Something of a slow week in Space Force–related news, but we’ve got the basic elements to mull over. The House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee had hearings this week on USSF budget concerns, while two SMEs announced contract wins in the AFWERX program. And this week’s new technological concept: The Outernet. Read on for all this week’s Space Force news!
Calvelli touts oversight to Potomac Officers’, House subcommittee
Space acquisition director Frank Calvelli spoke at the Potomac Officers Club on Tuesday, April 25, mostly touting the Department of the Air Force’s oversight tools. Among these was the Contractor Responsibility Watch List (CRWL), which managed to get some mainstream media attention thanks to Calvelli’s nickname of “Santa’s Naughty List.”
Explained Calvelli: “If contractors are put on the CRWL for failure to meet cost and schedule performance goals, the Space Force has the ability at that point not to award them any new contracts” — though he did note that the CRWL is completely empty of names at present.
Calvelli expounded further before a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee on Wednesday, April 26.
“As the Space Service Acquisition Executive, I conduct reviews with each of my [program executive officers] every two weeks to discuss the status of programs within their purview. I also hold quarterly program reviews for a deeper program analysis. During these quarterly reviews, the government program managers present the technical, schedule, cost, and staffing status, open risks and issues, upcoming activities, and an overall assessment of program health.”
“Based on the data from the quarterlies to date — the latest in February 2023 — we identified a few troubled programs to track more closely. For those programs, I require each selected program to provide a biweekly update on progress against a detailed schedule to get to a healthy status.”
But subcommittee head Rep. Doug Lamborn (R.–Colo.) pushed back on these comments a bit, stating that several programs are underperforming, over–budget and behind schedule, most notably the GPS Operational Control System (OCX).
“I recognize that I inherited several troubled programs that are behind schedule and overrun on cost, I am paying close attention to those programs,” Calvelli responded.
Lamborn will be receiving a briefing on the subject at Space Systems Command (SSC) on Monday, May 1. Source: Breaking Defense .
Kendall: “All factors being considered” in SPACECOM relocation question
Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall also appeared before the House Armed Services Committee strategic forces subcommittee, mostly taking questions on Thursday, April 27th about certain declassification within the Space Force as called for in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). However, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R–Colo.) did get Kendall to comment on his state’s pet issue with the DoD, namely the potential relocation of US Space Command (SPACECOM) headquarters from Colorado Springs to Alabama.
Said Kendall, “I understand that the command is months away from achieving full operational capability at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs. This means that we will be moving backwards in our efforts to organize space as a warfighting domain if we move the command away from Colorado Springs, wherever it might be moved to, because moving would delay full operational capability by four to six years.”
Though the above comments may seem pretty indicative, Kendall insisted he had no preference: “We’re trying to take into consideration all possible factors that will affect final decision,” he said. Source: Air & Space Forces Magazine.
Two AFWERX small business contract wins announced
A pair of SMEs announced winning AFWERX Direct–to–Phase 2 (D2P2) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contracts this week: Missouri–based Tesseract Ventures LLC and Colorado–based startup Albedo Space Corp.
AI technology specialists Tesseract won a $1.25 million SBIR contract for R&D at Space Launch Delta 45 at Patrick Space Force Base in Florida. Tesseract CEO/founder John Boucard stated that, under terms of the contract, his company “will be testing and refining its existing technology, such as the Tesseract Smart Space, and adding new functionalities.”
Boucard said that Tesseract’s wearable Prism devices would be employed in monitoring equipment and employees’ locations. Representative of Albedo Space Corp., meanwhile, announced their company’s win of a $1.25 million government contract for support of the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC); the contract calls for evaluation of Albedo’s 2–meter GSD (Ground Sample Distance) thermal infrared imaging technology.
Albedo CEO/co–founder Topher Haddad was quoted in Breaking Defense as stating that his company’s satellites “will collect both 10–centimeter optical imagery and 2–meter thermal longwave infrared imagery. Both have the highest resolution in their respective regimes, and they’ll collect them simultaneously [… ] to add extra intelligence.” Sources: Kansas City Business Journal, SpaceRef, Breaking Defense.
The “Outernet”: Internet 2.0?
Get ready for the latest notion that sounds like an idea out of science–fiction: It’s the “Outernet.”
In speaking at the C4ISRnet virtual conference on Wednesday, April 26, Col. Eric Felt of the USAF space acquisition office stated that the Space Warfighting Analysis Center (SWAC) had this year “completed what they call the space data transport force design. So we are now working through how are we going to pivot the [current satellite communications] architecture to work towards the SWAC force design.”
And that outernet… ? “The outernet is the internet in space, the basic idea being that if I’m a sensor or a satellite in space, I shouldn’t have to worry about how my data gets to where it needs to go.”
Felt described the idea as part of a greater effort to redesign military communications capability, likely with an agile–tech combination of extant satellites with new equipment, commercial and military.
Indeed, enabling SWAC’s network design will required commercial satellite constellations. “Commercial is low hanging fruit,” said Felt. “It’s already ready in many cases for us to bring into the architecture. And so, my job as the as the director of architecture, is to make sure that our architectures are conducive to bringing in commercial as well as our department capabilities so that we can get those resilience benefits quickly. Not years down the road.”
An outernet, would “give us real–time command and control and access to our data, even from [low Earth orbit], which we don’t always have today,” and “Those are going to be game–changers in terms of the capabilities that we’re able to deliver to the joint fight. That’s why that’s so important.” Source: Yahoo News.