Just about everything the U.S. military does these days depends on satellites: spying on insurgents, relaying orders, keeping drones and soldiers pointed in the right direction. The idea, in the future, is to go even more sat-centric. Too bad the Air Force is having such a tough time getting contractors to build the next generation of orbiters it says are so critical.
Last week, the Air Force decided to cut fees owed Boeing, citing a $260-million cost overrun and delays of three years in the company’s work on new Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites (pictured). Meanwhile, an Air Force review of the program recommended rescheduling first launch of the new satellites from January 2007 to May 2008.
Nearly the entire slate of Air Force satellite programs, valued at around $40 billion through 2010, faces cost, schedule and technical challenges. All this, despite years of warnings of “systemic problems” with the military space program. Space Radar, a $5-billion program to field orbiting radars for ground targeting, has suffered Congressional budget cuts in recent years amid concerns that its cost and schedule are poorly defined. Transformational Satellite, or TSAT, is intended to support secure wideband communications with a five-satellite constellation beginning in 2013, all in an effort to ward off an impending military bandwidth crunch. But the Congressional Budget Office contends that even TSAT — part of a portfolio of communications satellites that accounts for the majority of space spending — will fail to satisfy the military’s enormous (and growing) appetite for secure bandwidth.
Read more at Military.com.
— David Axe
UPDATE, 13:25 EST: This just in from Defense News regarding the 2007 defense budget:
Expressing concern over cost growth in the troubled Transformational Communications Satellite program, senators cut $230 million from the $867 million requested for program. They cut $100 million from the $266 million sought for the Space Radar, citing uncertainties with the program.