Derek Tournear will become the next permanent director of the nascent Space Development Agency, the Department of Defense announced Oct. 28.
Tournear has served as the SDA’s acting director since the departure of the agency’s first director, Fred Kennedy, in June. Prior to joining the SDA, Tournear served as the assistant director for space in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. Tournear has also worked as the senior scientist for space activities and space technologies in the Office of Smart Collection at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity and as a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
“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 Michael Griffin, the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin in a statement. “Derek will lead our effort to achieve those goals.”
The SDA was created March 12 to organize the department’s new space architecture and field several unmet capabilities through a proliferated, low earth orbit constellation of small satellites. The agency is working to unify and integrate space development across multiple agencies and branches of the military. For instance, the agency is working with the Missile Defense Agency on developing and fielding a hypersonic and ballistic tracking space sensor and with the Army on developing a sensing capability to detect and track imminent land threats.
Kennedy was selected to lead those efforts as the agency’s first director, serving on loan from DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. When Kennedy abruptly resigned in June, three months into the job, and returned to DARPA, Tournear took over as acting director.
The agency has been active since Kennedy’s departure, issuing its first request for information July 1 for feedback on its notional architecture for a proliferated constellation in low earth orbit, and hosting an industry day July 23 to elaborate on its vision. Since then the agency has gathered more than 150 responses from industry and tweaked its plans accordingly. Now the agency is working toward launching a group of satellites in fiscal year 2022 that will serve as a testbed for a “Transport Layer," what Tournear has called the backbone of their national security space architecture.
Nathan Strout was the staff editor at C4ISRNET, where he covered the intelligence community.