USA: Air Force to Kick-Start Troubled Satellite Contest

[] Last year, the Air Force Transformational Satellite (TSAT) program — which is supposed to provide secure, high-bandwidth satellite communications for the future military — ran into serious trouble. The Pentagon postponed a contract award, and it seemed likely the new satellite constellation would not be in orbit until 2020. If the program ever got off the ground, that is.

Now it looks as if the service is going to take another crack at it. In two weeks, the service will hold an "industry day" to revive the stalled program; according to a notice made public at the end of the year, the Air Force is targeting an "initial launch capability" of early 2019.

Last month, Pentagon acquisition chief John Young scolded the Air Force for pissing away poor use of taxpayer money. As Aviation Week reported, Young directed the service to "act immediately" to restart the program.

Moving forward, however, may mean scaling back expectations for the super-sats. Originally, the TSAT constellation was supposed to be connected together with extremely high bandwidth laser crosslinks. That may have to wait. Bloomberg recently quoted Pentagon director for space and intelligence capabilities Josh Hartman as saying the restructured TSAT program would delay the introduction of the laser-beam technology. The recent Air Force notice, however, calls for designing satellites for "graceful growth and modularity" that may pave the way for the capability envisioned for the original TSAT system.