A war is space is the biggest threat facing the nation and would be felt by everyone on earth, L3Harris Technologies CEO Christopher Kubasik said during a one-on-one interview session Wednesday during the Space Symposium.
"A war in space would be as detrimental to society as a nuclear war and would impact the supply chain, communications, health care and many other other areas," Kubasik said about Russian and Chinese threats to U.S. satellites. "We need to get the word out and the funding to make sure we deter and defend against our adversaries in space. It would be an invisible war. It is the biggest threat facing our nation and we need to take it seriously."
L3Harris plays a major role in space and missile defense, including a contract it holds to maintain and operate the system that tracks all space objects to help avoid collisions between the growing number of satellites and space debris. The company employs hundreds of people in the Colorado Springs area to complete the contract and others it recently won with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency and Space Development Agency.
Besides the defense contracts that are the largest part of L3Harris, the company also just won a contract to provide secure communications and guidance systems to return samples from a planned NASA mission to Mars in the next decade. L3Harris also has a contract to produce the next generation of GPS satellites that will produce a network that is more flexible and resilient, and able to use software for communications.
Kubasik said the company, formed two years ago by the merger of L3 and Harris, is "too big to be small and too small to be big" among the nation's defense contractors. Instead of focusing on a large portfolio of contracts for many systems, L3Harris focuses on resiliency and agility to connect systems developed and maintained by others and help those systems be able to survive "in a contested environment."
Expect to see Orion spacecraft on Florida launch pad this fall
Contractors at the Kennedy Space Center will begin stacking stages of the Space Launch System rocket, the largest ever built, sometime next month and will roll the rocket to the launch pad sometime in October, if the current schedule holds.
Executives from contractors on NASA's three-year Artemis mission to return to the moon are preparing for the first launch late this year without a crew to test the rocket for later missions. Before the launch, the rocket must first go through several tests and be filled with fuel and tested again to make sure the spacecraft can communicate with all parts of the launch pad system, said Lorna Kenna, general manager of Jacobs Space Operations Group.
David Burks, director of sales and marketing for Boeing Deep Space, said the rocket will be able to carry a 2-ton payload — large enough to carry a large telescope or planetary lander — at speeds of 140,000 mph and the ability to travel up to 18 billion miles in 15 years. While designed for the Artemis mission to the moon and later to Mars, he said the spacecraft will be able to complete many other types of missions, such as servicing the Hubble space telescope or an eventual base on the moon.
"It has the speed and range to be able to catch up with the Voyager spacecraft and eventually leave the heliopause," which is the outer boundary of the solar system, Burks said. "It really pushes science forward."
The entire Artemis mission is a "dress rehearsal" for a later mission to Mars, perhaps in 2033, when the earth and Mars are closest to each other, said Tim Cichan, space exploration architect for Orion capsule manufacturer Lockheed Martin. "All the things we do on the moon, we have to do on Mars. It is about practicing deep-space operations — the difficult steps that have to be done without all of the infrastructure available on earth."
The Artemis program is designed to begin with annual launches, but is later expected to increase to two missions a year and reduce the lead time from the beginning of manufacturing a rocket to launch from five years to three years, said Jim Maser, senior vice president of space for Aerojet Rocketdyne.
Space Foundation forms partnership with SAIC for entrepreneurship
The Colorado Springs-based Space Foundation Tuesday said it has formed a partnership with information technology giant Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) to launch a space commerce application program.
The program will begin with six minority- and women-owned small businesses selected for "diverse capabilities and ability to meet the mission-critical needs of SAIC space sector customers," according to a joint news release by the foundation and SAIC. The program is designed to deliver "new and promising sources of innovation for SAIC" said David Ray, the company's senior vice president of space.
The program is designed to help meet government small-business contracting requirements, but also help the companies in the program to eventually become subcontractors with SAIC on future government contract bids, Jacob Weyant, an SAIC spokesman attending the symposium, said Wednesday. "The idea is that these companies will become our farm" teams.
SAIC employs about 225 people in the Colorado Springs area to work on contracts with the Space Force and U.S. Space Command, including systems engineering and integration for the GPS network of satellites.