The rapid pace of innovation in space is producing real capabilities which can be leveraged for businesses in every sector of the economy. There is a growing excitement over the many developments in the space industry, giving rise to many questions about how these developments will impact markets overall. This guide is meant to assist strategic planners in assessing developments in the space sector.
The first section of this guide is our overall assessment of how changes in space may impact your business strategy in the near future (from now till about 3 years out). OODA analysts and experts reviewed innovation in the space industry in the context of business needs to produce this section.
The second section is a deep dive into many innovation areas that we intend on tracking at OODAloop.com As developments advance in these areas we will post more on our site and in our Daily Pulse newsletter.
Section One: Estimated Business Impact of Innovations in Space
The innovations underway in space are very interesting, but what will the near term impacts on your business? How should your strategy change to take advantage of new developments in space?
To assist OODA members in tackling these topics we reviewed the 15 major innovation areas underway in space today asking ourselves “so-what?” and “what’s next” in every area. We then captured our conclusions in an assessment of changes we expect businesses will see in the next three years.
New Business Capabilities Enabled By Innovation in Space
- Advances in communications from space will enable lower cost communications to any region on earth, and the communications provided will be at a much higher bandwidth and lower cost than is available via satellites today. This means regions of the U.S. that do not have cell access can still be connected to the rest of your enterprise. Oceans, as well as every other region of the globe, are also covered of course. This will benefit any business with rural operations including mining, oil and gas, agriculture and transportation. Fishing and other maritime activities will also benefit. If you are in these sectors plan now for how you can improve your operations with field activities now continuously connected via high bandwidth capability.
- Advances in manufacturing in space will enable further exploration of the moon and beyond. This includes new ways of extracting water and helium from moon materials.
- New ways of conducting space situational awareness will enable more commercial activity.
- Challenges in debris removal will remain, but new solutions are coming onboard to mitigate these challenges.
- Advances in remote sensing from space and the ability to provide new space-based data at very low cost will provide economical access to high quality, up to date imagery of every part of the earth. Algorithms over this data including change detection and contextualized insights will enable machine generated assessments on the meaning of changes over time. This includes being able to project production and consumption of goods by nations as well as more refined assessments around manufacturing plants, for example. Remote sensing advancements will result in continued improvement in the ability to predict, with precision, weather. Status of crops will also be continuously available.
- Location data from space will be improving in precision, enabling individual users and businesses with far better location data. However, for most businesses the improvements that will come over the next few years will be incremental, and we do not anticipate big changes to business strategy over these incremental changes.
- We do not anticipate impact on business because of increased space tourism or even the return of humans to the moon. However, these will be highly visible activities that will be inspirational for many. Additionally, we believe these activities may generate other innovations which can create unexpected opportunities so they bear watching.
- We do not anticipate any impact on business due to production of power in space, asteroid mining, production of drugs in space or production of materials in space in the next three years. However, all of these areas are under active research and should be tracked for potential significant impacts in longer term planning.
- There are serious new threats to space-based capabilities coming from Russia and China. Other potential threats are looming from Iran and DPRK. The potential of attacks against space could impact business operations and warrants our attention. Firms in the space sector should enhance the hardening of their assets. Firms that depend on space based systems should build contingency plans. For more on what businesses should do to mitigate space threats see our report on Challenges to Security in Space.
Conclusion for business planning
Innovations in space are providing enhancements to high bandwidth communications to previously underserved portions of the planet and this can have a positive impact on business operations. Data from space is increasing in fidelity and analytics over that data will produce new feeds into corporate decision-making processes. There are many exciting innovation topics that will certainly transform businesses (for example, asteroid mining and power from space) but they are further out.
OODA will continue to track these and many other topics and will update this assessment as the situation changes.
We provide more background on innovation areas in section two below.
Section Two: Our reference to space innovation topics to track
OODA tracks the many innovations in space. The topics we capture below are provided as a primer to these innovation topics. We also capture pointers to coverage of these topics elsewhere. As we see innovations in these domains with business impact we will capture them in our future reporting:
- CubeSats and Microsatellites
- Space Robots for Satellite Repair
- Commercial Launch
- Private Astronauts and Space Tourism
- Back to the Moon
- Asteroid Mining
- Energy from Space
- Pharmaceuticals from Space
- Comms from Space
- Internet from Space
- Position, Navigation, Timing from Space
- Remote Sensing from Space
- Situational Awareness of objects in Space
- Space Debris
- Military Space Threats
- Bureaucratic Uncertainty
CubeSats and Microsatellites
Cubesats are miniaturized satellites as small as 10cm cubed. The use of commercial off the shelf components in these and other tiny satellites and the continuous improvement of their capabilities has caused a wave of innovation in commercial satellites. Over 1000 cubesats have been put in space orbit (usually low Earth orbit, but some were actually sent to Mars as comms relays). Most have been designed and launched by academia but increasingly commercial firms are building and deploying them.
Many other small satellite families have been designed and launched. Small satellites can address use cases that larger satellites have a harder time addressing. For example, full constellations at lower orbit can be fielded to enable low data rate communications or to gather data from multiple points at the same time. The concept of going small is to reduce the cost by enabling more compact, lightweight packages that can be put on the spare room of planned launches (piggyback launches) or can more efficiently fill space of full payloads. They have been so successful that a number of companies are now developing launch vehicles specifically for the small satellite market. They include the Virgin Orbit Launcher One, Rocket Lab’s Electron, and PLD Space.
Space Robots for Satellite Repair
If you own a piece of equipment that operates away from your HQ and it fails you get that repaired and life goes on, right? Imagine if that piece of equipment is on orbit. Satellites operate in extreme conditions and even with all our engineering those extreme conditions makes them more prone to fail. The inability to service satellites also means they must launch with enough fuel and enough backup systems to maintain orbits and that adds to cost.
