SDA has begun work after facing the initial hiccups with a minimum crew of 27 headed by acting director Derek Tournear. Tournear is soon to be appointed as a permanent director by Mike Griffin, Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.
Tournear is positive about people on Capitol Hill changing their perception about the need for SDA and is happy that their R&D funding request of $20 million was supported by the Senate as well as the House Appropriations Committee though their funding request for other categories has yet to obtain a consensus. In the current scenario, he said that SDA will be housed in the Pentagon.
Work has begun in earnest as ideas are being solicited from the private sector by the SDA. Hundreds of responses were received ranging from broad architecture models to specific component focused white papers. Soon, bids will be asked for demonstrations of specific technology before the year end.
This will form the starting point for the development of interconnected satellites’ constellations, what SDA has termed the space layers. This will comprise of various layers such as transport, custody, deterrence, navigation and battle management layer with each one of them fulfilling a specific objective.
Demonstration of the transport layer will be asked for by the first BAA. The tracking layer will follow next and with testing over the next couple of years, manufacture of both will begin in 2022. Operational system is expected to be in place in 2024. Other layers are expected to take longer times.
Tournear plans to purchase a number of satellites over the following many years. The buses will be purchased direct from commercial dealers or shared with those belonging to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Ground systems will be sourced from commercial dealers. Multiple vendors will be involved in their working, said Tournear. Deployed satellites will use the current user equipment for communication purposes.
SDA will focus on shorter periods for equipment delivery and incorporate improvements with the availability of newer technology, he said.