DARPA, IARPA scientist named 1st permanent director of Space Development Agency

October 29, 2019


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The Department of Defense appoints a former DARPA and IARPA scientist as the first permanent director of the new Space Development Agency.

Dr. Derek Tournear will be the new head of the Space Development Agency (SDA) after having served as the senior scientist for space activities and space technologies in the Office of Smart Collection at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), and as a Program Manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Dr. Derek Tournear

Dr. Derek Tournear

Dr. Tournear’s first order of business will be to define the National Defense Space Architecture, which will address eight critical, yet unmet, priorities of the DoD Space Vision.

These priorities include:

  • Persistent global surveillance for advanced missile targeting,
  • Indications, warning, targeting and tracking for defense against advanced missile threats,
  • Alternate positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) for a GPS-denied environment,
  • Global and near-real time space situational awareness,
  • Development of deterrent capability,
  • Responsive, resilient, common ground-based space support infrastructure (e.g., ground
    stations and launch capability),
  • Cross-domain, networked, node-independent battle management command, control, and
    communications (BMC3), including nuclear command, control, and communications
    (NC3), and
  • Highly-scaled, low-latency, persistent, artificial intelligence-enabled global surveillance.

Dr. Michael Griffin

“Our strategy is to unify efforts across the military services and government agencies to rapidly develop capabilities that are responsive to the threat, are cost-effective, and increase our technological advantage,” said Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Dr. Michael Griffin, in a statement.

“Derek will lead our effort to achieve those goals,” he added.

According to Bloomberg, the SDA is also looking to deploy up to 1,200 new satellites over the next five years and is requesting $11 billion.

Read More: Satellite servicing: because repairing is cheaper than building new ones

Dr. Tournear was tapped as the acting director of the SDA on June 24, which came “five days after the resignation of former SDA director Fred Kennedy,” according to Space News.

US intelligence wants to monitor planetwide ‘construction’ sites from space

At IARPA, Dr. Tournear served as a senior scientist for space activities and space technologies in the Office of Smart Collection.

Prior to IARPA, he was a Program Manager for DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office and Strategic Technology Office.

At DARPA, he initiated and directed a large portfolio of programs, with an emphasis on sensors and space.

In establishing the Space Development Agency, the initial priorities were:

  • Bold breakthroughs designed to obsolesce our competitors,
  • Technology maturation and systems engineering,
  • Lean engineering, manufacturing, and support,
  • Industrial base expansion,
  • Streamlined development and acquisition process, and
  • Increased acquisition cooperation with the National Reconnaissance Office.

Established in March, the Space Development Agency is responsible for unifying and integrating the Department’s space development efforts, monitoring the Department’s threat-driven future space architecture, and accelerating fielding of new military space capabilities necessary to ensure US technological and military advantages in space.


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