Space and national security: What to expect in 2022

At the beginning of 2021, key questions loomed for the U.S. navy house neighborhood: Would the House Pressure survive underneath President Biden? May the Protection Division’s house company actually construct a megaconstellation? And when would United Launch Alliance fly the long-awaited Vulcan Centaur, a car that the Pentagon is relying on to ship essential nationwide safety satellites to orbit.

A 12 months later, the House Pressure stands on firmer political floor however is coming underneath strain to ship new applied sciences to counter threats from Russia and China. The House Growth Company is counting right down to the launch of its first operational satellites. And ULA remains to be ready for Blue Origin to ship engines for Vulcan’s maiden flight.

Right here’s a glimpse of what’s in retailer for the 12 months forward:


On the first assembly of the Biden administration’s Nationwide House Council on Dec. 1, Vice President Kamala Harris stated a high concern going ahead is to maintain house secure for navy, civilian and industrial operations.

The assembly befell simply two weeks after Russia’s navy launched a Nudol ballistic missile that intercepted a defunct Soviet-era satellite tv for pc in low Earth orbit. An estimated 1,500 items of house particles created by the anti-satellite take a look at are nonetheless being recognized and cataloged by U.S. House Command.

Vice Chief of House Operations Gen. David D. Thompson. Credit score: U.S. Air Pressure photograph by Tech. Sgt Andrew Davis

Pentagon officers condemned Russia’s take a look at as a massively irresponsible act that served as a wake-up name in regards to the risks posed by anti-satellite weapons. Within the face of those threats, the onus might be on the House Pressure to develop extra resilient methods it may defend in opposition to missile strikes, digital jamming and cyberattacks.

This 12 months, a precedence for Air Pressure Secretary Frank Kendall might be to energise the House Pressure’s procurement paperwork to amass superior applied sciences wanted to guard satellites and compete with rival powers China and Russia.

Gen. David Thompson, vice chief of house operations of the House Pressure, stated China is growing house capabilities quicker than america. “If we don’t begin accelerating our growth and supply of capabilities, they may exceed us,” he stated in December on the Reagan Nationwide Protection Discussion board.


President Biden in December nominated former Nationwide Reconnaissance Workplace government Frank Calvelli to be assistant secretary of the Air Pressure for house acquisition. If confirmed by the Senate, Calvelli will turn into the first-ever senior procurement government answerable for U.S. navy house applications, a put up mandated by Congress within the 2020 Nationwide Protection Authorization Act.

Congress in 2022 might be watching carefully how this new workplace is organized and what novel approaches it would deliver to house procurements.

For the reason that House Pressure was established two years in the past, lawmakers have criticized the service for the sluggish tempo of its acquisition applications and for not inserting revolutionary industrial applied sciences into navy methods. Throughout hearings on Capitol Hill about satellite tv for pc procurements, the House Pressure has usually discovered itself in contrast unfavorably to the NRO, which makes use of a extra streamlined course of in its acquisitions.

Secretary of the Air Pressure Frank Kendall. Credit score: U.S. Air Pressure photograph by Senior Airman Alan Ricker

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), chairman of the Home Armed Providers strategic forces subcommittee, famous that one of many causes he advocated for a separate navy house service was “as a result of the Air Pressure was neglecting its house mission and never performing in addition to the NRO.”

Kendall stated a reorganization of the House Methods Command – the House Pressure’s essential know-how developer and procurement arm – is anticipated to start in 2022.

A restructuring of the acquisition paperwork might not ship outcomes in a single day, however “it’s troublesome to argue that there isn’t a room for enchancment,” stated house trade analyst Andrew Penn of the consulting agency Avascent.

The House Methods Command (beforehand often called the House and Missile Methods Heart) “has not been identified for being probably the most environment friendly group,” he stated. “How a corporation constructions itself immediately impacts its capability to fulfill its goals and carry out its mission,” he added. On what particular enhancements this reorganization will accomplish, “time will inform.”


A key factor of the nation’s technique to guard satellites from assault might be to subject them in giant numbers, as extra targets make it dearer for enemies to take down an area community. To this finish, a essential growth to observe in 2022 is the House Growth Company’s deliberate launch of its first batch of satellites in low Earth orbit.

