Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has taken the lead in organizing the new “Space Development Agency (SDA),” which from all accounts seems like a mini-DARPA focused on space technology development.
DARPA received its marching orders to establish the SDA from Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin, who champions establishing this new agency. Griffin envisions the SDA as accelerating innovation in military space programs and bringing emerging technologies from the private sector into the Department of Defense (DoD). Attaining this vision, however, steps on a lot of other bureaucratic toes, hence the need for DARPA’s intervention.
Griffin directed a memo to Fred Kennedy, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, to lead a study team and make recommendations for the implementation of the Space Development Agency. The memo was also sent to key leaders in the DoD; the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the secretaries of the military services; U.S. Strategic Command, and the director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).
Griffin told Kennedy he expects this effort will require 45 to 60 days, which isn’t a lot of time considering the complexity involved in establishing and fleshing out the details of a new bureaucracy. He also wants DARPA to provide an interim progress report within 30 days to Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and the Space Governance Committee.
This committee oversees a DoD space reorganization that complies with President Trump’s order to establish a new military branch, tentatively called the Space Force. SDA was first mentioned in an August 9 report. Congress mandated the creation of the SDA in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018.
The report said the job of the SDA will be to develop and field eight key capabilities. Together these capabilities comprise the “DoD Space Vision.” The eight capabilities:
* Persistent global surveillance for advanced missile targeting,
* Global and near-real time space situational awareness,
* Development of deterrent capability,
* Indications, warning, targeting and tracking for defense against advanced missile threats,
* Alternate positioning, navigation, and timing for a GPS-denied environment,
* Responsive, resilient, common ground-based space support infrastructure (e.g., ground stations and launch capability)
* Cross-domain, networked, node-independent battle management command, control and communications, including nuclear command, control, and communications,
* Highly-scaled, low-latency, persistent, artificial intelligence-enabled global surveillance
Griffin expects the study team to focus on the requirements for a Low Earth Orbit communications transport layer and explore the synergy of this essential backbone with the eight space capabilities outlined in the DoD Space Vision.
The study team will also inventory DoD space-based command-and-control capabilities. It will identify critical gaps, deficiencies and inefficiencies in existing architectures and develop an agile responsive threat-driven architecture, associated infrastructure requirements and an acquisition construct.
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