During the past four decades, U.S. national security space systems (that is, the constellations of communications, surveillance, reconnaissance, navigation, and weather satellites) have played an increasingly important role in support of the DoD's overall warfighting capability. During FY 1997, DoD's evolving space capabilities continued to support our national security objectives. In terms of direct support to military operations, DoD's space systems played a crucial role as a force multiplier everywhere U.S. forces were employed, particularly in Bosnia.
During FY 1997, the Military Satellite Communications (MilSatCom) architecture was completed. The MilSatCom architecture was designed to provide medium-data-rate-protected EHF communications, an overall capacity increase, channel-use improvements, and the introduction of a Global Broadcast Service.
In the area of surveillance and warning, DoD continued to develop the Space-Based Infrared System. This is a multimission, multi-orbit infrared detection system to support missile warning and missile defense applications.
DoD emphasized work on navigation warfare to protect location information for friendly forces while preventing its use by an adversary. The first Block IIR satellite launch occurred in FY 1997. In addition, because GPS is an important national resource for both civil and military users, DoD and DoT signed an agreement to identify and plan for a second civil GPS signal.
In the meteorological area, DoD continued to cooperate with its domestic and international partners. In particular, DoD reached agreement with NASA and EUMETSAT on the use of American and European weather satellites to provide high-quality, global weather data to both military and civil users.
DoD initiated an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program and offered two Engineering and Manufacturing Development contracts to the major launch companies. DoD, DoT, and NASA signed an memorandum of agreement that provides for increased access of civil and commercial launch system operators to Federal launch facilities and encourages investment by these non-Federal sectors in launch systems, infrastructure, and facilities. These and other initiatives were designed to strengthen the U.S. industrial base and foster its participation in the expanding global launch market.
In terms of fostering commercial space capabilities, DoD increased its planning to leverage the growing number of commercial space systems for national security purposes. This included the use of commercial launch service and vehicles, as well as communications spacecraft. DoD continued to emphasize dual-use technologies, commercial off-the-shelf products, and flexible manufacturing processes; it is deemphasizing military unique specifications and standards.
The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) continued to contribute substantially to the expanding flow of vital information to the warfighter, its national customers, and to a growing set of "nontraditional" users, such as civil, environmental, and diplomatic customers. In July 1997, the NRO established a National User Exchange Group to improve national customer understanding of and influence on overhead reconnaissance operations, ongoing acquisitions, and long-term development efforts. In partnership with the newly established National Imagery and Mapping Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency, the NRO activated a 24-hour situational awareness watch center in October 1996. This center began providing near-real-time status information on NRO satellites to both national and military customers.