The language came as an amendment crafted by the ranking member of the Strategic Forces subcommittee Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala, to the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) marked up today by the HASC. The amendment, included in a bloc of others that were okayed by the committee, reads:

“The Space Force may not establish a program of record unless the Service Acquisition Executive first determines that there is no commercially available capability that would meet the threshold objectives for that proposed program.”

That acquisition czar’s grounds for any decision made to launch a new program also must be submitted to the House and Senate defense committees, the language says.

On-Orbit Servicing

Another amendment, proposed by Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., seeks to open a path for commercial on-orbit servicing on military satellites. The language cites potential vulnerabilities as the Space Force transitions from the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite constellation to the Evolved Strategic SATCOM (ESS) satellites. Under the ESS program, the Space Force intends to deploy initial ESS satellites by end of fiscal year 2030, with initial operational capability by the end of 2032.

“The Committee directs the Secretary of the Air Force to provide a report that defines and validates technical concepts, cost, schedule, risks, policy, and benefits of on-orbit servicing of current strategic communications satellites and evaluate the merits of the concept in providing a transition path for future capabilities,” states the amendment.

Tactically Responsive Launch

The draft bill put forward by HASC Chair Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., as the basis for today’s vote demands a DoD report on using commercial firms for “tactically responsive launch” — that is, rapid turn-around launch, particularly of small payloads.

Industry officials have been complaining for years that despite a lot of small experimental programs, such as the Tactically Responsive Launch-2 (TacRL-2) that went to orbit in June using Northrop Grumman’s air-launched Pegasus XL space vehicle, DoD hasn’t really invested in routinely using commercial launch vendors.

The Space Force now has stood up a new office, called Space Safari, to do just that — use “mature” tech that doesn’t need development time. And in August, it announced the expansion of the Orbital Services Program-4 (OSP-4) Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract vehicle for commercial vendors.

The report to the HASC must include a plan “to address supply chain issues and leverage commercial capabilities to support future reconstitution and urgent space requirements leveraging the tactically responsive launch program.”

Under the provision (Section 1601), Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines further are mandated to support the effort, and ensure that the urgent launch needs of the Combatant Commands are being met.

Commercial SSA/SDA

The Strategic Forces subcommittee’s markup language further slapped DoD for lacking a strategy to incorporate commercial space situational awareness/space domain awareness (SSA/SDA) capabilities, data and analysis into the Space Force’s own efforts.

Space Force is responsible for the military’s Space Surveillance Network of telescopes, radar and software analytics for detecting, tracking and characterizing space objects.

The HASC policy language says:

“The committee notes the lack of clear Department of Defense plans for incorporating commercial space situational awareness, including radio frequency (RF) sensing, into the wider commercial SSA architecture to support Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) and a broad range of intelligence operations. Therefore, the committee directs the Chief of Space Operations to provide a briefing to the House Committee on Armed Services by March 1, 2022, on a comprehensive acquisition strategy that incorporates commercial RF sensing capabilities into a resilient and integrated SSA/SDA architecture to augment and inform multi-orbit, all-weather, and day/night collection capability for the Department.”

It also directs the DoD Comptroller to review, and report, on the Space Force programs, acquisitions plans and specifically the status of the Space Force Unified Data Library and its ability to ingest outside data. That review also must include “recommendations to improve the use” of commercial SSA/SDA.


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