Space technology is one of the military’s fastest growing sectors, and that is reflected in the Air Force budget request in recent fiscal years.
The Air Force controls about 90 percent of the military’s space programs. The service is seeking a 20 percent increase for space systems, and requested $7.7 billion in the federal budget the Trump administration sent to Congress in 2018. The space request included $4.3 billion for research and development and $3.4 billion for procurement. The budget includes some $2 billion for satellite launch services. This is significant because the Air Force will use the funding to open the market to commercial providers, and will also help the Pentagon meet a congressional mandate to stop buying Russian-made rocket engines that are used in current military launch vehicles. Furthermore, the 2018 budget funded several new programs: The joint space operations center mission system, two programs to provide electro-optical infrared weather surveillance, a new effort to protect tactical satellite communications, a space surveillance telescope, a modernized missile warning constellation, and a upgraded and more secure GPS payload.
Demands for new and improved space systems — from missile warning, to navigation, weather and communications — are wide ranging and growing by the day, according to Air Force officials. Larger budgets for space systems will be needed as the Air Force takes on an expanded portfolio, as well as new responsibilities to ensure systems are protected from enemy threats.