—Michael C. Sirak
In the first baseline budget prepared since the Chinese anti-satellite test of January 2007, space control initiatives total to $421.3 million of the Air Force's Fiscal 2009 spending request to Congress. This amounts to a hefty increase over this year, in rough terms about 20 percent. And it equals just slightly less than five percent of the service’s overall $8.5 billion proposal for the development and procurement of space systems next fiscal year.
“The user, JFCC [Joint Functional Component Command for] Space, got themselves a real exercise with the Chinese ASAT and brought a real point to some of the deficiencies in [their] equipage and [their] ability to synthesize and use information,” an Air Force official said on Feb. 1 during a background briefing for reporters on the Fiscal 2009 space request. He continued, “The Air Force has programs to start to respond to that, so we’re optimistic that we’ll get a good reception with our request in this area."
The official emphasized that the “real changes—increases—in the space effort really revolve around space situational awareness.” And, he said, “We just do not have a good enough knowledge about what is actually in space, and especially if it’s something close to one of our spacecraft.”
Accordingly, space situational awareness, or SSA, receives a total of $240.3 million for research, development, test, and evaluation activities plus procurement, more than half of the total space control earmarks, USAF said in response to a query. This is followed by counterspace, which is funded at $104 million. Space control technology is funded at $77 million.
The largest allotment under SSA, about $121 million, would go toward the Space Based Space Surveillance Block 10 satellite, the first of a projected constellation of spacecraft that will vastly improve upon the nation's ability to detect and track orbiting objects from space. Currently the only on-orbit asset that the United States acknowledges having for space surveillance is the Space Based Visible sensor on the Midcourse Space Experiment satellite. But this sensor is well beyond its design life.
“SBSS will fly in 2009,” the Air Force official said. The dollars requested in Fiscal 2009 would cover integration of the SBSS satellite with its launch vehicle and the actual launch, the service’s newly issued budget justification documents show. They also would support concept design, development, and risk reduction activities for a more advanced Block 20 satellite design.
Integrated Space Situation Awareness (ISSA), a subset of SSA, would receive $44.5 million in RDT&E funds, up from $26 million in Fiscal 2008, and $9 million for procurement. Activities in this area are designed to create a network-centric enterprise for the real-time correlation, integration, and distribution of the data obtained by the current sensors in the US space surveillance network, a collection of dedicated optical telescopes and radars located around the world plus additional sensors that contribute. Enabled by this enterprise, space commanders will have the ability to make rapid, responsive decisions to protect US space assets, the budget documents state.
“In light of the recent anti-satellite events, the Department [of Defense] added funds, beginning in FY09, to accelerate the SPADOC net-centric migration and upgrade and integration of non-traditional sensors," reads the justification document for ISSA. SPADOC is the Space Defense Operations Center at Peterson AFB, Colo.
ISSA funding also would continue work on the Extended Space Sensor Architecture advanced concept technology demonstration that seeks to better integrate missile defense sensors with the space surveillance network.
About $45.3 million of SSA research ad development funding would go toward the upgrade of the Space Fence, a series of tracking radars along the southern United States, from the VHF-band to the S-band. The transition, which would begin with contractor award in Fiscal 2009 and end with its anticipated completion in 2015, would give the fence the ability to detect and track much smaller objects. Additionally $4.6 million would go toward nearer term procurement of improvements for the fence.
USAF divides its $104 million counterspace accounts into three areas: offensive and defensive counterspace and counterspace command and control. The Counter-satellite Communications System (CCS) program, an offensive counterspace initiative, would receive $29.8 million in RDT&E and $9 million in procurement funding.
The CCS is a ground-based transportable radio frequency jammer designed to interfere with an adversary's ability to command and control its forces via satellite communications or transmit propaganda via satellite. The effect of the jammer is temporary and reversible, the Air Force says.
There are currently two operational CCS units and three deployable CCS Block 10 systems, according to the budget documents. The Fiscal 2009 funds would continue with the development of Block 10 capability upgrades, with first delivery planned at the end of next fiscal year, and also would support the maturation of the follow-on Block 20 advanced CCS. USAF expects to develop a prototype of the latter before the end of Fiscal 2009, the documents show.
The Rapid Attack Identification Detection and Reporting System, a defensive counterspace capability, would receive $37.6 million for RDT&E and $20.2 million for procurement in 2009. The funding would cover the continued development and fielding of the RAIDRS Block 10 as well as the concept definition, pre-acquisition architecture development, and system development of Block 20.
The Block 10 variant uses existing off-the-shelf technology to detect, characterize, geolocate, and report satellite communications interference from the ground, the Air Force says. The procurement funding would provide for the production and fielding of six Block 10 interference detection sensors and two interference detection/geo-location systems, the budget documents show. Overall, RAIDRS Block 10 will have 24 fixed interference sensors, six fixed geolocation sensors, three deployable interference/GLS and one training system.
Block 20 will be much more expansive. “Block 20 RAIDRS is a very different grab bag of capabilities than Block 10,” a second Air Force official said at the background budget briefing. USAF envisions it will feature threat detectors onboard the satellites as well as the processors and fusion capabilities to synthesize data on attacks.
“We’re in requirements definition and content at this stage,” this official continued. “We’re a ways from a particular procurement.”
Also under counterspace, the Air Force would like to spend $7.5 million to continue with the development of the C2 and mission-planning capabilities for the CCS and RAIDRS, the budget documents show.
About $55.2 million, the bulk of the $77 million request for space control technology would go for technology insertion planning and analysis, USAF says. This includes the Self Awareness Space Situation Awareness technology demonstration that began via a Congressional add-on of $25 million in Fiscal 2008. The Air Force intends to apply the same amount for it in Fiscal 2009.
The SASSA demonstration entails a payload of threat-warning sensors that provides tactical space awareness around a host satellite. The sensors are being designed to detect attacks, locate attacking sources, and communicate relevant information to the ground. The Air Force plans to launch the demonstration payload at the end of 2010, the budget documents show.
Also under space control technology, the Air Force would like to spend $21.6 million to continue efforts to field a robust Space Range with which to conduct developmental and operational testing of new space control systems as well as train with them and develop tactics.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Tweets by @AirForceMag