House panel wants details on Space Force plans to upgrade launch infrastructure

Science

Lawmakers are concerned about the infrastructure at Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Space Force Base

WASHINGTON — The House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on strategic forces in its markup of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act raises concerns about the state of the U.S. space launch infrastructure and questions DoD’s procurement of commercial space data. 

The subcommittee, led by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), released its proposed NDAA language July 27. The full committee will mark up the bill July 28.

The proposed language asks the U.S. Space Force for details on its plans to modernize space launch ranges “including legislative action needed to implement those proposals.” 

A committee aide told SpaceNews that lawmakers are concerned about the infrastructure at the nation’s major space launch ranges at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. 

These ranges are used by the government and by commercial companies so conceivably the Space Force could ask the private sector to help pay for improvements, the aide said. “That might be an option. We’re not prescriptive on what we asked them to come back with. We just want them to tell us what they would need to address the required infrastructure moving forward given the growth of launches that is occurring.”

Other space-related issues from the strategic forces markup:

  • The committee wants a report on how the U.S. Space Force will leverage modern cloud computing technologies for space programs and systems. 
  • DoD, the National Reconnaissance Office and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency are directed to submit a report identifying commercial vendors that provide global imagery to support military needs, gaps in geospatial intelligence, and an assessment of how commercial capabilities can be integrated into DoD programs.
  • The committee asks for a report on how DoD and the intelligence community are leveraging commercial space-based radio frequency (RF) data and services, and how much funding is being allocated for these services. 
  • The report says DoD lacks clear plans for incorporating commercial space situational awareness data into the broader SSA architecture to support military and intelligence operations. The committee asks for a “comprehensive acquisition strategy that incorporates commercial RF sensing capabilities into a resilient and integrated SSA architecture to augment and inform multi-orbit, all-weather, and day/night collection.”
  • The committee cites concerns about potential threats to the Global Positioning System (GPS) and says the Air Force “must prioritize GPS resiliency by ensuring the Department of Defense has an alternate PNT [positioning, navigation  and timing] capability available should GPS be denied.”

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