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Space Radar (SR)

In 2005 the Space Based Radar (SBR) name was changed to Space Radar (SR) to represent the fundamental restructure of joint DoD and intelligence community (IC) program. The Air Force restructured the Space Radar program for fiscal year 2006 in response to a severe FY '05 budget cut levied by lawmakers worried about its possible price tag. The Air Force at the time envisioned a nine-spacecraft constellation with an estimated total operating cost of $34 billion through 2025.

DoD and National users agreed on a path to converge to a single common space radar system that affordably meets the nation's needs. The SR program mission partners were committed to deliver an affordable, capabilities-driven system as part of a horizontally integrated system-of-systems designed to meet National Intelligence and Joint Commanders requirements by providing high-volume, readily taskable Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imaging; Surface Moving Target Indications (SMTI); and High-Resolution Terrain Information (HRTI).

There are two big technological drivers in the program. The first one is the development of a space-qualified, electronically steerable array antenna [ESA antenna], while the other is the accompanying radar electronics unit which backs that up as part of the radar system payload. Those are two of the most complex payload subsystems needed make this program successful.

The Central Tasking and Adjudication [CTA] capability that's fully responsive to theater and national users is a challenge. The CTA capability must also interface seamlessly with both existing and future ISR-intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance-tasking systems to achieve true horizontal integration.

Space Radar is designed to give ground commanders of all services an eye-in-the-sky view of what is on the ground around them or over a mountain top. The system will be able to produce high-quality synthetic aperture radar imagery, as well as surface moving target indications. This radar in space will provide denied area, all weather, day and night surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities required by the national intelligence and joint warfighter communities. Specifically, a modern multifunctional radar will host a range of capabilities including synthetic aperture radar imagery, high resolution terrain information, advanced geospatial intelligence, and surface moving target indication. The SR program seeks to provide these important capabilities to the nation.

Designed to be tightly integrated with present and planned intelligence systems, the resultant Space Radar will provide transformational capabilities to both the National Intelligence Community and Warfighting agencies alike through agile, responsive intelligence collections using near-real time tasking and data dissemination. The SR system will allow a 'deep look' into denied areas of interest in all weather, day or night, without risk to personnel or equipment. SR's on-demand intelligence capability will have global utility across the spectrum of conflict.

Space Radar Capabilties

There have been several numbers over the years about how many satellites would form a Space Radar constellation. The numbers given out in the past contained a fairly large price tag. The base number was projected as nine or ten satellites in a constellation. As of 2005 the numbers from analysis that would make sense somewhere between eight and twelve. That's probably the sweet spot of a constellation.

To address Congressional concerns and to arrive at a technically feasible solution, in 2005 the Air Force placed increased emphasis on innovation and affordability on the SR concept exploration efforts. This emphasis has resulted in significant changes to the SR program. While continuing to be dual-use to meet Department of Defense (DoD) and IC needs, the SR is focused on smaller constellations of high performance, more affordable satellites.

This move to smaller, more affordable constellations was driven by the realization that it is ultimately unaffordable for a single system to provide global continuous target tracking capability. The resulting more affordable system concepts remain highly effective by leveraging advanced technologies and increased levels of horizontal integration with other ISR platforms, national infrastructure and DoD weapon systems.

As of 2005 the program was in the concept phase, so there was no systems design per se. The main capabilities for Space Radar are to provide a day-night, all-weather, synthetic-aperture radar; surface moving-target indication collection capability; high-resolution, terrain-imaging capability; advanced-geospatial intelligence capability; and an open-ocean surveillance capability.

Unique for an imagery type system, Space Radar needs to be dynamically taskable, able to respond to both pre-planned and immediate user needs and data information requirements as they arise. It also needs to be part of an ISR "network of systems." That network will encompass both space and airborne capabilities and so, we plan to merge SR capability with both current systems today, and future systems as they evolve - with the ability to tip and queue other systems and vice versa.

It would be part of a network that will process and distribute both raw and fused data to users. And the information we provide needs to be in usable format. The data it is pushing or users are pulling must be in formats users can pick up and use very quickly. The program must take into account all users' needs across intelligence agencies as well as all the services, combatant commanders, and others, and incorporate those needs in the requirements documents that will drive the program.

With Space Radar ir will be possible to see all critical areas of the Earth over a relatively short time span. In other words, fairly frequent revisit over areas. If it was tasked to cover an emerging situation anywhere in the world, it could respond by providing both collected and processed information within minutes to hours depending on where the location was and where the satellites were in orbit when the issue arose. If the trouble spot is within a theater of operations where US airborne assets are already deployed, the SR wouldbe able to hand off Space Radar data and information to the other systems to help them know where to look and where to identify the issue. Likewise, air ISR assets could also tip and cue the Space Radar.

The result of this interaction would be much more precise and decisive ISR information available on a shorter timeline. If the area of concern is deep inside an adversary's territory, which would be out of reach of airborne assets, then Space Radar could cover that area on every satellite pass, thereby regularly updating our knowledge of an unfolding situation.

An example of that might be terrorists who are using caves to store weapons. There might be a repetitive pattern of vehicles coming and going from these caves over time. Those are the types of things that Space Radar would be good at in the GMTI mode - identifying the movement of vehicles and activity in an area and be able to update that knowledge on a regular basis. SR could then switch to SAR [synthetic aperture radar] mode and take a high-quality SAR picture of the area where movement tips us off that something is going on.

