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SDA Director Derek Tournear Named to 2021 Wash100 for Driving US Space Dominance; Expanding Satellite Tech

Derek Tournear SDA Director
Derek Tournear, SDA Director

Executive Mosaic is pleased to introduce Derek Tournear, director of the Space Development Agency (SDA), as an inductee of the Wash100 Award for the first time. Tournear has become a 2021 Wash100 Award recipient for his leadership and commitment to satellite tech as well as  maintaining an advantage for the U.S. over the space domain.

Tournear assumed leadership of the SDA following its establishment in 2019 and has since spearheaded the agency’s work to manage the Department of Defense’s (DOD) space acquisition programs. He came to SDA from the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering where he served as assistant director of research and development.

“Derek Tournear is on the leading edge of satellite deployment, the expansion of overhead architecture with key strengths in threat detection, situational awareness, intelligence, reconnaissance and a highly innovative approach towards the space domain,” said Jim Garrettson, CEO of Executive Mosaic and founder of the Wash100 Award.

In Jan. 2020, SDA announced that it will operate as part of the U.S. Space Force in Oct. 2022. The timeline will enable SDA to assess and demonstrate satellites that will serve as part of the planned National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA), Tournear said at a roundtable event.

Most notably, Tournear led efforts related to the multilayer mesh network envisioned to track hypersonic missiles and include a constellation of tracking satellites in low-Earth orbit. In mid-2020, Tournear unveiled plans to begin the procurement of around 20 satellites that will serve as part of the transport layer that will operate with the Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) system. Tournear expects six of the satellites to have Link 16 elements for military tactical communications.

In a November interview with Aviation Week Network, Tournear spoke about SDA’s vision of having the space architecture target and track weapons while transmitting data directly to ground platforms by Oct. 2022.

Tournear said he expects to launch next-generation OPIR capabilities by 2025 and that SDA is working with entities like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to address encryption challenges at speed.

“The whole goal there is can we get all of these services to talk to one another, can we get different weapons platforms to talk to one another and can we have this happen on a timescale that’s relevant in a fight? And so the SDA’s transport layer is spelled out to be the backbone for JADC2 in space,” he said.

SDA Director Derek Tournear Named to 2021 Wash100 for Driving US Space Dominance; Expanding Satellite Tech - top government contractors - best government contracting event

SDA also collaborated with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to develop a hardware-in-the-loop, software-in-the-loop (HIL/SIL) simulation technology to support testing of satellite interoperability in support of the space defense infrastructure.

According to Tournear, optical crosslink capabilities will serve as the top priority technology for the mesh network. Speaking at the MilSatCom Digital Week in October, he also cited tactical data links and autonomous battle management technologies as key elements of the mesh network.

Tournear worked to drive industry partnerships to help make the defense layer a reality. In late 2020, SDA awarded $281.5 million in contracts to Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems to produce spacecraft and optical intersatellite link paths that will comprise Tranche 0 of the NDSA’s transport layer.

SDA also issued contracts worth $342.8 million combined to L3Harris Technologies and SpaceX to each produce four tracking satellites that will operate as part of Tranche 0. Both companies will develop overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) imaging spacecraft which will be launched by the end of fiscal year 2022.

SDA retained its decision to partner with L3Harris and SpaceX after the agency reevaluated bids for the effort in line with protests from Airbus and Raytheon Technologies.

“With Tranche 0 in 2022, we will provide enough capability to where people can start to experiment with what those data could do, and figure out how they could put that into their operational plans for battle,” noted Tournear.

In October, Perspecta secured a potential $17.9 million task order under a $112 million contract to support systems integration and engineering work for Tranche 0. SDA plans to release a solicitation for Tranche 1 in August 2021 ahead of launching the satellites that will comprise that layer in 2024.

Beyond NDSA, Tournear also led efforts to ensure SDA’s participation in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) activities. Under Tournear’s leadership, SDA issued a broad agency announcement seeking proposals from small businesses through Sept. 30th 2021.

SDA Director Derek Tournear Named to 2021 Wash100 for Driving US Space Dominance; Expanding Satellite Tech - top government contractors - best government contracting event

More recently, Tournear was featured as the keynote speaker during the 2021 SDA Forum, hosted by Potomac Officers Club (POC) on March 4th 2021, to address the latest initiatives, efficiencies and challenges facing the nation, as we compete to maintain space superiority.

To register for the 2021 SDA Forum to watch Tournear’s full keynote speech, as well as view upcoming opportunities, visit Potomac Officers Club’s Event Page.

Executive Mosaic congratulates SDA and Derek Tournear on his 2021 Wash100 Award. His leadership and vision to drive innovation and agility has been essential while space technology continues to advance at an exceedingly high rate across the globe and the world’s nations compete for space dominance in the years to come.

About The Wash100

This year represents our eighth annual Wash100 Award selection. The Wash100 is the premier group of private and public sector leaders selected by Executive Mosaic’s organizational and editorial leadership as the most influential leaders in the GovCon sector. These leaders demonstrate skills in leadership, innovation, achievement and vision.

Visit the Wash100 site to learn about the other 99 winners of the 2021 Wash100 Award. On the site, you can submit your 10 votes for the GovCon executives of consequence that you believe will have the most significant impact in 2021.

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Written by William McCormick

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