Transition to Producibility

The Space and Missile Systems Center, USAF’s space acquisition organization, has shifted its focus from developing new satellites, to producing them efficiently and filling out planned constellations of new capability, said Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, SMC commander, Monday at AFA’s Air & Space Conference just outside the nation’s capital. She said this transition to producibility is reflected in the Air Force’s recent contract with Boeing for the seventh Wideband Global Communications satellite, and the options for the eighth and ninth spacecraft in the series. The goal is to trim costs, not by cutting corners, but rather by operating more efficiently, she said, calling this contract “a good business deal,” both for Boeing and the Air Force. Along those lines, SMC also has modified its approach to incorporating new technology in satellites, she said. Center officials now look at what technology is mature—like technology developed under the now-cancelled TSAT communications satellite program—and then decide if it makes sense to incorporate it into a satellite design like WGS at this point, she explained. That’s different than committing up front to inserting new technology in a given satellite in a series, which is a riskier endeavor, she said.