It Is a Challenge

A new report from the Congressional Budget Office confirms what the Air Force has been saying: Developing a space radar to provide both synthetic aperture radar images of the Earth’s surface and the ability to detect moving targets on the ground is a technical challenge. Just last month, the Air Force extended to April 2009 the concept definition phase for its two contractors Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. And, Congress cut some program funding from the 2007 defense bill, worried that the program is advancing too quickly and that USAF and the National Intelligence Director are not on the same page. CBO analysts provide four alternatives, any of which could achieve the SAR requirement but would falter over finding ground moving targets. CBO calls the latter “the most critical challenge facing the Space Radar program.” CBO’s options feature two basic designs with varying constellation sizes (from as few as five to as many as 21) and radar array sizes. None of the options, says CBO, would offer continuous SAR coverage but would have much improved response times over existing capabilities.