Space Development Agency's Future in Question.

Author:Mayfield, Mandy
 
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The future of the newly created Space Development Agency is cloudy after the abrupt departure of its first director, analysts said.

After only four months leading the agency, Fred Kennedy stepped down from his position. A week prior to his resignation, he touted his vision for the new office at an event on Capitol Hill despite the fact that the agency had yet to receive funding from Congress to begin full operations. President Donald Trump's fiscal year 2020 budget request seeks $ 150 million for the SDA, but as organizational and personnel shakeups continue to rock the Defense Department, it is unclear if Kennedy's vision for the agency will hold up.

Former Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan ordered the creation of the Space Development Agency in March, which will answer to the office of the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering rather than the Air Force.

Derek Tournear, the Pentagon's assistant director for space in the office of the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, became the acting director of the SDA in late June.

The Defense Department did not respond to requests for comment regarding Kennedy's resignation.

Prior to leaving, the former SDA director's top priority was to create a meshed communications network of satellites in low-Earth orbit that would serve as the backbone for all its other proposed systems, he said in April during remarks at the annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The announcement marked the first proposed military satcom system since the transformational-satellite communication and system, or TSAT, program was canceled in 2009.

The technology behind a meshed communications network in low-Earth orbit, or LEO, would not be a stretch as there are already existing commercial constellations that act as communications networks, said Todd Harrison, director of the aerospace security project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C-based think tank.

"The idea that [Kennedy] had proposed is pretty sound," Harrison said. "It's not a big technological reach by any means, but it is a big paradigm shift for DoD.... [It's] a shift away from the types of communication systems that DoD has traditionally bought."

However, the proposal will likely face resistance from some members of industry, the acquisition workforce and the operational community because it is different from the status quo, Harrison noted.

Ken Peterman, president of...

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