Military satellite acquisition has come a long way in the last 10 years, but there is still room for improvement, said Cristina Chaplain, a director of acquisition and sourcing management for the Government Accountability Office. Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces panel Wednesday, Chaplain said the watchdog organization is concerned about the 18 percent increase in the cost of the Air Force’s first two Global Positioning System III satellites. “That’s on our watch list,” she said. She also expressed concerns about the lagging schedule of the FAB-T ground terminals that are designed to work with Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellites. “In general, though, these are very different conditions from 10 years ago,” said Chaplain. “Best practices are being adopted. There is more emphasis on developing technologies before beginning a number of programs, and [the Defense Department] is instituting higher quality standards for programs and following them,” she said. (Chaplain’s prepared testimony)
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.