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New kid on the Redstone block – Space Development Agency

HUNTSVILLE — There’s a new space sheriff in town at Redstone Arsenal, but it’s not the long-hoped-for U.S. Space Command … this time.

The Space Development Agency recently moved into a facility on Redstone Arsenal, according to SDA Director Dr. Derek Tournear.

Dr. Derek Tournear (Space Development Agency)

While the SDA reports to the U.S. Space Force, it is not part of U.S. Space Command, Tournear said in a statement.

“SDA has a lean and agile team of about 220 employees – civilians, military and contractors – who are experienced and empowered to move fast,” he said. “Recognized as the constructive disruptor for space acquisition, SDA’s mission is to quickly deliver needed space-based capabilities to the joint warfighter to support terrestrial missions through development, fielding, and operation of the National Defense Space Architecture.

“SDA capitalizes on a business model that values speed and lowers costs by harnessing commercial development to achieve a proliferated architecture and enhance resilience.”

SDA will deliver a minimum viable product – on time, in two-year cycles (called “Tranches”) – by employing spiral development methods, adding capabilities to future generations as the threat evolves.

Last year, SDA contracted with General Dynamics Mission Systems to establish state-of-the-art Space Operations Centers at Redstone Arsenal and Grand Forks (N.D.) Air Force Base to serve as the two primary command and control nodes of SDA’s proliferated satellite constellation in low Earth orbit.

As SDA’s ground segment, these ops centers manage the essential integration of SDA’s network for a complete operational enterprise, Tournear said.

Both facilities will operate and control multiple-layer satellite operations for the Tranche 1 architecture, which includes transport and tracking satellites. SDA’s Tranche 1 Transport Layer is the NDSA communication backbone consisting of 126 space vehicles in a mesh network, which will provide a resilient, low-latency, high-volume data transport communication system, and be ready for launch starting in September 2024, followed by the T1 Tracking Layer (the NDSA Missile Warning/Missile Tracking Layer) in fiscal year 2025.

There are about 20 SDA personnel at Redstone. Of these, four Army officers – Space Operations, Air Defense Artillery, and Field Artillery – play a critical role in ensuring that SDA capability delivery is informed by and provides solutions to Army operators. These officers serve as translators and validators for SDA, in roles that non-Army personnel cannot replicate.

Other personnel include acquisition, program management, and engineering professionals supporting SDA across its entire portfolio, drawing from the talent-rich community of space professionals in the greater Huntsville area, Tournear said.

The agency’s office is on Patriot Drive, near the Missile Defense Agency and Space and Missile Defense Command. Tournear said the SDA is ahead of schedule in renovating a building to house its operations center.

“Once operational by late summer 2024, Team SDA will have approximately 70 personnel, a mix of civilians, military and contractors, on site performing space operations missions providing direct support to warfighters,” Tournear said.

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