This preliminary deployment will function the muse of a navy megaconstellation that would quantity near 1,000 spacecraft by 2026. SDA will subject sensor satellites to search out missiles and hypersonic weapons. SDA may also deploy communications satellites to disseminate data quickly to warfighters. These LEO networks will complement current legacy satellites in geostationary orbit that the Pentagon fears will come underneath assault throughout a battle.

Dr. Derek Tournear, Director of the House Growth Company. Credit score: DOD photograph by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Taryn Escott

The SDA’s accelerated timeline is uncommon in navy applications, so pulling off a 2022 launch as promised could be a major achievement for the lower than three-year-old company that selected as its motto Semper Citius, Latin for “all the time quicker.”

Irrespective of how technically superior or how reasonably priced a program is, “if it’s not there whenever you want it, it’s nugatory,” stated SDA Director Derek Tournear.

SDA’s success might considerably affect DoD’s position as a buyer of the industrial house sector, stated trade analyst Chris Quilty of Quilty Analytics.

The proliferated structure deliberate by SDA additionally places DoD ready to make the most of lower-cost industrial applied sciences and “strengthen a vibrant ecosystem of firms, each established and new house,” stated Quilty. “By bulk ordering roughly 150 satellites each two years, SDA can keep a robust and numerous home provider base whereas mitigating protests.”

The SDA later this 12 months will switch from the Workplace of the Secretary of Protection to the House Pressure, a reorganization scheduled for October.

Some have questioned whether or not the realignment dangers introducing sluggish and cumbersome DoD procurement habits into SDA’s extra agile processes. Penn, the trade analyst, stated the transition ought to be comparatively clean. He in contrast it to a longtime firm buying a startup and letting it proceed to function as a quasi-independent subsidiary, not less than for the primary a number of years.

“I don’t assume the House Pressure would meaningfully intervene within the SDA’s first few acquisitions,” he stated. “Over time, which will change. However an early SDA failure, whether or not or not it’s spacecraft efficiency, schedule, or cost-related, would undermine each organizations and the nationwide safety of the nation,” Penn added. “In the end, each organizations share the identical purpose of delivering well timed and resilient space-based capabilities to the warfighter and can work collectively to attain that purpose.”


Firms within the protection and house industries in 2022 might be watching how the House Pressure strikes ahead with the design of next-generation methods.

A touch of what’s to come back was supplied in late 2021 by the House Warfighting Evaluation Heart (SWAC), a newly created House Pressure group liable for conducting evaluation, modeling, wargaming and experimentation to create operational ideas and drive design steerage for the service.

The SWAC’s first mission is to design the longer term missile warning structure, or what mixture of satellites in what orbits could be wanted to detect and monitor enemy missiles and hypersonic glide autos. In comparison with the standard strategy for growing navy methods — publishing a listing of necessities and asking contractors for bids on satellites constructed to spec — the SWAC asks firms to submit digital fashions.

Andrew Cox, the director of the SWAC, stated the trade’s digital fashions could be utilized in wargames and simulations to find out if the proposed satellite tv for pc designs are resilient to assaults.

Many within the house trade assume the SWAC is “a superb concept on paper,” stated Penn. “A single clearinghouse wanting on the large image and fascinating with trade in a elementary method that aligns functionality with buyer wants may very well be very helpful,” he stated. “What stays to be seen is how a lot affect it can have.”


The U.S. satellite tv for pc imagery trade is eagerly awaiting a call this 12 months by the Nationwide Reconnaissance Workplace. The company is anticipated to pick out home firms to hitch Maxar Applied sciences because the NRO’s essential suppliers of satellite tv for pc imagery. This procurement, often called the Electro-Optical Business Layer (EOCL), will change the present single-vendor settlement signed with Maxar greater than a decade in the past.

The NRO operates the nation’s spy satellites and procures industrial imagery for the navy, homeland safety organizations and the intelligence neighborhood.

NRO imagery offers are a serious alternative for rising gamers like Planet and BlackSky, stated Quilty, the trade analyst. The NRO at the moment pays Maxar $300 million a 12 months for entry to the corporate’s high-resolution imagery satellites and picture archive. The corporate’s contract has been prolonged till August 2022, so the query now could be what number of suppliers moreover Maxar will obtain EOCL contracts, and can the NRO increase general spending on industrial imagery above $300 million.

