: ULA)

The Pentagon has opened up its launch contracts for both large and small satellites to competition, but in a way that will likely disappoint upstart launch provider SpaceX.

For large payloads, the U.S. Air Force will go forward with a scaled back bulk buy of up to 36 Atlas V and Delta IV rocket cores over the next five years from its current sole-source supplier, United Launch Alliance. It will open up an additional 14 cores to competitive bidding, giving SpaceX the opportunity to bid with its Falcon rockets.

For smaller payloads, incumbent provider Orbital Sciences Corporation will face competition from SpaceX and Lockheed Martin Corporation for launch contracts worth up to $900 million.


Pentagon Analysis Finds Multiple Causes for Rise in EELV Prices

Launch of Atlas V NRO satellite on June 20, 2012. (Credit: ULA)

Space News reports that a Pentagon analysis has found multiple causes for the sharp rise in cost for the U.S. Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, which includes United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles:

The Pentagon’s acquisition czar cited a contracting arrangement that offers little incentive to control costs as a contributor to soaring prices on the program that launches the vast majority of U.S. government satellites.

In a July 12 letter to lawmakers, Frank Kendall, U.S. undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said the projected cost of the U.S. Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) rocket program over 150 missions has more than doubled since 2004, to nearly $70 billion. The primary drivers of the cost growth are unstable demand, international market vagaries and industrial base issues, he said….


Pentagon Report: Space Becoming More Crowded, Level Playing Field

Report: Space playing field becoming more level
Air Force Times

While the United States has enjoyed its position at the top of the space industry for decades, U.S. policymakers are now going to have to contend with a much more crowded and level playing field in space, according to the Pentagon’s interim Space Posture Review that was sent to Congress in early March.

“An increasingly congested and contested environment threatens both U.S systems and the ability of the global community to access and use space,” says the report, a copy of which was obtained by Defense News. “Increasing competition in the global marketplace and increasing global expertise in fielding space capabilities also challenge the historical advantages of the U.S. industrial base.”


Smallsats Could Change Face of U.S. Satellite Industry

Smallsats Could Get Boost in Global Financial Crisis
Aviation Week

Small satellites have been widely regarded as second-rate by Pentagon and intelligence community officials, who opt for massive, high-technology spacecraft lasting a decade or more in orbit. But the time may finally be at hand for skeptics to begin accepting smaller.


U.S. Military Concerned About Attacks on Space Assets

‘Space as a contested environment’ debuts
by Capt. Ben Sakrisson
Air University Public Affairs
Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base

A new Special Area of Emphasis topic titled “Space as a Contested Environment,” was introduced by U.S. military officials here March 30 at the 25th National Space Symposium.

Special Areas of Emphasis are established by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, to address areas of great importance to the joint military community. This SAE highlights the space domain’s emergence as an environment where U.S. operations and superiority maybe challenged.


Pentagon Plans to Track 800 Satellites to Avoid Collisions

U.S. military vows to track 800 satellites by October 1

Spurred by last month’s collision of two satellites high above the Earth, the U.S. military plans to begin tracking all 800 maneuverable spacecraft currently operating in space by October 1, a senior U.S. Air Force official said on Monday.


Pentagon Looking to Develop Space-Based Solar Power as SFF Pitches Idea to Obama

A couple of items on space solar power satellites. The military is interested, and the Space Frontier Foundation is promoting the idea as well.

Pentagon Eyes Orbiting Power Station
Aviation Week

“Military planners responsible for finding space resources to support troops on the ground think the time may be ripe to advance the 40-year-old space solar power concept to help reduce the logistics train behind forward-deployed forces.


Hypersonic Transports Eyed for Military Deployments

Pentagon envisions spaceship troops
USA Today

“The Pentagon wants to rocket troops through space to hot spots anywhere on the globe within two hours, and planners spent two days last month discussing how to do it, military documents show.”

“Some critics are skeptical. The concept defies physics and the reality of what a small number of lightly armed troops could accomplish in enemy territory, said John Pike, a military analyst who runs ‘This isn’t even science fiction,’ Pike said. ‘It’s fantasy.’

“Private rocket pioneer Burt Rutan says the plan is technologically possible. ‘This has never been done,’ Rutan said in an e-mail. ‘However, it is feasible. It would be a relatively expensive way to get the troops on the ground, but it could be done.'”