By Scott Prater
Word is spreading throughout the intelligence community: Operationally Responsive Space-1 is a game changer.
The satellite, which reached orbit during June and is now under the control of the 1st and 7th Space Operations Squadrons, has been named one of the top 25 most important concepts by C4ISR Journal, an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance industry trade magazine.
Lt. Col. Mike Manor, 1 SOPS commander, traveled to Washington D.C. Oct. 27 along with a small group of squadron personnel and fellow ORS-1 team members to accept the award, talk about the satellite and learn about the other 24 award-winning systems during the 11th Annual C4ISR Conference and Awards event.
“Each year the conference brings together leading experts to discuss important ISR related topics and technological breakthroughs,” said Manor. “At the conference they recognize the technologies and organizations that have the most positive impact on our nation’s and allies’ operations in theater.”
The C4ISR journalists call the winning technologies their Big 25. Specifically, they describe ORS-1 as the first military spy satellite to incorporate the processes and software that were originally developed for the, now legendary, U-2 spy aircraft.
“In addition to providing an extra eye over the battlefield, ORS-1 could prove the utility of such spacecraft and prompt the Defense Department to add similar satellites to its long-term spending plan.” The company said in its Big-25 news release. “The prime contractor (Goodrich Aerospace) attached a larger telescope to the Senior Year Electro-Optical Reconnaissance System-2 camera to give it adequate resolution from orbit.”
Schriever’s newest ISR satellite was actually in the running for an additional award as “top sensor” at the conference, but that honor went to a system called Gorgon Stare, a surveillance sensor used by U.S. Air Force Reaper unmanned airplanes.
ORS-1 was a big hit among conference attendees, who bombarded the 50th Space Wing team with questions about the satellite system.
“People are still learning about ORS-1 since we’ve only been in operations for a few months,” Manor said. “But even so, many in the ISR community are familiar with how the system represents an alternative to the normal, and often lengthy, program acquisition cycle. ORS-1’s associated lower cost when compared to more traditional space-based ISR platforms also makes it an attractive alternative in this fiscally constrained environment.”
The advantage for the ORS system is that it took approximately three years to develop from concept to launch and orbit, compared to traditional satellite systems that typically take seven years or longer to develop.
Manor said his team enjoyed representing the 50th Space Wing and informing people about ORS-1 and its mission to meet U.S. Central Command’s urgent-need requirement to support warfighters down range, but they also enjoyed learning about the U.S. military’s and its allies’ newest ISR capabilities.
“We usually only get to see our small ISR piece of the puzzle while conducting ORS-1 and TACSAT-3,” Manor said. “But this conference was truly a unique experience to have the opportunity to discuss common issues and learn about ISR platforms that span the operating mediums of air, space and cyberspace.”
Bill Cidzik, Charlie Cox and Paul Toumayan represented ORS-1’s prime contractor, Goodrich Aerospace, at the conference, while Jim Armor spoke for satellite frame contractor Alliant Techsystems Inc.. Tom Davis, from the Operationally Responsive Space Office, joined Manor as ambassadors for the ORS system.
The 1st and 7th SOPS assumed satellite control authority of ORS-1 Sept. 23. The space vehicle is still in its 30-to-60 day testing phase and should achieve mission acceptance sometime during November.