WASHINGTON — In budget documents submitted to Congress last week, the US Space Force is seeking $60 million over the next two years for a program known as Tactically Responsive Space.
This is the first Department of Defense budget to request funding for the tactical response space. The program has so far been funded by congressional additions, and defense committees have for years asked the Department of Defense to create a dedicated budget line. Small satellite launch companies have actively lobbied for funding for responsive space, which would go to small launch providers that don’t need traditional launch facilities.
Tactically Responsive Space is an initiative to demonstrate the capabilities of commercial launch vehicles to deploy small satellites on short notice. This type of service can be used during a conflict to replace a damaged satellite or augment existing towers. Military officials said access to a rapid-response launch would give the United States additional flexibility in case adversaries try to shoot down the Department of Defense or commercial satellites that provide services to the military.
The Space Force’s budget proposal includes $30 million for tactical response space in fiscal year 2024 and $30 million in fiscal year 2025.
Congress has put $115 million into the defense budget over the past three years for tactical response space demonstrations. Congressional advocates have argued that the program is necessary because world events have demonstrated the strategic value of the satellites, making them more attractive targets.
A demonstration of Responsive Space took place in 2021 when Space Force flew in Tactical Transponder Launch-2 (TacRL-2) Mission on a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California.
The upcoming Tactical Responsive Launcher 3 mission, known as Victus Nox, is expected to fly as early as May. A contract for this demonstration was awarded in September to launch service provider Firefly Aerospace and satellite manufacturer Millennium Space. They have about eight months to prepare and then they’ll be on standby. Space Force will give Firefly 24 hours notice to prepare for launch.
The goal of Victus Nox – Latin for “conquer the night” – is to show rapid launches and help planners discover the forward operations that led to the launch.
According to budget documents, the program will continue to “mature, articulate, and emphasize end-to-end tactical responsive space solutions based on lessons learned and pain points identified from the Victus Nox offering.”
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