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Doing space a different way

by Master Sgt. Kate Rust
Air Force Space Command Public Affairs

9/14/2007 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Space community representatives are gearing up to meet to discuss ways to think differently and conduct business differently to make operationally responsive space a success.

The goal of ORS is to provide joint force commanders space and space-related capabilities on orbit, quickly to meet urgent operational needs.

"The key piece of the puzzle is that in order for ORS to be successful, you have to have a significant amount of common infrastructure across the space community," said Col. John E. Hyten, director of Air Force Space Command Plans and Requirements.

While ORS is not strictly an Air Force initiative, AFSPC stands to be heavily involved, "leading the integration for standards," officials said.

Congress mandated ORS with the passage of the Warner Act of 2007. Representatives from around the entire space community met Aug. 28 to discuss how the new, joint ORS office, at Kirtland AFB, N.M., will work to deliver timely and relevant combat effects to joint force commanders.

Space community representatives will meet again in the next few weeks to preserve momentum and ensure they start on the right foot for fiscal year 2008.

Commonality between space agencies has proven to be difficult. There must be a clearly defined joint process for identifying and developing ORS requirements and capabilities, how they are integrated and deconflicted, and ways to create, follow and use common standards, Colonel Hyten said.

"If we don't have set standards that we can all sign up to," said Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, AFSPC commander, "then we'll wind up with unique satellites that require unique buses (subsystems) that require unique interfaces to unique boosters. It will take months and years to provide space effects to the warfighter as opposed to weeks."

The ORS concept is not intended as a replacement for larger satellite constellations. ORS solutions will supplement them.

"The satellite constellations we operate provide a global service," said Colonel Hyten, "but they have some weaknesses that AFSPC would like to augment.

"For the most part, we know how to build small satellites (for ORS)," he said. "What we haven't solved is the common infrastructure and the quick, cheap access-to-space problem for an operationally responsive launch. I know the ORS office will put a lot of its efforts into trying to solve these issues."

AFSPC has a tremendous record of success with 51 consecutive successful operational launches in a row. To do that, the space enterprise has very rigorous policies, standards, checks and balances, and those will not change, said officials.

"There is no guarantee of success as we forge ahead with this initiative," said Colonel Hyten. "This is a very difficult endeavor that pushes the envelope. Eventually, we are going to have ORS capabilities. Is it going to be in the next two, the next five, or the next 10 years? I don't know, but eventually we will have the breakthrough in access to space. That will allow ORS to be a very effective way of doing business."

General Chilton's mandate is to do it right from the very beginning. Don't just do experimentation for the sake of experimentation, but build it to deliver operational effectiveness to the joint force commanders, Colonel Hyten said.

"Congress has given us an opportunity," he said, "but to succeed, we need to do business in a different way."

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