COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—U.S. Space Command on Tuesday released a strategy to guide its efforts to work with commercial industry to quickly take advantage of the explosion of relevant space-related developments in the private sector at lower cost and to put the command and industry on a common path to work together.
The Commercial Integration Strategy is a result of the command taking a “step back” to examine easier and more efficient ways for commercial companies to work with USSPACECOM, Army Gen. James Dickinson, commander of USSPACECOM, said during a media roundtable as part of the annual Space Foundation Space Symposium here.
The strategy includes three pillars aimed at getting the command to its strategic end state of by meeting its needs to boost space power to give it “space superiority across the conflict continuum, thereby ensuring there is never a day without space.”
The pillars are described as ways, and the first way is benefiting from commercial-off-the-shelf products to quickly acquire and refresh capabilities in a number of priority areas, including command and control battle management systems, advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) and big data management, modeling and simulation (M&S) systems, space control systems, and satellite communications satellites and terminals.
Another priority is space domain awareness, which Dickinson said is just “surveilling the battlefield.”
“How do I get better at space domain awareness and looking at the commercial market and what they bring to bear today, with respect to space domain awareness is very critical to what we do and having the commercial industry contribute to that critical mission area for me is absolutely where we have to go,” Dickinson said.
Gaining space domain awareness “is about geographic locations around the world,” he said. “Because in order to be able to observe the space domain, any of the orbital regimes, for example, you have to be in certain parts of the world. And we’re not in all those parts of the world.”
Integrating existing space domain awareness capabilities with those found commercially around the world will lead to a “more common operating picture,” he said.
The “Way 2” pillar is leveraging mechanisms such as “integration as-a-service” contracts and leases to complement traditional procurements, with priorities being operational intelligence, satellite communications bandwidth, remote sensing, defensive space control, M&S, AI/ML, quantum computing and encryption.
The third pillar is building partnerships with the commercial sector to tap expertise “in ways that are more relational as opposed to purely transactional,” an overview of the strategy says.
The federal government, including the national security establishment, is increasingly taking advantage of commercial satellite capabilities for things like remote sensing and communications. The private sector is launching thousands of satellites to meet a range of commercial, government and other needs.
The use of commercial supplied imagery by companies such as Maxar Technologies [MASR] and BlackSky Technology [BKSY] has aided U.S. intelligence efforts in Ukraine’s war against Russia and even Ukraine itself. The White House last week announced a new assistance package for Ukraine that includes commercial satellite imagery services.
As Russia began massing troops along Ukraine’s borders in the months prior to its invasion of the country in late February, the U.S. intelligence community reached out to commercial providers of electro-optic and synthetic aperture radar imagery to highlight the buildup and warn of Russia’s plans, Stacey Dixon, deputy director of national intelligence, told attendees at the symposium on Tuesday.
Asked by a reporter whether commercial satellite imagery might be becoming more important than government spy satellites to the point that commercial satellites could become targets of an adversary during a conflict, Dickinson replied that through USSPACECOM’s partnerships with industry it will be able to share information on space domain awareness so that the private sector knows what’s “going on in and around their assets.”
Dickinson also highlighted that for an attacker there is the problem of many to contend with. The sheer number of commercial satellites on orbit creates a level of resiliency that “many of them” would have to be destroyed or degraded to “have any appreciable effect,” he said.