DARPAs Putting Together a “Space Development Agency”

Their stated intent? To innovate military space programs and dis-entrench technology from the private sector, bringing it over to the Department of Defense.

Under direction from undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin, director of DARPAs Tactical Technology Office Fred Kennedy will lead a study team to propose a viable strategy for the “implementation of the Space Development Agency.”

DARPA has been granted this responsibility by the Pentagon, who is looking to construct a new agency focused on the development of technology in outer space. It was announced in a Dec. 6 memo titled, “Space Development Agency Study Team Direction and Tasking,”

A key motivating factor appears to be the recent breakneck technological pace of China and Russia. The DoD seems to think their eastern competitors are beginning to outpace the US in terms of exponential growth. With that being said, there appears to be no lack of specific goals moving forward:

“inventory the DoD space-based command-and-control capabilities, identify critical gaps, deficiencies and inefficiencies in our existing architectures and develop an agile responsive threat-driven architecture, associated infrastructure requirements and an acquisition construct,” Griffin wrote.

The US has been criticized lately for their lack of progress on the front of quantum technologies, so it is likely that will play a crucial role in DARPAs contingency plan.

“Focus on the requirements for a low earth orbit communications transport layer and explore the synergy of this essential backbone with the eight space capabilities outlined in the DoD Space Vision.”

  1. Persistent global surveillance for advanced missile targeting,
  2. Indications, warning, targeting and tracking for defense against advanced missile threats,
  3. Alternate positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) for a GPS-denied environment,
  4. Global and near-real time space situational awareness,
  5. Development of deterrent capability,
  6. Responsive, resilient, common ground-based space support infrastructure (e.g., ground stations and launch capability)
  7. Cross-domain, networked, node-independent battle management command, control and communications, including nuclear command, control, and communications,
  8. Highly-scaled, low-latency, persistent, artificial intelligence-enabled global

The deadline for DARPAs interim progress report is in a month, where it will then be submitted to Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and the space governance committee – who will supervise the Department of Defense in reorganizing space assets to comply with President Trumps directive to establish the United States Space Force.

“I expect this effort will require 45 to 60 days,” Griffin wrote.

Shanahan thinks their Space Development Agency should be ready for operation in the first quarter of calendar year 2019.



DARPA’s next project: Design a Space Development Agency

cover photo: Fred Kennedy, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office speaks Aug. 6 during a panel on “Creating a More Resilient Space Architecture” during the Small Satellite Conference at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. (Keith Johnson for SpaceNews).



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