Expanding By Leaps And Bounds

The next 18 to 24 months will be quite significant for the Air Force’s space acquisition community as its works to place five new space systems in orbit and commence operations with them, Lt. Gen. Michael Hamel, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, told the Defense Writers Group March 11 in Washington, D.C. The new systems, Hamel said, will yield “a massive increase in terms of military operational space capability.” Delivering them successfully is SMC’s “sharpest focus” in the near term, he said. The five systems are: Wideband Global SATCOM, GPS Block IIF, Advanced EHF, Space Based Space Surveillance, and Space Based Infrared System. While the first WGS spacecraft is already on orbit, “we will have that whole [Block 1] constellation populated here within the next 12 months,” Hamel said, referring to satellites No. 2 and No. 3. GPS Block IIF will provide “some very substantial new capabilities to both civil users as well as the warfighters,” and the first AEHF spacecraft represents “order of magnitude more protected communications capability” than the current Milstar satellites, he said. Likewise SBSS, set for launch in the spring of 2009, will offer “an order of magnitude” improvement over the current Space Based Visible sensor that it will replace. “This, for the first time will really give us a very agile ability both to search large volumes of space as well as to be able to rapidly detect and track objects” such as a new satellite being placed in orbit, he said. The SBIRS satellite, expected to launch by the latter part of 2009, “is going to provide dramatic new capabilities,” said Hamel, who retires in May.