From the Editors

Book iconFirst published Summer 2009, Crosslink® magazine

The term “agile space” stems from a growing consensus within the space community that the United States must be able to field certain classes of space systems more rapidly and flexibly. To help realize this goal, the DOD established the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office in May 2007; its goal is to identify and address technological issues that will enable a more timely delivery of space-based services to meet warfighter needs.

The ORS Office has devised an end-state architecture and is identifying the technologies that will enable its realization. Aerospace has been contributing to the definition and execution of this architecture, which encompasses all aspects of space systems—launch, space, and ground. Articles in this issue of Crosslink review the various components of this architecture and the progress that has been made toward implementing and coordinating them.

It is important to note that the ORS Office is not in competition with major space programs; rather, it is an adjunct to those programs and the systems they support. Its immediate focus is on the application of space power to the tactical theater. That includes devising new concepts for developing and deploying satellites, but it also entails exploiting existing space systems and infrastructure to achieve tactical demands with greater speed and versatility.

The ORS Office is not the only—nor the first—organization to pursue agile space concepts. The DOD’s Space Test Program (executed by the Space and Missile Systems Center) and the Air Force Research Laboratory have a history of developing and launching small experimental satellites quickly and efficiently. Satellites developed by these programs have acquisition schedules that are typically three to four years—significantly shorter than for major space programs. Notably, these organizations have supported Aerospace in the development of picosatellites and CubeSats, which have demonstrated enabling technologies and provide one possible model for rapid system integration.

The ORS Office was established in Albuquerque to take advantage of the expertise developed by the Space Test Program and Air Force Research Laboratory, which also reside there. It is hoped that these three organizations can collectively improve acquisition timelines and apply their research expertise to operational systems. As the articles in this issue demonstrate, Aerospace has extensive experience in facilitating cross-program efforts and architectures and assessing the potential of new technologies. As such, the corporation is well positioned to help achieve the ambitious goals of agile space.

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