NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The U.S. Space Force is bringing in industry to view and comment on new digital models that will drive the service’s future capability development, officials announced at the 2021 Air, Space and Cyber Conference.
The service will host a business fair Oct. 27, said the director of the Space Warfighting Analysis Center, Andrew Cox. While the classified event will focus on SWAC’s first force design, which is about the military’s space-based missile warning and tracking enterprise, Cox said the event is meant to bring industry into the development process earlier while introducing companies to the service’s new digital approach to requirements and engineering.
“We’re going to reveal our thought process on how we think that future force design will look,” Cox said.
The aim of the new process is to cut down lengthy requirements procedures. That long effort, according to Lt. Gen. William Liquori, deputy chief of space operations for strategy, plans, programs, requirements and analysis, often takes a year or two, resulting in a massive document. Such a process is far too long for the rapidly evolving space environment, he added.
The revamped process kicks off with SWAC, which develops a force design using high-fidelity digital models of the space environment and the counter-space threats posed by perceived adversaries. That force design is then passed onto Liquori’s office, which translates it into a digital requirements package that is in turn passed onto the acquisitions team. The Space Force’s acquisitions team then works with industry, using digital engineering to create models of space systems that can meet those requirements.
Digital twins of those models are shared back to SWAC, where they are plugged into the high-fidelity simulation that was used to design the requirements for testing. This way, Space Force officials can see how proposed satellites will operate in a contested environment in a high-fidelity simulation before fabrication begins.
Industry will get its first look at SWAC’s models at the Oct. 27 business fair, said Cox.
“I’m going to provide you with all of our models of the threat (and when I say ‘threat,’ I mean all ground- and space-based counter-space threats we expect to see in the 2030s), the targets (meaning what are we trying to detect), and the force designs that we think detect those targets the best while surviving through that threat environment that I just gave you. So you’ll be the recipients of all of those models, which you’ve never gotten before,” Cox added.
Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond announced earlier this year that the Space Force wants to be the world’s first fully digital service, but this is one of the first times officials have explained in detail how that process will work and what they’ll share with industry.
The Space Force has already introduced digital engineering requirements into its contracts, starting with the next block of Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared missile warning satellites. Contractors have been tasked with designing digital models of satellites, which will be tested in a new orbital regime that could significantly change the architecture of the nation’s missile warning enterprise.
Last month, Space Force officials claimed the service is making progress in building out its digital engineering infrastructure. Lt. Gen. Mike Guetlein, who leads the newly created Space Systems Command, said the acquisitions community is fully embracing digital.
“Those data standards are being developed. The platform is being developed. The hardware stack is being developed, so we can all communicate on a common framework,” Guetlein said at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. “And now we’re starting to talk about: What does that digital platform look like that’s going to drive us all going forward?”
“And now with the standup of the Space Warfighting Analysis Center, we’re actually sharing the models that we’re using to do our simulations and the models that we would expect your digital twins to be plugging into,” he added. “So the industry can now play with their designs and understand environments that we think they’re going to be challenged within space.”
Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.