Pete Muend, director of the NRO’s industrial imagery program, has insisted that the company needs to make the most of private-sector capabilities as a professional different to government-owned spy satellites. The NRO might be searching for a mixture of distributors that may present high-resolution imagery, speedy refresh charges and complementary phenomenologies that work collectively to provide authorities analysts a extra complete intelligence image.

“It’s essential to make it possible for there’s U.S. house management sooner or later. And a giant a part of that’s industrial house management,” Muend stated. “And so we’re very targeted on ensuring that the U.S. enterprises concerned in industrial house are on the forefront and do what we are able to to be able to assist allow that.”

Additionally on the horizon in 2022 is the NRO’s plan to obtain artificial aperture radar (SAR) imagery from a rising cadre of business distributors.

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan Launch Platform (VLP) rolls to House Launch Advanced-41 for the primary time. Credit score: United Launch Alliance


United Launch Alliance a 12 months in the past was projecting a 2021 debut for Vulcan Centaur, a heavy-lift rocket powered by the BE-4 engine made by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. However assembly that purpose was massively depending on Blue Origin finishing engine growth and delivering two flight-ready BE-4s.

These engines haven’t but been delivered, and Vulcan’s first flight timetable continues to shift to the suitable.

ULA now initiatives receiving engines in mid-2022 and flying Vulcan by 12 months’s finish. In the meantime, ULA’s margin for schedule slippage retains shrinking as Vulcan should full two profitable launches — for industrial clients Astrobotic and Sierra House — earlier than it may be licensed by the U.S. House Pressure to fly nationwide safety missions. ULA to this point has been assigned 4 missions underneath its Nationwide Safety House Launch Section 2 contract. ULA acquired the highest rating within the NSSL competitors, edging out SpaceX to assert a 60 p.c share of the as much as 35 missions lined underneath the contract.

As a consequence of Vulcan delays, ULA’s first Section 2 mission has already been reassigned to the corporate’s legacy rocket Atlas 5. ULA’s CEO Tory Bruno stated Vulcan might be prepared for NSSL missions in 2023. If that doesn’t occur, utilizing the Atlas 5 would not present a backup choice. ULA bought its remaining Atlas 5 stock to Amazon to launch the Venture Kuiper web constellation.

If Vulcan shouldn’t be prepared for NSSL launches by 2023, the following choice for the House Pressure could be to reassign ULA’s missions to SpaceX. “The explanation to have two launch suppliers is that if one thing occurs to 1, and also you’ve acquired one other one to depend on,” famous Kendall, the U.S. Air Pressure secretary.


The house trade might see as many as 4 or 5 industrial heavy rockets debut in 2022. Apart from ULA’s Vulcan, Blue Origin’s New Glenn initiatives its first launch late within the 12 months, in addition to two new worldwide heavy launch opponents: Europe’s Ariane 6 and Japan’s H3. SpaceX can be concentrating on the primary orbital take a look at of its Starship car.

In 2021 Virgin Galactic flew people to house, Blue Origin flew 3 times its New Shepard suborbital car with crews on board, and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon made its first industrial flight with personal astronauts. “If 2021 was the 12 months of business house tourism, then 2022 could be the 12 months of the next-gen heavy launcher,” stated Penn, the trade analyst.

“By no means in historical past have so many heavy launch autos debuted in the identical 12 months,” he stated.

Additionally anticipated to fly for the primary time in 2022 are small launch suppliers Relativity and ABL House Methods, each of which have gained contracts to launch navy payloads.

“I’m enthusiastic about them,” stated Penn. Having extra gamers within the launch trade not solely brings new capabilities to authorities and industrial markets but in addition helps deliver down the value of launch, he stated. If each Relativity and ABL House begin flying, “that would definitely be welcomed by smallsat operators and produce added competitors to the devoted small launch market.”

Different small satellite tv for pc launchers to observe in 2022 are Virgin Orbit and Astra House, each of which have gained navy contracts. Virgin Orbit launched twice in 2021 and has forecast six missions for 2022. Astra House is anticipated to select up its cadence subsequent 12 months after finishing its first orbital launch in 2021.

This text initially appeared within the January 2022 difficulty of table4 journal.

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