The first of two satellites in the Weather System Follow-on program is on schedule for a September 2023 delivery following the planned completion of a combined cybersecurity assessment in February 2023, WSF Program Manager David Betz said in a statement to Inside Defense.
The program planned to conduct two separate cybersecurity assessments next month and in March 2023, the Government Accountability Office stated in its annual weapon systems assessment published in June. According to Betz, those two cybersecurity tests have been combined to a single event in February 2023.
Testing of the entire system consisting of the space, ground and launch segments is still set for November, Betz said, with an adversarial assessment scheduled for August 2023. The first WSF satellite is also still on track for a September 2023 delivery with a launch date in the first quarter of fiscal year 2024.
The WSF satellites will monitor energetic charged particles, analyze ocean surface vector winds and measure tropical cyclone intensity to fill critical capability gaps for the Space Force. For example, no existing platforms provide the necessary ocean wind surface data requirements that will be supplied by the WSF satellites, program officials told GAO.
Ball Aerospace is the prime for the WSF satellites. The company signed a contract for design and risk reduction of the first satellite in 2017, which was followed by an award in November 2018 for the space vehicle’s development and fabrication.
Betz said the acquisition cost of the first space vehicle is estimated at $488 million, lower than GAO’s estimate of $515 million per vehicle. However, Betz added that the cost of the second space vehicle is not yet releasable.
Due to funding constraints in fiscal year 2018, the program’s schedule was stretched out an additional year, GAO reported. According to a Selected Acquisition Report for the WSF program released by the Defense Department last month, the program was until recently staring down a significant price increase and possible delay of two to three years for the second space vehicle due to budget cuts.
Requisite funding was restored in the FY-22 omnibus reprogramming, Betz said, averting a capability gap that would open in late-2028 as the first space vehicle neared the end of its service life. The program office is planning to award the contract for the second space vehicle at an unspecified date, Betz added.