The Air Force may well shift toward smaller, less-capable, but more numerous satellites in the coming years, says Gen. Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff. In November, Air Force Space Command boss Gen. Robert Kehler proposed such an approach at AFA’s Global Warfare Symposium in Los Angeles. (Transcript of Kehler’s comments.) “I think Bob is onto something,” said Schwartz during a Dec. 22 interview (see above). Such an approach would help to get satellite production into more of an assembly-line mode rather than a hand-built mode, and, by being smaller, the satellites would have to have fewer functions, thereby warding off excessive requirements creep, he said. Schwartz said, too, that “economies of scale” also argue for the small-satellite approach. And, smaller satellites offer the opportunity to “better manage cost, schedule, and capability,” he said.
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.