DARPA Wants Real Time Operations in Space

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is working to “make space a real time operational domain, which it is not at all today,” the agency’s director said on Nov. 17. Because there “is more and more a real possibility” of conflict in space, DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar said her organization is putting time and money into building “a completely new architecture for space.” For today’s US military, “there is nothing that we need either from an intelligence perspective or a military perspective that we can do effectively without space,” Prabhakar said at the Defense One Summit in Washington, D.C. In order to protect these vital space systems, DARPA is focused on developing a “whole portfolio” of capabilities. “There’s not going to be one magic solution,” she said

A crucial challenge, however, is shortening the “time to launch,” which today is “unacceptably long.” In order to effectively deter adversaries from attacking space assets, the US military needs to be able to “go to space not next week or next month, but tomorrow.” DARPA’s experimental spaceplane, XS-1, is hoping to make that possible. XS-1, which entered phase 2 of its development earlier this year, is a reusable unmanned booster expected to significantly reduce the cost of spaceflight. The goal of the program is “to fly that spacecraft 10 times in 10 days, something that’s inconceivable with any of the spacecraft we have today,” said Prabhakar. (See also A Dangerous Space and Making Space More Military from the August issue of Air Force Magazine.)