The Air Force is engaged in a project called ORS-1 that is putting into practice its quest to provide more responsive space capability to warfighters, says Gary Payton, USAF’s deputy under secretary for space programs. ORS-1 is an infrared imaging satellite destined for low Earth orbit that the Air Force and the Pentagon’s joint Operationally Responsive Space Office is developing to meet an urgent need identified by US Central Command, Payton told reporters during a Pentagon briefing May 11. “The warfighter quantified a critical need that was falling short” in the area of IR ground observation, he explained and added that the shortfall starts in 2010. Working closely with CENTCOM, the Air Force and ORS office determined the best set of attributes for the satellite to support the mission, said Payton. “It is a superb example of a responsive acquisition organization working directly with the combatant commander to pick everything—the size of the optics, the altitude, the inclination that that combatant commander needs—to satisfy their shortfall,” he said. The ORS-1 critical design review is expected around June and the satellite is slated to go into orbit in the fall of 2010 aboard a Minotaur launch vehicle, said Payton. While fielding this capability may still be “a little bit late to need,” it is far better than what would have been possible under the Defense Department’s traditional space acquisition model, he noted.
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.