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US Army Exploring New Tactical Space Layer Strategy

By | June 26, 2019
The Space Development Agency's notional space layer architecture as outlined by new director Fred Kennedy April 9, 2019. Photo: Vivienne Machi

The Space Development Agency’s notional space layer architecture as outlined by new director Fred Kennedy April 9, 2019. Photo: Vivienne Machi

The U.S. Army is crafting its first-ever tactical space layer strategy, said one service member involved in the strategic development June 11.

“Right now, we are looking at producing a LEO [Low-Earth Orbit]-focused tactical space layer” to focus on communications, Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) and battle management command and control (BMC2), said Maj. Randall Cartner, assistant portfolio manager for the Army Futures Command’s assured PNT cross functional team, during a panel discussion at the SMI Group’s Military Space USA conference here.

The new strategy is one of several changes the Army is making to its science-and-technology programs for space and missile defense, Cartner said. The service is working with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and industry members including Space X on the effort, particularly to explore proofs of concept for a mesh layer of commercial small satellite constellations in LEO, he added.

Cartner noted that the strategy development is still very much in its infancy. “I would imagine in the next year or so, you’ll see a lot of … the Army tactical space layer strategy as it goes through all the different milestones and wickets” with senior service leadership, he said.

The cross-functional team is also in discussions with the nascent Space Development Agency (SDA) on the strategy, Cartner said. The SDA, which was initiated this year, is also exploring the concept of a space-based sensor layer, the agency’s new director Fred Kennedy said at the annual Space Symposium this past April in Colorado Springs, Colorado (Defense Daily, April 13).

Cartner noted Wednesday that “there are still some things to be answered” regarding the Defense Department’s pending space reorganization, particularly as it relates to the Army performing C2 functions in space. Along with the SDA, the Defense Department is expecting to stand up a new U.S. Space Command by this fall, while Congress is mulling whether to approve the creation of a new Space Force within the Air Force.