Adieu Space Radar: The Defense Department and Intelligence Community have formally canceled the current Space Radar program. The cancellation is effective as of March 25, a spokeswoman for the National Reconnaissance Office told the Daily Report April 3. According to the NRO, “The Space Radar program of record is not affordable and will be restructured effective immediately.” The SR program office began implementing the direction in March, with the intention to curtail program-of-record activities “as soon as practical.” The US Government will “continue to vigorously pursue alternatives” to meet the Pentagon’s and IC’s requirements for on-orbit radar capabilities, NRO said. DOD had been working with the IC to come up with a plan for Space Radar that was acceptable to Congress. “That has been a tough job for years and is still a tough job,” an Air Force official said in February when discussing the topic. Lawmakers were skeptical of the realism of the approach, having already seen similar projects (e.g., Discoverer II) falter. NRO Director Scott Large on March 5 told a House oversight committee that DOD and the IC were working on an “alternative approach that addresses, first of all, Congress’s concerns about affordability, scope, timelines, and so on,” and expected to report it to Congress by about mid April. He did not say then that the SR program of record had been cancelled. DOD and IC had envisioned Space Radar as a constellation of satellites that would provide synthetic aperture radar imagery, surface moving target indication capability, open ocean surveillance to detect ships at sea, and high-resolution terrain information as well as additional geospatial intelligence products.
Reports of production troubles on the SpaceX rocket that could contend for military cargo deliveries happened to coincide with a different company’s concept receiving an early nod—one that might not require a rocket at all.