Space Force’s 2021 budget plan is heavy on satellites and launch – SpaceNews

The $15.4 billion request for the U.S. Space Force contains $10.3 billion for research, development, testing and evaluation of space systems, a funding category known as RDT&E. It seeks $2.4 billion for the procurement of satellites, ground equipment and launch services; $2.6 billion for space operations, troop training and equipment maintenance, and approximately $100 million for war-related satellite services and space operations.

Here’s an analysis of the proposed budget’s high points:

Missile warning satellites

The Space Force is requesting $2.3 billion in 2021 to continue the development of the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR) constellation. These satellites provide initial missile warning of a ballistic missile attack on the United States, deployed forces and allies.

The first Next-Gen OPIR constellation, known as Block 0, will have three geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) and two Polar satellites. The prime contractors are Lockheed Martin for the GEO satellites and Northrop Grumman for the polar satellites.

The Next-Gen OPIR system will augment and eventually replace the existing Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellites. The two final spacecraft in the SBIRS constellation, made by Lockheed Martin, are scheduled to launch in 2021 and 2022. The Air Force in 2017 decided to end the production of new SBIRS satellites and transition to Next-Gen OPIR which was designed to be more survivable against electronic and cyberattacks.

The first Next-Gen OPIR GEO satellite will be delivered in 2025 and the first Polar satellite in 2027, according to budget documents. All five Block 0 satellites are expected to be on orbit by 2029.