2021 Budget Will Fully Fund Next-Gen OPIR, Says Roper
PENTAGON: DoD’s new, high-priority missile warning satellite program, Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared, will be the military’s “first defendable satellite,” says Air Force acquisition head Will Roper.
“I view it as a strategically important program,” Roper told reporters here Friday, noting that the 2021 budget request of $2.3 billion will fully fund the program for the first time since the Air Force’s 2018 decision to accelerate the schedule by exercising Section 804 rapid acquisition authority.
Next-Gen OPIR is a crucial test of the Air Force’s drive to build complex satellites much faster than is the current standard. “We’re showing that we can build satellites differently if we’ve got the latitude to do it,” Roper said.
Until this budget, he said, the service had been forced to ask Congress to reprogram funds to keep the effort on track.
“OPIR was one of the very first Section 804 rapid prototypings we did, because the warfighters moved the requirement up three years and rightly so,” Roper explained. “In general, we need warfighting capabilities in space. … The thing we did with our ’21 budget is get whole,” he said.
The Space Force’s 2021 budget includes a total of $12.9 billion through 2025 for the program, which is designed to replace the Space Based Infrared Systems (SBIRS) satellites.
Despite long-standing concerns among some lawmakers about whether the program is being pushed too far, too fast, Roper said “we believe we’ve got Congress’s support.”
The Next-Gen OPIR constellation will comprise five satellites: three in Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO) and two in a polar orbit. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the GEO satellites, the first of which is known as Block 0 GEO; Northrop Grumman is the prime for the polar orbiting satellites. Raytheon was chosen in 2018 by Lockheed as one of two subcontractors for the advanced sensor suites on the GEO satellites, along with a team comprising Northrop Grumman and Ball Aerospace.
Currently, the aim is to launch the first satellites in 2025. So far the program is on track to doing just that, Roper said. Compared to where a traditional satellite acquisition program like SBIRS would be in the development process, Next-Gen OPIR “is five years ahead It’s firing on all cylinders,” Roper stressed. “It’s green across the board. Do I think they’re going to succeed? I’d say yes,” he said.
Meanwhile, the separate effort to develop an advanced ground system for Next-Gen OPIR satellites is also moving forward apace, says Col. Wallace Turnbull, director of Cross-Mission (X‑MSN) Ground and Communications within the Space and Missile System Center’s (SMC) Enterprise Corps.
“The Forward Operationally Resilient Ground Evolution (FORGE) program has achieved big milestones in the past several months,” Turnbull said in an email. “First, the Air Force Service Acquisition Executive approved the official Acquisition Strategy on 5 December 2019.”
Further, as Breaking D readers know, Raytheon was chosen from four competitors on Jan. 15 to develop a data processing framework prototype, called the Mission Data Processing (MDP) Application Framework. The next step in that process, Turnbull said, is that Raytheon “will now have the opportunity to respond to a request for prototype proposal (RPP) to develop the actual prototype framework. Their response to the RPP will be due May 2020.” The framework is an open source, open standard operating system that third-parties can develop applications for.
In fact, the second part of the FORGE program will be a competition to chose providers of data processing applications, called the “Mission Data Processing Application Provider” project. SMC later this year “will conduct a competition to select three vendors to conduct a one year prototype for applications to reside on the MDP Framework,” Turnbull said. “The award of contracts to the three vendors is projected by December 2020.”
Source: Breaking Defense