Making Space a Different Place

November 10, 2011
By Max Cacas

Over the next few years, change is in store for the constellation of satellites that are the backbone of U.S. military communications.

Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, USAF, commander,  Space and Missile Systems Center, told a breakfast audience on the final day of the MILCOM 2011 conference in Baltimore that she foresees a future where reduced budgets will force the military to change how satellites are developed and put into space.

For example, she sees a day when a smaller communications satellite with a more streamlined list of capabilities may "catch a ride" with commercial satellites.

The general explained the need to develop a common ground control infrastructure for running military communications satellites, declaring the days of custom-programmed and configured ground systems to be over.  She said that the same must hold true for developing mission plans for satellites and thinks it may be time to also look at shorter development time.

Gen. Pawlikowski pointed to a recently signed $1.1 billion agreement with Boeing for a next-generation high-capacity Wideband Global Satcom system as proof that it is possible to successfully procure military communications satellites from the commercial market.  She praised the contract, signed this past September, for its "savings and awesome capability for an awesome price."

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