WASHINGTON — The US Space Force, in budget documents submitted to Congress last week, is asking for $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 a tactical response space. So far, the program has been funded by additions from Congress, and defense committees have been calling for the Department of Defense for years to create a dedicated budget line. Small satellite launch companies have been actively lobbying for funding for responding space, which would go to small launch providers that don’t need traditional launch facilities.
Tactical Interactive Space is an initiative to demonstrate the capabilities of commercial launch platforms 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 that access to the interactive launch would give the United States additional flexibility in the event that adversaries try to shoot down the Department of Defense or commercial satellites that provide services to the military.
The proposed Space Force budget includes $30 million for the Tactical Response Space in fiscal year 2024 and $30 million for fiscal year 2025.
Congress has appropriated $115 million in the defense budget over the past three years for tactical space response displays. Congressional advocates argued that the program was necessary because world events demonstrated the strategic value of the satellites, making them more attractive targets.
An interactive space show took place in the year 2021 when the Space Force flew over Tactical Interactive Launcher 2 (TacRL-2) Mission on a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California.
The upcoming Tactical Responsive Launch 3 mission, known as Victus Nox, is scheduled 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 “conquering the night” – is to demonstrate rapid launches and help planners understand the front-end processes that lead to launch.
According to budget documents, the program will continue to “mature, articulate, and emphasize tactically responsive space solutions from start to finish based on lessons learned and pain points identified during the Victus Nox demonstration.”
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