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Air Force to shift focus to smallsat constellations

The head of the the Air Force’s Strategic Command revealed this past weekend that he wants the military to quickly shift its focus to buying small satellite constellations.

As one of nine U.S. combatant commanders, Hyten has a say in how the Pentagon plans investments in new technology. With regard to military satellites, STRATCOM will advocate for a change away from “exquisite” costly systems that take years to develop in favor of “more resilient, more distributed capabilities.” This is the thinking of the new “space enterprise vision” adopted by the Air force and the National Reconnaissance Office, Hyten said. “That vision is about defending ourselves. In that vision you won’t find any of those big, exquisite, long-term satellites.”

“I’ve made a call at U.S. Strategic Command that we’ll embrace that as a vision of the future because I think it’s the correct one,” he added. STRATCOM will “drive requirements,” Hyten noted, “And, as a combatant commander, I won’t support the development any further of large, big, fat, juicy targets. I won’t support that,” he insisted. “We are going to go down a different path. And we have to go down that path quickly.”

Makes sense to me. Not only will the Air Force save money, but their satellite assets will be harder to attack and easier to sustain and replace should they be attacked.

For the satellite industry this shift will accelerate the growth of the smallsat industry, and provide a lot more business for the new smallsat rocket industry that is now emerging.

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One comment

  • Tom Billings

    At least as interesting will be how soon/easily Space Command adopts having their sats *built*in*Space*. The political difficulties of moving to smaller mass produced sats are bad enough, because both Boeing and Lockheed/Martin, the 2 end winners of the 1990s 54 month-long “harmonization program” (1993-1997) in the aerospace industry, are the ones that pols look to as their serfs for ensuring voter employment and null amounts of donations to political primary opponents. They produce the vast majority of what Space Command operates today.

    To move production from facilities optimized for 5-6 a year to those optimized for 500-600 a year is a political minefield for pols, and they may not want to put a toe into that field. To move production yet again, to LEO, with only R&D, raw materials, and sensors not buildable on-orbit coming from *anyone’s* congressional district would be of enormous benefit to Space Command, but of perilous uncertainty for pols depending on their aerospace voter population.

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