The DoD (Department of Defense) has been conducting the most substantial overhaul of the US national security space program’s history. Space is now a unique warfighting domain that necessitates enterprise-wide adjustments in rules, tactics, operations, investments, capabilities, and knowledge in order to adapt to a new strategic environment.
In light of this, the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee passed its recommendations for the Fiscal Year 2023 NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) on 8th June. The strategic forces panel, which is responsible for missile defense, military space, and nuclear weapons strategy and projects, added language in its markup calling for more use of private space data and technology from commercial satellites.
Subcommittee chairperson Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) claimed the military would gain from more usage of private space technologies during a quick 10-minute markup hearing. “We need to keep buying the best off-the-shelf technology and collaborating with the top companies to build new technologies,” Cooper added. “We must also urge that the United States have capabilities that well outnumber those available in the private sector.”
Cooper is retiring from Congress, therefore this is his last term as chair of the panel. The strategic forces markup, which will be debated by the entire House Armed Services Committee on 22nd June, recommends that the military use commercial remote sensing satellite data like synthetic aperture radar and radio-frequency more frequently.
The measure also directs the Space Force to improve the efficiency of the NSSL (National Security Space Launch) program by standardizing satellite as well as launch vehicle interfaces to allow payloads to be deployed more quickly.
Commercial Remote Sensing Provisions:
- According to the bill, commercial satellite RF (radio frequency) remote sensing capabilities “have the potential to serve a number of Department of Defense missions, ranging from warfighting to studying climate change consequences.”
- The committee requests a briefing from the Department of Defense on how commercial RF satellite capabilities from the United States are used in combatant command experimentation, exercises, and wargaming, as well as how the commercial functionalities should be incorporated into information systems and workflows.
- The committee urges the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to broaden the present commercial synthetic aperture radar (SAR) purchase plan beyond its pilot stage.
- The committee advises the NRO to hasten the deployment and integration of commercial SAR systems in the United States. It also requests a report on the NRO’s plans to purchase commercial SAR capability.
Provisions for the start of national security operations:
- The committee is concerned about existing attempts to “bring down the cost, decrease risk, and maintain launch dependability and performance,” according to the committee.
- The Space Development Agency (SDA) is concerned about the cost of launch, as it wants to raise the total number of planned launches in the years ahead as it deploys a massive constellation in LEO (low Earth orbit).
- The committee favors the employment of a contractor as a standard launch integrator to make satellite integration with launch vehicles easier. “This approach could be a good way to save costs, shorten launch times, and enhance competition among launch providers.”
- The Department of Defense is required to brief the committee “on the benefits of employing one uniform launch integrated platform across all types of space and launch vehicles, covering cost and schedule, and all plans to use a uniform launch integrator for existing and future programs.”