What 2024 has in store for the Space Force takeover

Fourteen months ago, Space Force acquisition chief Frank Calvelli released acquisition guidelines, or principles, aimed at helping the service buy smaller, cheaper satellites and move away from of behemoth, delay-prone programs. Now Calvelli wants to strengthen these reforms.

I am very happy with them and I wouldn’t change a thing. In fact, I will double them now, he said in November during the Aviation Weeks Aerospace & Defense Programs conference.

Next year, Calvelli expects the Space Force to finally give some problematic programs to the kids, including a space command-and-control system, called ATLAS for Advanced Tracking and Launch Analysis System; and new ground stations to control the Pentagons constellation of GPS satellites, called the GPS Next Generation Operational Control Segment, or OCX.

These programs have faced delays as major software improvements have failed, Calvelli said in November. We’ve seen big software failures and OCX fits right into that mold. It is a very large complex software system with challenges.

ATLAS is slated to replace the Pentagon’s 45-year-old Space Defense Operations Center, or SPADOC. It is set to be completed by 2022, but baseline capability is expected to arrive in August. It will enter service only after an operational trial period, the length of which has not been finalized, an Air Force department official said.

The OCX program, which will replace the existing ground stations, is more than seven years behind schedule. Delivery is planned for June, but development testing, crew training, and other activities will keep it from operations until February 2025, the department official said.

The system will be operational when it can support command and control of all GPS III and legacy GPS space vehicles, monitor and broadcast GPS navigation signals, and support mission planning, the official said.

Calvelli said he will continue to pursue the OCX and ATLAS programs.

Next year will also see the service test two variants of a card designed to help GPS receivers resist jamming. These Military GPS User Equipment Increment 1 ground cards, or MGUE, have completed development and are integrated and installed on ground platforms, according to the official.

The final two acquisition milestones for the aviation development program and maritime cards are on track for operational testing next year on the Air Forces B-2 bomber in July and the Navys DDG-class destroyer in October, the official said. .

More launches

The Space Force will nearly double its national security space launches next year, from 12 launches in fiscal 2023 to 21 in 2024.

Of those 21 missions, ULA will launch 11 and SpaceX 10. The Pentagon is working to bring new companies into the heavy-lift market dominated by two companies. In February, officials announced that the next satellite launch competition will divide bidding for dozens of launches into two groups: Lane 1 for more risk-tolerant missions, and Lane 2 for more challenging and critical ones. missions. They said they will choose three companies for Lane 2, which will be launched in 2025.

However, officials maintain they are not concerned about the Pentagon’s reliance on Elon Musks SpaceX to launch vital satellites into space. SpaceX has done an incredible job of revolutionizing access to space, Calvelli said in November.

However, he said, ULAs Vulcan Centaur rocket, which will compete against SpaceXs Falcon 9, should be launched soon. The delayed heavy-lift rocket is scheduled to blast off in early 2024.

We need Vulcan. A few years late to show up to the party. And we want to see other competitors out there like Blue Origin being successful with their rocket, and also the people at Rocket Lab have plans for future rockets as well. That’s why there are so many things to launch and so much fun, says Calvelli.

As the Space Force tries to diversify the launch market, the industry is working to get payloads into space as quickly as possible. The service set a record for the fastest launch in 2023, launching a satellite 27 hours after receiving orders.

It is part of the Victus Nox program, which will give the Pentagon the ability to quickly respond to space threats or augment a degraded or damaged US space system. Having this capability is key to the Space Forces’ effort to maintain a stable constellation of hundreds of military satellites in space, and quickly send more there if one of them goes down.

The Space Development Agency, one of the arms acquired by the Space Forces, began building this constellation in 2023, launching sets of satellites into low Earth orbit. This constellation, called the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture, will begin to deliver operational capabilities for fighters in 2024.

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