In Praise of the Mature

One mindset that the Air Force space community is adopting to control the costs of acquiring new satellites is to “accept very mature technologies” as opposed to the riskier strategy of “pushing the state of the art of the technology,” said Gen. William Shelton, Air Force Space Command boss. The Air Force got burned by ambitiously reaching for the state of the art with the Space Based Infrared System missile-warning satellite. Service space officials “pushed pretty hard” in that regard and “ended up with long development timelines” and a project “over cost and certainly over schedule,” Shelton told the Senate Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces panel during testimony Wednesday. Space acquisition officers will have to cement that new mindset into how they write the requirements for new systems he said. By the way, the Air Force overcame the challenges with the first SBIRS satellite. It’s newly on orbit and functioning well so far as it maneuvers into its operational position (see below).