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U.S. Air Force space tracking software delayed 19 months

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Tech. Sgt. Michael Roberts, a sensor management analyst from the 614th Air and Space Operations Center, verifies the accuracy of a radar tracking station's observations of several man-made objects floating in space March 4 here. The purpose of Joint Space Operations Center is to provide a focal point for the operational employment of worldwide joint space forces, and enable the commander of Joint Functional Component Command for Space to integrate space power into global military operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Vanessa Valentine)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A long-awaited update to the hardware and software system that will allow the U.S. Air Force to ingest data from its new object tracking system, known as Space Fence, will not be ready until 2018, about 19 months later than previous estimates, an Air Force spokeswoman said April 11.

The Air Force has been undergoing a broad modernization of the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), the processing center of U.S. military space operations headquartered at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The program, known as the JSpOC Mission System (JMS), is a three-phased, $1 billion initiative to replace or upgrade the hardware and software currently used for space surveillance, collision avoidance, launch support, and providing more precise and timely orbital information. The new system replaces the legacy Space Defense Operations Center, or SPADOC, which Air Force officials say is dated and becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.

The next batch of improvements to the JSpOC is known as Increment 2 and is aimed at weaning the Air Force from the SPADOC system. Increment 2 is now expected to be complete in mid-2018, a spokeswoman for the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) said April 11 in response to questions from SpaceNews. Air Force officials previously had said that portion of the upgrade, which kicked off in 2013, would be complete around December 2016.

SMC in Los Angeles is serving as the program’s prime contractor. The Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego is the lead integrator.

The delay means the Air Force would continue to use the SPADOC system. Gen. John Hyten, the head of Air Force Space Command, has repeatedly said he wants to get off the SPADOC as quickly as possible and once described the legacy system as “that ancient engine that can’t take data from anywhere unless it’s one of ours.”

The delay comes only a few months after U.S. lawmakers asked for an update to the program’s progress and inquired about the possibility of accelerating Increment 2.

The Air Force’s 2017 budget request includes$47 million for Increment 2.

Air Force officials are counting on JMS to improve the Defense Department’s space surveillance efforts by incorporating data from multiple external sources, not just military radars and telescopes.  JMS is a key part of the Air Force’s efforts to incorporate data from the Space Fence, a next-generation space surveillance system expected to be operational in 2018.

Increment 2 contains four subsets of capabilities, known as service packs. The Air Force said it has completed one of those service packs, Service Pack 7, which connected the new system to the Space Surveillance Network.

The Air Force said it began testing Service Pack 9, which transitions the space catalog to JMS, earlier this month. Service Pack 11, which allows the software to classify satellite deorbits, re-entries, launches and other events, is in development. Service pack 13 visualizes satellite maneuvers.

SpaceNews.com

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U.S. Air Force space tracking software delayed 19 months

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