Operationally Responsive Space Now a Design Philosophy
From: National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, CO
The Operationally Responsive Space effort has moved away from the original launch on demand and tactical combat operations claims. That’s the conclusion drawn from presentations at the National Space Symposium, the premium annual gathering of the international space industry held each April in Colorado, USA.
The Space Foundation, the Symposium’s perennial host, included this summary in The Space Report 2012:
The ability to rapidly deploy or replace space-based assets has drawn growing interest from military planners. In June 2011, the U.S. Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) office launched its first non-developmental, operationally focused satellite, ORS-1. According to the Joint ORS Office, the purpose of ORS is to address emerging, persistent, or unanticipated needs via timely augmentation, reconstitution, and exploitation of space forces, space control, and space support capabilities. These goals require the quick development and execution of new technologies, as opposed to the slower traditional government and commercial satellite procurement processes. ORS favors smaller, modular “plug-and-play” satellites that can be quickly constructed and launched. The ORS-1 satellite incorporates such characteristics and was developed and launched in less than three years from program approval. ORS-1 provides forces in Afghanistan and the Middle East with field reconnaissance, relaying images from the satellite directly to troops, as opposed to routing them through U.S.-based intelligence analysts and ground controllers.
USSTRATCOM’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Concept of Operations, 28 December 2009, states that:
The primary purpose of the ORS initiative is to prepare the elements required to implement responsively-provided space capabilities, and to execute the delivery of such capabilities in response to the expressed joint force commander need.” ORS holds promise for the future, and we look forward to the fielding of tactically responsive space systems in a timely manner. TACSAT-3 is a giant step in the right direction. ORS-1 appears to be following in a timely and cost effective manner as well.
An even older definition appeared in a DoD Operationally Responsive Space Office power point presentation by its director, Col McLaughlin in July, 2007: “ORS is “assured space power focused on timely satisfaction of Joint Force Commander’s needs” ( Slide 8 )
This pattern shows a move from responding to operational commanders toward an attitude or way of doing business, a design philosophy. This change was likely driven by the defense space community’s reputation for over-promising and under-delivering early in the recent Near East wars. Air Force Space Command, for example, proposed deploying a Space Based Radar system to keep one point in a battle under constant surveillance. That capability was expected to cost more than $2.5 billion. By contrast, the ‘near space’ UAVs being developed on Chief of Staff Jumper’s orders were planned to deliver similar capabilities for about $30 million. The perception that ORS promised to be everything for the warfighter was clearly not credible by comparison.
Bill Gattle (Harris Corp VP of Space Systems) discussed ORS at the Symposium. He confirmed that the space community has matured the ORS focus from rapidly delivering tactical communication and surveillance capabilities to more of a system development mindset. Rather than promising to deliver capabilities better provided in other ways, ORS has evolved to a smarter way to design spacecraft with emphasis on rapid development, replenishing on-orbit capabilities, agility in reaction to world events, etc. He gave an example of synthetic aperture radar built on a communication platform. That system can switch from radar to communication in 15 seconds.