The head of the Space Agency clears up “confusion” about where his agency is headed

Space Agency Director Dr. Derek M. Turner joins a discussion on “Transforming access to space through emerging technologies” at the Defense One digital event, Pentagon, Washington, DC, Jan. 27, 2021. (DoD photo: Lisa Ferdinando )

AFA 2022 — Space Development Agency Director Derek Turner wants to make one thing clear about his agency’s upcoming transition to Space Force: The SDA will continue to function as an independent agency with no significant changes to how it currently does its work.

Specifically, old reporters during the Air Force Association’s annual conference on Wednesday, the SDA will remain separate from the service’s larger acquisition division, Command of space systems.

“There is confusion — internal and external,” Tournier told the Pentagon about how the SDA fits in.

“There is confusion as to where the SDA will be in the SSC organizational structure,” he added. “It’s easy: the SDA will go beyond the organizational structure of the SSC. Therefore, we are a “direct reporting unit”. The SSC is what is called a “core team”. But mostly we both obey [Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition and Integration Frank] Calvelli for acquisition.”

According to Pentagon officials, the SDA will transition from the oversight of Pentagon Undersecretary for Research and Engineering Heidi Shue to the Space Force within the next few weeks. by law, it must be submitted by October 1.

Within the Department of the Air Force, a direct command unit is an agency with a specialized mission that reports directly to the service’s chief of staff—in the case of the SDA, Chief of Space Operations General Jay Raymond. But because no military service has legal authority to buy — that is, a civilian leadership role — the SDA’s acquisition role reports to Calvelli, who in turn reports to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall.

Stressing that the SDA has been given independent “non-acquisition” and acquisition powers to allow it to set its own policies and choose how to develop and buy its own systems, Turner said he doesn’t expect any real changes to how the agency operates, at least in the near term. .

The only difference will be that instead of the Office of the Secretary of Defense authorizing the acquisition of each two-year “tranche” of satellites under the SDA plan Space architecture of national defense, it will be cosmic forces, he said.

As such, the Space Force will have three procurement organizations under Calvelli’s office: SSC, based in Los Angeles and headed by Maj. Gen. Michael Gatlein; Turnier’s traffic police; and the Space Rapid Capabilities Office (Space RCO), recently headed by Kelly Hammett.

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“There will be three independent types of weapons that are tools that Minister Calveley can use to enable the militants,” Turner said. Noting that there will be overlapping missions that will need to be settled domestically at the Calveli level, he explained that overall each organization has a different focus.

A look at “common” systems

For SDA, the focus right now is on “proliferated” systems — primarily low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite arrays, “where we have all that knowledge,” Turner said.

The Space RCO uses non-traditional acquisition tools to quickly acquire prototypes, he said, “especially from the classified side.” The Space RCO is also a direct reporting unit.

The SSC is tasked with “making sure that the overall architecture is consistent with each other from a space force perspective,” Turner said. “They are responsible for the custom-built sophisticated systems that have historically been delivered.”

However, he pointed out that as an example of why neither organization should be “counted”, the VSK nevertheless was listened to to design and build a multisatellite missile warning/tracking Constellation in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) – as part of Integrated Missile Warning/Tracking power design developed by Art Space Warfare Analysis Center (SWAC).

The way the system works, Tournear explained, is that once SWAC comes up with a force plan for future capabilities, “they sort of throw it over the fence to the acquisition organizations.” Cavelli will then “be able to look at proposals to provide this capability” from three different shops and choose the procurement solution that is most appropriate, he said.

Given Calvelli’s remarks at the AFA conference on Tuesday it may actually be the SSC that the wind sees operating changes, not the SDA. He praised SDA’s spiral development model, which allows satellites with new capabilities to be launched every two years, and rejected expensive traditional space development programs, particularly those focused on multibillion-dollar Overhead permanent infrared communications of the next generation (Next-Gen OPIR) satellite missile warning/tracking program — which will take seven years to develop.

Solution of cosmic forces stop the purchase Opir’s next-generation geosynchronous orbit (GEO) satellites, following the first three that Lockheed Martin is building under a $4.9 billion contract, in favor of a network of multiple LEO and MEO satellites is one sign of a strategic shift in space exploration. Another is the fact that the SSC uses the spiral development model of the SDA to acquire the planned MEO constellation.

“Spiral development has really, really taken hold,” Tournear said, adding that Space Force is behind us as it continues that approach as it builds its LEO constellations.

However, he noted that the model would still need “a lot of advocacy within the department and outside to make sure that industry can operate on the scale and in the time frame that they show they can and that the department can respond to the claims process and the approval process within these timeframes.” The head of the Space Agency clears up “confusion” about where his agency is headed

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