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Space technology  is one of the military’s fastest growing sectors, and that is reflected in the Air Force budget request for fiscal year 2018.

The Air Force controls about 90 percent of the military’s space programs. The service is seeking a 20 percent increase for space systems, requesting $7.7 billion in the 2018 federal budget the Trump administration sent to Congress this week. The space request includes $4.3 billion for research and development and $3.4 billion for procurement.

Demands for new and improved space systems — from missile warning, to navigation, weather and communications — are wide ranging and growing by the day, according to Air Force officials.

The 2018 budget includes some $2 billion for satellite launch services. This is significant because the Air Force will use the funding to open the market to commercial providers — and help the Pentagon meet a congressional mandate to stop buying Russian-made rocket engines that are used in current military launch vehicles.

Larger budgets for space systems will be needed as the Air Force takes on an expanded portfolio, as well as new responsibilities to ensure systems are protected from enemy attacks, said Maj. Gen. Roger W. Teague, director of space programs at the office of the Air Force Assistant Secretary for Acquisition.

The 2018 budget funds several new programs: The joint space operations center mission system, two programs to provide electro-optical infrared weather surveillance, a new effort to protect tactical satellite communications, a space surveillance telescope, a modernized missile warning constellation, and a upgraded and more secure GPS payload.

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