Technological advancements have led both the United States and its adversaries further into the space domain, bringing about a host of new threats. To address these challenges, the Department of Defense is investing heavily in space capabilities – with its 2024 space budget request being its largest yet.
The DOD’s plan for the space domain encompasses numerous initiatives currently underway across a variety of space-focused organizations, which will be explored during ExecutiveBiz’s Space Technologies Forum on August 29. The event will bring together space experts from both the public and private sectors to consider the potential impacts of the space domain and related technologies on the future of the U.S.
DOD space projects cover a range of capabilities, all of which require new or improved technologies to be achieved. Below are just three of the space technologies the department is focused on.
Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture
The Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture is an ongoing Space Development Agency project that aims to provide the joint force with support for terrestrial missions using a proliferated low-Earth orbit satellite constellation. Once completed, the PWSA will include seven layers: transport, battle management, tracking, custody, emerging capabilities – or deterrence, navigation and support.
Using a spiral development model, the project is divided into several different stages, the first of which has already launched multiple satellites into space. This leg of the project – Tranche 0 – will provide low-latency data connectivity, hypersonic glide vehicle detection and tracking and missile warning and missile tracking along with a plethora of other key capabilities. Coinciding with Tranche 0’s progress are developments in the next stages of the PWSA – Tranche 1 and Tranche 2. Currently, Tranche 1 is in the assembly, integration and test phase and Tranche 2 is in the acquisition process.
Next-Gen Overhead Persistent Infrared Architectures
Led by the Space Systems Command, the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared initiative is driving the development of Geosynchronous Earth Orbit and Polar orbit capabilities to provide survivable, resilient missile warning, tracking and defense in the space domain. The agency plans to include five satellites in the Next-Gen OPIR constellation, three of which will operate in geosynchronous orbit and provide coverage over mid-latitudes and two that will operate in highly elliptical orbit to cover upper latitudes.
Next-Gen OPIR’s specific capabilities will include early warning defense, resiliency wideband communications, higher-resolution threat detection, a broadened collection area and increased sensitivity to detect dim targets. SSC anticipates the launch of the first GEO satellite in 2025, and expects to launch the first Polar satellite in 2028.
Global Positioning System Enterprise
Now operated by the Space Force, the Global Positioning System is critical to both civilian agencies and the DOD. Modernizing this technology, which delivers Position, Navigation and Timing signals to the warfighter, is currently a top priority for the department.
To bring this goal to fruition, the department is investing in the Lockheed Martin-built GPS III satellites, one of which launched in January. The next phase of the program is the production of the GPS III Follow On satellite – an upgraded version of the original GPS III – for the Space Force. This new satellite is being designed to deliver a laser retroreflector array, a search and rescue payload, a fully digital navigation payload and other new capabilities.