WASHINGTON – In its second year, the U.S. Space Force is building deeper ties with the commercial industry, said head of Space Operations Gen. John "Jay" Raymond.
"If you were historically what was commercially viable in space, it was commercial launch and big communications satellites," Raymond said. But now "almost every mission we do in space has a commercially viable path."
Raymond made his comments during a fireplace conversation with astrophysicist and media personality Neil deGrasse Tyson at the Air Force Association's Virtual Aerospace Warfare Symposium on Feb. 25.
The general attributed that change to the lower cost of putting payloads into orbit and the increased capabilities of small satellites, making them "more operationally relevant". to be. The former was driven by the significant growth of the small introductory market in recent years, with new providers entering the market competing for government and commercial contracts.
Earlier this month, the Director of the Space Development Agency said: who by law will join the Space Force in 2022 – similarly credited commercial developments for enabling the mega constellation it is building.
It's not all the government has done. It's really what's being driven by commercial ventures, commercial innovation and the commercial industry that are pushing the price down, (not) just in the cost of these satellites, but the cost of launches. have also fallen significantly, & # 39; & # 39; said SDA director Dereck Tournear.
Prior to the creation of the Space Force, the United States Air Force made an effort to allow for more contributions from smaller, non-traditional suppliers. For example, the Space Enterprise Consortium, founded in 2017, is working on streamlining contracts through Other Transaction Authorities focused on rapid prototyping projects.
Other transaction authorities "allow us to get a contract much faster than traditional approaches," said Space and Missile Systems Center chief Lieutenant General John Thompson in November. “Plus, the vehicle really lowers the bar for non-traditional contractors to be part of the efforts of the National Security Space, making it easier for them to enter. In fact, 350 of those 430 consortium members are in fact non-traditional contractors or academic organizations. "
The Space Force has since expanded that consortium with a new contract that will cause it to pay out up to $ 12 billion in prizes over the next 10 years.
The Space Force also has the The Air Force's Space Pitch Day concept, which invites companies to showcase their ideas and technologies in a competition inspired by “Shark Tank”. Acquisition officers are authorized to issue contracts on the spot.
Commercial providers have also opened up entirely new mission areas for the military in recent years. For example, the US military has made use of commercial satellite image providers to build a new off-line capability while both the Air Force and Army investigate incorporate SpaceX's Starlink network into their weapon systems
The Space Force wants to leverage that kind of commercial development for its missions, Raymond said.
“We want to build a strong bond with the commercial industry. We are a small service and we think we can, & # 39; & # 39; he said. "The explosion of commercial space … presents us with a tremendous opportunity."
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