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​Derek Tournear, shown here in an official Defense Department portrait, was selected to serve as acting director of the Space Development Agency following Fred Kennedy's resignation. DOD photo.

Derek Tournear, the Pentagon’s assistant director for space within the department’s research and engineering branch, became acting director of the Space Development Agency on June 24, less than a week after the agency’s founding director, Fred Kennedy, left the post.

“Dr. Tournear will be dual-hatted as he will continue in his current position,” Defense Department spokeswoman Heather Babb said June 25.

As assistant director, Tournear oversees “the research and engineering roadmap to address future gaps in the DOD space architecture,” and he coordinates department-wide space efforts. He also managed space and intelligence systems development at Harris, served as a program manager at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Tournear takes the helm as SDA begins to pursue a network of hundreds of satellites and payloads in low Earth orbit for communications, missile defense, and other national security missions.

Kennedy left the fledgling SDA after only a few months amid disagreements over the role of commercial systems in national security missions, according to two current and former defense officials.