Virtual Program with Dr. Derek Tournear

April 14, 2021 12:00 pm ET

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“Update on SDA’s Efforts to Build Threat-driven National Defense Space Architecture in Partnership with Industry”


Please join us Wednesday, April 14, 2021, 12Noon eastern, for our distinguished speaker, Dr. Derek Tournear, Director of the path-finding Space Development Agency, located within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering.

In his public remarks, Dr. Tournear has described SDA as “set up to exist and operate almost as a commercial entity within the Defense Department” delivering an array of innovative capabilities to the warfighter on timelines the Defense Department rarely sees.

SDA has been making news in recent months with awards of contracts to industry for the first generation of the Transport and Tracking Layers, both part of the ambitious National Defense Space Architecture. SDA’s near-term plans also including flying demos later this year.  SDA issued a Systems, Technologies, and Emerging Capabilities (STEC) Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) to encourage the private sector to propose innovative ways SDA can buy down some of the most significant technical risks.

Working with industry, Dr. Tournear says SDA is committed to being a real disrupter. He says, “stop focusing on…capabilities by high value, low density satellites and focus on high density, low value satellites, or focus on proliferation … We’re going to provide … hundreds to thousands of satellites that provides us with the resilience needed and it also provides us with the timely access needed to deliver those products.”

WSBR is most fortunate to have Dr. Tournear whose professional career to date includes senior positions with an impressive variety of federal R&D agencies and industry.  We look forward to him discussing the achievements of the SDA team to date, the issues and challenging facing SDA, and describing SDA’s Product Map including how industry can best support SDA’s overall mission to protect American’s national security.

Dr. Derek Tournear is currently the Director of the Space Development Agency, within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering (OUSD(R&E)). SDA will unify and integrate space capability development and deployment across the department to achieve the DoD space vision while reducing overlap and inefficiency. He previously served as the Assistant Director for Space, responsible for developing the research and engineering roadmap to address future gaps in the DoD space architecture.

Dr. Tournear previously held leadership roles in industry, most recently the director for the Harris Space & Intelligence (SIS) research & development.  SIS was a $2B business focused on providing advanced technical solutions addressing the top National Security threats from underwater to outer space.

Prior to industry, Dr. Derek Tournear was a Senior Program Manager (SNIS-HQE) at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). At IARPA, Dr. Tournear served as a senior scientist for space activities and space technologies in the Office of Smart Collection.

Prior to IARPA, Dr. Tournear was a Program Manager for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Tactical Technology Office and Strategic Technology Office. At DARPA, he initiated and directed a large portfolio of program, with an emphasis on sensors and space.

He has professional experience at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) managing intelligence and defense programs. During his time at LANL, he initiated a new field of study in gamma ray optics, and developed sensors for nuclear material detection.

Dr. Tournear has a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University and a B.S. from Purdue University. In 2010 he received an “Outstanding Alumnus” award from Purdue University and a 2008 DARPA award for “Outstanding Accomplishments in a Systems Technology Area.” Dr. Tournear is a 2011 recipient of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service, and a 2012 recipient of the Office of Director of National Intelligence Award for Exceptional Public Service.

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