A new Commercial Space Futures Office is helping Space Force analyze the technical and financial opportunities of commercial space companies looking to offer products to the military
COLORADO SPRINGS — US Space Systems Command, the Space Force’s procurement arm, is exploring opportunities to buy “space as a service” from companies that provide weather data, imagery and other information collected from satellites.
This is a departure from the usual practice of building custom military satellites, however The government wants to try, said Debra Emmons, Aerospace Corp’s vice president and chief technology officer.
Emmons heads a new organization called The Office for the Future of Commercial Spacecreated to match space companies with government buyers and to screen companies’ technical capabilities before offering their services to the government.
“WWe’re seeing a real push from the Department of Defense, the Space Forces, the intelligence community and the civilian space to move to a more commercial approach,” Emmons said SpaceNews.
Aerospace is a Los Angeles-based, government-funded company that provides technical support to the Space Force and other agencies. As part of its agreement with Space Systems Command, the Commercial Space Futures Office can offer access to space companies 100,000 square feet of laboratory facilities to validate their technology, Emmons said.
Since the office opened in December, it has received many inquiries from space startups looking to sell products and services to Space Force, she said. It has also worked with established companies such as Anduril, Freedom Photonics and Cubic Technologies to help them assess whether their technologies meet Space Force requirements.
“This is really about de-risking commercial solutions,” she said. The Space Force sees how much is being invested in commercial space and wants to leverage this technology, Emmons added. The question is how mature and ready some of these technologies are, and the new office is trying to answer that.
“We conduct due diligence and readiness assessments,” she said. This includes assessments of companies’ financial and technical capabilities and their supply chains.
George Tromba, principal director of the Commercial Space Futures Office, said he often hears from startups that need help breaking high barriers to entry into the defense market. “We’ve seen an increase in various companies coming to us,” he said. “A lot of them basically cold called us. They need help maturing the technology and in some cases they need help developing an operational concept that works for potential government customers.”
Tromba said Space Systems Command is exploring potential contracting mechanisms it could use to purchase space services. The bureau, which buys communications services from commercial satellite operators, offers “a wealth of knowledge” that is applied to procurement of other types of services, he said.
Aerospace wants to be an honest broker and not create hurdles for commercial actors wanting to work with DoD, Tromba said. “We are working to really change the model where the combined government and FFRDC [federally funded research and development corporation] Previously, the team was more reluctant to engage with commercial market participants and engage in substantive dialogue. This model is changing fundamentally.”
The talks with commercial space players, he said, “shape how the government can take that commercial approach because they’re absolutely all in it.”