WASHINGTON — As Congress pushes the Space Force to develop a responsive launch capability capable of rapidly replenishing assets, the service is looking more broadly at how it can make its entire architecture more responsive.
Over the past two years, Congress has included language in the National Defense Authorization Act directing the Space Force to establish a tactically responsive space launch program and develop plans for how the service will run the initiative. The Space Force opted not to seek funding for the effort, instead relying on congressional largesse, including a $50 million addition in the omnibus appropriations act for fiscal year 2022.
Space Systems Command chief Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein said today at the C4ISRNET conference in Arlington, Va., that the service recognizes the need but is still defining its reactive launch plan and, more broadly, responsive spatial capabilities.
“We’re trying to figure out where we need rapid space capabilities and rapid space replenishment in the future,” he said. “Rather than just focusing on the launch problem, we’re focusing on the whole launch through to in-orbit build capability.”
The Space Force’s Space Safari program office began executing tactically responsive space launch missions in 2020 with the goal of developing and launching small satellites on a rapid timeline. Last year, the service launched its second tactically reactive launch mission, TacRL-2, using Northrop Grumman’s Pegasus XL rocket to lift payloads into low Earth orbit from a modified Stargazer L-1011 aircraft. flight.
Guetlein said the mission has demonstrated the ability to meet a requirement with a capability within 10 months, and the service is planning another TacRL mission for fiscal year 2023 which he says will “significantly accelerate that capability.”
As the service prepares for the demonstration, it is working closely with its force design organization, the Space Warfighting Analysis Center, to better understand how tactically responsive space capabilities can be used to meet urgent or emergency needs. war.
“I think the demonstration that we’re going to do in FY23 will inform the design of this force, and it will inform our future budget inputs to be obtained after this future combat,” he said.
Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s Space and Emerging Technologies Journalist. She previously covered the US Air Force and US Space Force for Inside Defense.