Space Radar is not planned to be a stand-alone, stovepiped program. While Space Radar by itself is not going to achieve worldwide persistent ISR or full horizontal integration, what it can do is be a catalyst for some revolutionary ideas and new capabilities across these areas. Space Radar crosses traditional DoD and IC boundaries and joins the two communities very closely together. The IPO is chartered to go out and hire some of the best people from both communities and to explore some new cross-community acquisition practices as well as to develop and test operations concepts that satisfy users in both communities.

Space Radar Program

In April 2004, both Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman were awarded $220 Million SBR study contracts. In 2005 they were focused on identifying and solving risk areas so that when the program enters the design phase can successfully design and develop the SR system. As of 2005 it was unclear whether other contractors to bid at phase B. The plan at that time was, once the concept phase was finished, to open up the bidding during the design phase to qualified bidders. Once the decision process gets to the design phase more than just those two can bid if they are qualified.

The FY05 budget is $73.8 million, substantially less than the original plan for '05. Congress cut the program back significantly in '05. They directed a refocus of the program on technical risk reduction and affordability; to identify ways to drive down technical risk and make the program more affordable to do the things it needs to do for the users.

The Secretary of Defense and the Director of Central Intelligence together signed a letter in January 2005 that is the top level direction on the program. The letter appointed the Space Radar program as the single future space radar program for the nation. This one program is to be responsible to both communities. Each of the services and the combatant commanders and each of the intelligence community agencies, plus the civil users, all have specific requirements they would like to see satisfied by Space Radar.

On 28 January 2005 the Air Force announced a change to the structure and focus of the Space Radar Program Office to increase collaboration with stakeholders from both the Department of Defense and Intelligence communities on a future Space Radar (SR) program. Brig. Gen. John "Tom" Sheridan was named program executive officer and system program director, Space Radar Program, and will lead this SR program office from the Washington DC area.

Peter B. Teets, undersecretary of the Air Force for space, defended the Space Radar program during a hearing on Capitol Hill 09 March 2005. "We have restructured the Space Radar program in a way that will allow us to move forward in a team sense - the military community and the intelligence community - to use the same satellites for warfighting information as well as intelligence analysis..."

Teets retired from public service 25 March 2005. He held additional titles, including Department of Defense executive agent for space and director of the National Reconnaissance Office. During his tenure as DOD's executive agent for space, Teets had his hand in several key programs, including space radar, the space-based infrared system, the advanced extremely high frequency satellite system and the transformational communications architecture.

The space radar program suffered scrutiny on Capitol Hill, but Teets said he has responded to that scrutiny with positive actions to streamline the program and move it forward. "One of the things we have done this year [2005] for the space radar system is propose that we have a national radar collection system that will serve both the needs of the (Central Intelligence Agency) and the Department of Defense," he said. As part of an effort to restructure the space radar program, Mr. Teets directed the program's headquarters be moved to Washington DC. The move, he said, will facilitate better communications and cooperation between the agencies involved.

The name change is a subtle change, but important. Suggestion for it resulted from a tiger team that was appointed in the September and October timeframe of 2004. That tiger team consisted of representatives of all the key stakeholders and organizations that deal in the program and have user needs in the program. Mr. Teets, as secretary of the Air Force at the time, directed the name change, from Space Based Radar to Space Radar, and he also directed the program office to move from Los Angeles to Chantilly, VA, to be in the Washington, DC, area.

The new Space Radar name was coined to pick up on the fact that there is a new integrated responsibility and the name of the "SPO"-System Program Office - was changed to to "IPO"-an integrated program office - to make sure all the stake holders across the intelligence community and across the DoD understand the office is going to take on their needs and solve them.

The budget request for FY06 is $226 million. The detailed framework for FY06 for risk reduction consists of a series of ground tests, airborne tests and demonstrations, and spaceborne tests and demonstrations, along with continued technology and concept development, which will reduce both the technical and the operations risks associated with the program. The near-term focus and effort of the program is to reduce technological risk and to identify and then reduce operational risk for the program.

Between 2006 and 2008 the program's requirements will be taken through both the Joint Requirements Oversight Council [JROC] and the Mission Requirements Board [MRB] in the intelligence community, to get validation on both of their parts. One of the toughest challenges is to balance all that and focus on technology that is doable within the timeframe that we need to build and field the system.

The next program Key Decision Point, which would be the decision to go into design at Key Decision Point-B, roughly at the end of FY08 or in FY09. This depends partly on whether wthe space demonstration is added into the program.

The space demonstration was among several program changes that Mr. Teets directed in January 2005. The inclusion of the space demo took the program in somewhat of a new vector in the near term over the next three to four years. The plan would be to launch a demonstration of the Space Radar capability, and to do so in the 2008 or 2009 timeframe, to demonstrate the viability of the required technology and the operations concepts. This testbed would be used to test and demonstrate technology needed for the full systems, and also to prove the operations concepts for the CTA, the tasking capability, and the processing and distribution capabilities.

The Air Force plans to launch two quarter-scale demonstration spacecraft in 2008 or 2009. The radar satellite demonstrators will mature technologies that are necessary for the program. This demonstration will validate SR costs and technology maturity as well as demonstrate the concept of operations and user utility. As of mid 2005 the IPO was working to develop the detailed objectives for the space demonstration. This owuld determine just how the space demonstration would fit within the overall program test and demonstration framework.

The first operational satellite of the system will be fielded about 2015.

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Page last modified: 21-07-2011 00:48:49 ZULU