Main Engine Cut Off

Space Development Agency Officially Established

Sandra Erwin, for SpaceNews:

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Tuesday officially established the Space Development Agency as a separate organization within the Department of Defense that will be led by Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin.

According to the memo, the SDA will be responsible for overall program policy development and execution of next-generation military space capabilities except those funded in the military intelligence budget.

It is likely that resources from other agencies or military departments will transition to the SDA in the future. The undersecretary for research and engineering will work with the Pentagon comptroller to “determine any realignment of FY19 and FY20 resources.”

A second article by Sandra has some details from a meeting that Griffin had with reporters:

The SDA will be based at the Pentagon and is projected to have about 100 people. Its first job will be to design and architect a constellation of low-cost satellites in low-Earth orbit that will be used for communications and surveillance, what Griffin calls a “proliferated LEO sensor and communications transport layer.” The idea is to use small satellites and other technologies available from commercial vendors as a foundation for future designs of military constellations that would be more resilient to disruptions or attacks than traditional, larger and more expensive military spacecraft.

And from the soon-to-be-outgoing Air Force Secretary Wilson:

In the memo, Wilson also questioned the idea of proliferated LEO constellations as the solution to space resiliency. The Air Force and the office of the director of cost analysis and program evaluation, she wrote, are “currently conducting detailed analysis on the effectiveness of more satellites on resiliency and failure, compared to the current architecture. It is premature to conclude that a massively proliferated low-Earth orbit architecture would be more resilient in the face of deliberate attack than alternative, similar priced architectures. The proposed plan requires in-depth supporting analysis and validation by the warfighter.”

This is a really great example to show why I’m supportive of the Space Force as a wholly separate branch. Traditional Air Force leadership is vastly out of touch with space.

There aren’t many people that I know within the space industry that would argue a constellation of inexpensive, commercially-sourced small satellites is less resilient than a handful of expensive, traditionally-acquired satellites.