11 February 2010
The Obama administration’s proposed 2011 spending plan includes some changes to major missile defense and space programs that emphasize a focus on space situational awareness and ballistic missile tracking capabilities. The proposal also underpins the aging nuclear weapons infrastructure, while adhering to the aim of eventually scrapping nuclear forces altogether and securing so-called nuclear loose material worldwide.
Few new expensive programs are being started in Fiscal 2011, and the most dramatic shift in the funding request is the termination of the joint Defense-Commerce Dept. National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (see p. 14).
By contrast, the Air Force is setting aside funding for a follow-on Space-Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) procurement. The first SBSS, a Ball Aerospace/Boeing project that features a two-axis gimballed visible-light sensor to surveil satellites in geosynchronous orbit, is complete and slated for launch this summer. The follow-on project will include a competition to design more satellites for a constellation, says Gary Payton, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space.
The Air Force is requesting $140.3 million in research and development money to kick off the program. A request for proposals is expected in the fourth quarter of Fiscal 2010 with contract award to follow in the second quarter of Fiscal 2011, according to service officials. Possible competitors include Ball Aerospace, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.
The military space budget is $11.4 billion, including $8 billion in research and development or procurement funding, down from $8.6 billion in 2010, Payton says. One key reduction is the proposed termination of the Third-Generation Infrared Satellite System (3Girs), which was designed to explore the use of large focal plane array (FPA) infrared detectors for the missile warning role. 3Girs grew out of concern that the Space-Based Infrared System (Sbirs) missile warning satellites, which have swelled in cost and continually missed schedule targets, would not deliver. But Marilyn Thomas, deputy Air Force budget director, says the 3Girs termination is possible now because the “Sbirs program is performing well.”
Two Sbirs sensors are on classified host satellites in highly elliptical orbit, and the first satellite bound for geosynchronous orbit (to replace Defense Support Program satellites) will be delivered by Lockheed Martin to the Air Force by year-end. Through 3Girs, the Air Force purchased two FPAs (one from SAIC and another from Raytheon). The SAIC sensor will be launched on a commercial communications satellite by the first quarter of 2011 and work is underway to certify the Raytheon sensor for space.
Though a relatively small amount of money, the Air Force’s decision to request $8.35 million for the Space Protection Program is a first. The program was established by Congress, which directed the Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office to jointly explore space protection needs. This has become an interest item since the Chinese anti-satellite test in early 2007 and the inadvertent collision between an Iridium satellite and defunct Russian spacecraft last year; both incidents created more debris that is dangerous to other satellites. The funding provides for studies and analyses, but it does not indicate a forthcoming procurement.
Another satellite effort gaining steam in Fiscal 2011 is the Missile Defense Agency’s new Precision Tracking Space System (PTSS), the goal of which is to demonstrate a midcourse ballistic missile-tracking capability in orbit by 2014. This is part of a larger effort at MDA to improve its sensor network. PTSS will build on lessons from the Space Tracking and Surveillance System satellites (STSS) made by Northrop Grumman and launched last year. Officials have completed about 50% of the functionality testing for these two STSS satellites in low Earth orbit, and $84 million is requested to continue operating them.
In Fiscal 2012, MDA officials hope to demonstrate the downlink of STSS tracking data in support of an Aegis ballistic missile intercept attempt. The STSS satellites were developed in the 1990s, but only launched last year to allow MDA to test how to track ballistic missiles in the midcourse phase of flight — after the hot motor burns out and while the cooling missile is traveling through the cold backdrop of space.
This mission presents a challenge for traditional infrared cueing and tracking systems. MDA Executive Director David Altwegg says the agency will complete its acquisition strategy for PTSS in about six months. The PTSS program is slated for $1.21 billion over five years, including $67 million in Fiscal 2011.
Another sensor effort at MDA is the first-ever request for the Airborne Infrared (ABIR) program, which will explore the use of unmanned air vehicle (UAV) -mounted infrared sensors for early detection and tracking. This is a key part of MDA’s push announced last year to intercept ballistic missiles early in boost, ideally before they reach apogee. MDA is requesting $501 million over five years, $112 million in Fiscal 2011, for ABIR.
Altwegg says a platform decision has not been made yet. An analysis of alternatives is underway by MIT Lincoln Laboratories and results are expected in the next couple of months. However, if the Reaper UAV platform is used, the electro-optical/infrared sensor ball would have to be moved about 23 in. forward under the aircraft’s nose to provide a better field of view.
This capability could also allow MDA to handle a larger number of missiles launched nearly simultaneously (as threat assessments predict).
Three ABIR combat air patrols, each with four platforms, are needed by
2015 to support the fielding of the Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) missile defense architecture in Europe to protect from an Iranian launch.
MDA’s budget is largely focused on continuing to implement the PAA strategy outlined by President Barack Obama in September, which relies heavily on the use of regional defenses, such as the Aegis/SM-3 architecture as well as the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense program and Patroit/PAC-3 defenses.
MDA is also requesting $1.05 billion for the land-based Aegis defense system, dubbed Aegis Ashore. In Fiscal 2011, $281 million is set aside for research and development in preparation for a 2015 deployment to Europe of 24 SM-3 Block IB interceptors, made by Raytheon.
Gone, however, is funding for a new nuclear warhead design, according to Thomas D’Agostino, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration
(NNSA) , who notes that the Reliable Replacement Warhead, advocated by then-President George W. Bush, is dead. Overall, the White House seeks more than $7 billion for nuclear weapons activities, up $624 million from this fiscal year, including more than $2 billion for stockpile support. Close to $2.7 billion is requested for NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation program, a 25.8% increase over Fiscal 2010.
Obama is also asking for more than $1 billion for NNSA’s Naval Reactors program, a 13.3% year-over-year increase, to support design and development work on the replacement for Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. Some of the funds also would go to refueling of the S8G land-based nuclear prototype located in upstate New York.
The total request for NNSA is $11.2 billion, 13.4% more than last year.
D’Agostino says this money is needed even as the Obama administration pursues
reduction of the nuclear weapons stockpile. “When you have them,” he says, “you
have to take care of them.”