Space force

For Space Force’s Monthly “Reverse Industry Days,” Space Domain Awareness Will Be Next

Artist’s impression of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Cislunar Highway Patrol demonstration satellite. (AFRL Chart)

WASHINGTON: Space Force Acquisition Command will host a so-called “reverse industry day” next month on space domain awareness, including in the vast cislunar region between Earth and Earth orbits. Moon, as the next topic in a planned series of events designed to help hatch the service’s future purchase plans.

This will be the third time the service has held one of these new types of industry briefings – where Space Systems Command (SSC) officials bring together Department of Defense stakeholders to explain issues. and threats to interested companies and hear what the commercial technology industry can bring. The “reverse” twist is that these briefings take place before to the service developing strict and timely programmatic and contractual requirements for companies to fulfill, as is normal practice.

Indeed, the goal is to help the Department of Defense develop acquisition plans based on knowledge of solutions that may already be commercially available, explained Col. Rich Kniseley, chief of requirements and architectures of company, at SSC’s Space Systems Integration office.

“What reverse industry days allow us to do is: first, we give a threat briefing to better prepare the ground, because that’s really what we’re here for, is to deal with the threat; after that, we spent some time pointing out exactly where the government was going,” he told Breaking Defense on June 1. “But the rest of the industry days, a day and a half, were put in place so that industry can brief government, one on one, on their approaches to how best to solve the problem and what solutions they might provide.

SSC tries to hold these events about once a month, he said, to look at mission-critical areas.

Following the July SDA meeting, SSC is “looking at tactically responsive space – and by that I mean space capabilities that can be used to meet urgent or more timely needs. And we are waiting for August for that,” he said.

Two subsequent meetings are also planned, the first on “spatial analysis tools” and the second on “access to space, mobility and logistics”, he added. “So we’re really trying to get a good rhythm to keep the conversation going.”

Tactical SRI as a cooperative model

The final Reverse Industry Day was held May 19-20, in partnership with the Aerospace Industries Association, and focused on Tactical Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR). This meeting involved not only traditional and non-traditional defense companies, but also representatives from several space agencies beyond SSC, including Space Force’s Space Warfighting Analysis Center (SWAC), National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).

The NRO and NGA currently provide both tactical ISR to combatants and strategic ISR to the president and senior brass. However, the Space Force is seeking to take on at least part of this mission and has already launched a classified effort to develop a satellite-based Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) system.

This model of inter-agency cooperation is one that SSC intends to continue to use when considering other future acquisitions of capabilities or technologies.

“It really is a team sport,” Kniseley said. “It’s not just Space Systems Command. We work with our partners in space and have them at the table with us so we can have this good dialogue.

Indeed, SSC has based its industry guest list in part on information about commercial players gathered during “multiple” analysis of alternatives (AoA) undertaken by the DoD, the intelligence community and the Air Force Air Combat Command (ACC), Col. Dennis Birchenough said. , Senior Materiel Manager at SSC’s Environmental and Tactical Surveillance Acquisition Delta.

The result was that “most people” in tactical ISR “even realized that we were trying to provide resilient and persistent spatial sensing for integrated awareness of all domains,” said Birchenough, who spoke alongside Kniseley, in an interview. “And what we had to do was set them up with ‘what does the fighter want?’ We wanted to make sure they knew that SSC needed to be able to track and identify threats simultaneously, at scale, across multiple domains, and in highly contested environments with low latency.

SSC is currently reviewing the information and ideas gleaned from the meeting, Birchenough said. “And I think we’re going to take some of those ideas,” he added. “And part of it is marketing, right? So we have to separate the rhetoric from the reality.”

The next step is to start integrating the chosen concepts into the SSC “roadmaps”, while working with NRO and NGA and other partners “to see what elements they could take” and “what elements we could take” , explained Birchenough.

However, before any acquisition plan can be implemented, SSC is waiting for the SWAC to complete its force design on ground moving target indicators, as well as the ACC’s ongoing AoA for the airborne portion of tactical SRI.

“Once those are done, it all merges together and we start to pave the way for what to start operating, buying and building,” Birchenough said, referring to “operating” capabilities. current government.

Keep an eye on Cislunar

The Space Force is increasingly interested in monitoring regions of space beyond geosynchronous orbit (GEO), essentially the outer orbit of the Earth some 36,000 kilometers above the level of the sea — driven by concerns about both the potential for increased U.S. business activity and China’s ambitious exploration plans. .

To that end, the service has just established a new 19th Space Defense Squadron, with a mission that includes space domain awareness beyond GEO, or “xGEO.”

Meanwhile, the service is working with Air Force Research Laboratory on at least two space systems to observe both satellite activity around the Moon and the lunar surface. These include the Cislunar Highway Patrol System (CHPS) and the Defense Deep Space Sentinel (D2S2), as well as two smaller projects under its Space University Research Initiative (SURI) program.

July’s Reverse Industry Days will allow SSC to take a closer look at the myriad industry efforts, such as the Lockheed Martin-General Motors Lunar Communications Demonstration Satellite, to see what the Space Force might be able to simply acquire rather than have to develop. .

“I’ll give you three words: operate, buy and build. That’s really our approach,” Birchenbough said.