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Derek Tournear: SDA Seeks to Accelerate Delivery of Capabilities Via Spiral Development Model

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Derek Tournear, director of the Space Development Agency and a 2021 Wash100 Award winner, said SDA uses the spiral development model to deliver “good enough” capabilities to warfighters every two years. 

He described the model as “profound” and noted that the framework could be used across the board, including activities that capitalize on commercial investments. 

Tournear told Government Matters in an interview published Sunday that “good enough” means making “sure that we can get the capability that industry can produce in the hands of the warfighter as rapidly as possible.”

He said SDA has a warfighter council that meets every six months and vets requirements. Through the council, the agency presents what it will deliver to combatant commanders over the next couple of years. 

“We go around the room to make sure if we provide this capability in the next two years, will that affect your fight and your ability to respond to a threat. When the answer comes back ‘yes,’ that’s what we know that’s good enough and we’ll push forward in that,” Tournear said.

“We have thresholds that we try to meet and objectives that we strive for to essentially add capabilities. But if we need to dump those objectives off to meet the minimum viable product on schedule, we’ll do that,” he added.

Apart from spiral development, Tournear said SDA’s other main pillar is proliferation or hundreds of satellites in a constellation.

He said SDA is in the draft phase of solicitation for 28 missile tracking space sensor satellites, which would provide “single satellite global coverage” to help detect and track hypersonic glide vehicles and traditional ballistic missile threats.

Tournear also offered updates on communication satellites SDA plans to procure to enhance tactical data link connectivity by 2024 and the agency’s transition to the U.S. Space Force.

Space Acquisition Forum

GovCon Wire’s Space Acquisition Forum on Jan. 19 will feature Tournear as one of the speakers to share his insights on military acquisition reform and modernization efforts.