Space Force outlines areas for commercial integration

“I think the great discussion is how much are you willing to go to commercial? Is it 30%, or 40%, or 50%?” said Lt. Gen. Shawn Bratton.

Eight mission areas laid out in the Space Force’s long-awaited commercial space strategy represent areas where Space Force officials are “more willing” to go commercial.

“I don’t know if ‘comfortable’ is the right word,” Lt. Gen. Shawn Bratton, the Space Force’s chief of space operations and strategy, said during the Atlantic Council event. “I think the great discussion is how much are you willing to go to commercial? Is it 30%, or 40%, or 50%? And across the board, the answer is probably, ‘We’re not sure.’ If we go too far, we start to get uncomfortable. That’s too much reliance on commercial.” 

“What we’ve seen in current conflicts within the world is those are capabilities that we want to have access to, so we’re trying to find that balance. I wouldn’t say that we have settled on a percentage, but it’s the discussion that we really want to have is how much we can bring in. More is better, I think, is what the strategy is trying to say.”

The strategy has been more than a year in the making. It also comes months after Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman sent the draft strategy back, requesting a more comprehensive roadmap for the industry on how it can work with the Space Force instead of being an “aspirational” document.

Now, the document lays out eight mission areas the service considers acceptable for commercial integration. Those include satellite communications, space domain awareness, command and control, cyber operations, space-based environmental monitoring, space access, mobility and logistics, as well as tactical surveillance, reconnaissance and tracking.

The service wants to increase commercial integration of some of the mission areas where commercial solutions already exist, including satellite communications and space domain awareness. At the same time, the service is actively looking for more partnerships in areas such as command and control or cyber operations.

“Communications – clearly, we have gone there in the past and we’ll continue to go there. I think domain awareness in recent years has really been on the uptick, and we’re relying more and more, and we’re more comfortable relying on commercials for looking into the space domain, helping us keep track of objects out there, providing data and sharing data on what’s happening in the domain,” said Bratton.

“When you step beyond those, when you start talking about navigation and timing, when you start talking about environmental monitoring — some of these other areas, I think we’re trying to understand what’s possible from commercial. And what makes a good business case for any particular company. Those are discussions we’re trying to have.”

Space access, mobility and logistics is possibly one of the least mature areas for the Space Force, said Bratton. It’s also the only area the service decided to fully rely on industry to bring the capabilities it is looking for in this mission area.

“It’s an area that is very immature for the Department of Defense and we’re really saying, ‘Commercial, lead us, we’re not sure what to make of this. We think there’s something here, but help us figure it out.’ So it may be an example of ‘We’re taking some risk here, but we really want not to have to figure this out on our own. We want to partner and leverage commercial,” said Bratton.

This strategy comes on the heels of the Defense Department’s commercial space integration technology strategy, which was released earlier this month. The Pentagon’s document lays out 13 mission areas and breaks down those mission areas into three categories, including government primary mission areas, hybrid mission areas and commercial mission areas. Bratton said that’s where the service’s eight mission areas came from – they went with the missions they were more willing to partner with the industry on.

The service worked closely with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the strategies are complimentary rather than competing.

“I think they addressed a couple of broader topics. Within the Space Force, we’re very focused on delivery of capabilities to the Joint Force, on protection of capabilities during times of conflict so we can continue that delivery mechanism. I think, at the Secretary of Defense level, they’re focused on those same things, but there’s a different understanding of it in the obligation of the service to really do that. I think they’re both certainly strategic level documents, but I think they nest well,” said Bratton.

Copyright © 2024 Federal News Network. All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Related Stories

    Network line dot on the dark and Internet Network concept with Part of earth Elements of this image furnished by NASA

    Space Force ‘days away’ from releasing its commercial strategy

    Read more
    Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucydefense, cyber, technology

    DoD ‘rewrites’ decades-old classification policy for space programs, crafts commercial integration strategy

    Read more