The Pentagon’s Plan to Pepper Space With Surveillance Satellites Takes Shape
Article by George Dvorsky January 22, 2020 (gizmodo.com)
• The first major initiative from the DoD’s new Space Development Agency (SDA) to to build the National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA). The NDSA will consist of seven layers, or “constellations” of the U.S. military. Launched in March 2019, the stated mission of the SDA is to unify and integrate the military space capabilities necessary to ensure U.S. technological and military advantages in space, and to detect and knock out surface-to-air and hypersonic missiles on the Earth below. The SDA will become a part of the US Space Force in 2022.
• Speaking at a Pentagon briefing on January 21st, the director of the Space Development Agency, Derek Tournear., announced that the first layer of the NDSA, the ‘Transport Layer’, will consist of hundreds of surveillance satellites that will attain full global coverage by 2026. By as early as 2022, however, the Transport Layer should be capable of ‘regional coverage’, pinpointing targets on the ground or at sea and tracking advanced missiles.
• The seven NDSA ‘constellations’ are described as follows:
• Transport Layer: to coordinate global military data and create a full range of “warfighter platforms”
• Battle Management Layer: to facilitate mission command and data control
• Tracking Layer: to provide global-tracking and targeting of missile threats
• Custody Layer: to constantly track enemy missiles and missile launchers
• Navigation Layer: to provide an alternative back-up to GPS navigation
• Deterrence Layer: to deter hostile actions up to lunar distances
• Support Layer: to enable integration between ground and space-based assets
• Under the plan, one new satellite will be constructed per week. Each satellite will be relatively small, weigh a “few hundred kilograms,” cost around $10 million, and have a life expectancy of around five years. To that end, the SDA issued a broad agency announcement that it is looking for commercial partners to help develop and implement these technologies. The SDA will be soliciting bids for the first batch of satellites in late spring 2020 and awarding contracts in the summer.
• The entire National Defense Space Architecture system will eventually involve thousands of satellites. Each layer will perform a different function, such as detecting incoming missiles, alerting ground forces of potential threats, keeping tabs on potentially hostile weapons systems, and augmenting navigational capabilities, among other important defense roles. Considering that Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink megaconstellation may deploy up to 45,000 internet satellites, low Earth-orbital space is quickly becoming cluttered.
New details have emerged about the Pentagon’s ambitious plan to build seven different defense constellations, the first of which will include hundreds of surveillance satellites that are expected to attain full global coverage in just six years.
Known as the National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA), it’s the first major initiative from the newly hatched Space Development Agency (SDA), a part of the Department of Defense.
Once it’s built, the NDSA will consist of seven constellations, or “layers” in the parlance of the U.S. military. Each layer will perform a different function, such as detecting incoming missiles, alerting ground forces of potential threats, keeping tabs on potentially hostile weapons systems, and augmenting navigational capabilities, among other important defense roles.
Launched in March 2019, the SDA is “responsible for unifying and integrating [the Department of Defense’s] space development efforts, monitoring the department’s threat-driven future space architecture and accelerating the fielding of new military space capabilities necessary to ensure U.S. technological and military advantages in space,” according to a press release from the DoD. The agency is on track to become part of the U.S. Space Force in 2022.
Speaking at a Pentagon briefing yesterday, Derek Tournear, who was appointed director of the SDA in October 2019, said the first of these layers, the Transport Layer, will consist of several dozen satellites by the end of 2022, reported SpaceNews. Once at this early threshold, the system will “show that we can operate a proliferated constellation and that the constellation can talk to weapon systems,” said Tournear.
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