Technologists have long conceptualized programs to mitigate these challenges of serving satellites in space. One of the most promising and potentially economical ways of meeting this challenge is purpose built robots capable of repairing, refueling and upgrading satellites.
As highlighted in an April OODA brief, DARPA has just begun a multi-year program aimed at doing just that. The program is designed to provide increased resilience for the current US space infrastructure and be the first concrete step toward a transformed space architecture that enables satellites to be designed with this service in mind, which should reduce costs and increase capabilities all around.
NASA has been using commercial firms as part of the space program since the very beginning of the space race. But something is different now. Now there are commercial firms that are building their own rockets to meet their own requirements instead of building for government specifications. These include the makers of launch for small sat capabilities mentioned above. But others, including SpaceX, are building heavy lift capable of moving very large payloads into orbit and, soon, manned missions into orbit and beyond. SpaceX’s long-term goal is to make space travel affordable by finding a way to create rockets that can be reused continuously, just as is the case with air travel.
Private Astronauts and Space Tourism
Space tourism began in early 2001 with Dennis Tito’s seven day visit to the International Space Station. Since then only a handful of these private astronauts made it into orbit. Now that new SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule has been shown to be able to complete missions to ISS, manned missions from the US will begin shortly and we can expect more private astronauts will launch both from the US and Russia. This will no doubt include a return to space tourism on orbit.
Sub-orbital space tourism is also heating up. Since sub-orbital lift requires less energy it can be done for less cost making the fee to travel much lower. Passengers will be treated to views of space and weightlessness for a few minutes and will be able to get these thrills for a cost of around $200,000 per passenger. With firms like Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin demonstrating the potential of this it is only a matter of time before sub-orbital space tourism is a common occurrence.
On December 13, 2018, Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity, designed to seat two pilots and six passengers, launched into space. Its powerplant earned the world record for most powerful hybrid rocket used in crewed spaceflight and the “RocketMotorTwo’s case-throat-nozzle assembly” is set to be displayed in the National Air and Space Museum’s gallery “The Future of Spaceflight” when it opens in 2024.
Back to the Moon
Though NASA has not undertaken manned missions outside low Earth orbit (LEO) in almost half a century, its Space Launch System, or SLS, is scheduled to launch in 2020. The system was designed as a step towards one day sending astronauts to a space station in orbit around the Moon. Moreover, NASA’s SmallSat Mission has primarily focused on lunar exploration, including successful launches in 1998, 2009, and 2013. So a pivot toward the Moon may also be served by contractors through the less daunting acquisition of small satellites.
The NASA manned moon program was announced in May 2019. The Artemis program was announced with a goal of returning humans to the moon by 2024.
China’s successful landing of its Chang’e-4 spacecraft on the far side of the Moon in January is part of an ambitious PRC program with its end goal being the development of a “lunar base”, as alluded to in a February OODA brief. The first true lunar base may be unmanned, sustained purely through robotics, but the Chang’e-4 landing also represents a significant development toward human colonization of the Moon, as it planted seeds which have since sprouted, a significant first step toward lunar agriculture. China is the only country that openly contests the United States’ unipolar status, as outlined in OODA’s China Threat Brief. This could lead into another, but different, space race, with more potential for private actor participation.
Israel’s mission to land its Beresheet robotic lander on the Moon, and become one of only four nation-states to achieve the feat, was privately funded with 100 million, lower than any comparable mission, and relied on rockets developed by Space X, as discussed in another February OODA brief. While this may demonstrate the key role of private companies in future lunar missions, it also demonstrates the consequences of attempting such a mission without being willing to invest the necessary capital, as the Beresheet crash landed on April 11th.
The controversial Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 legalized asteroid mining, granting the property rights to any US citizen who manages to excavate resources from asteroids. The Redmond, Virginia based asteroid mining company Planetary Resources has international reach and state connections, as demonstrated by its collaboration with Space Resources Luxembourg, announced back in June of 2016.
Though precious metals may come to mind first when discussing asteroid mining, they are also a rich source of water, which may prove invaluable not just for sustaining human life, but also for powering spacecraft. Honeybee Robotics in Pasadena, California have developed a unique system to take advantage of the water inside of asteroids and similar planetary bodies. They recently successfully tested their steam powered World is Not Enough (WINE) spacecraft, which uses its Spider Water Extraction System to drill for its own fuel. Asteroid mining of highly appropriable precious metals might feed markets back on Earth, while the mining of less valuable resources may enable space infrastructure without the need for resources to be transferred from the ground.
Although asteroid mining has the potential to be immensely lucrative, it remains essentially untested and so extremely high-risk.
Energy from Space
The concept of space-based solar power (SBSP) is based on the fact that energy from the sun is clean and continuous and abundant and much more accessible in space. The concept is to collect solar energy before it is diffused in the atmosphere, convert it to microwaves to move it to Earth. Sounds great! So why don’t we have this already? Doing this would require the launch of large quantities of materials, making this incredibly costly. When the cost of launch is factored in, this would make the energy from orbit cost far more than any other approach.
But serious government funded planning for SBSP is underway, with the largest efforts in China and Japan. Once the cost of lift comes down enough and the cost of energy from other sources goes up enough, this will very likely be a method of continued energy supply for humanity.
Pharmaceuticals from Space
As space infrastructure develops, so might opportunities in the field of exomedicine, which attempts to develop solutions to medical problems back on Earth by utilizing the unique laboratory environment of microgravity. As noted in a February OODA brief, “the first 3D bioprinter to work under microgravity has already been developed in Russia.”
In June of last year, Laura Attwood and Marina Petroleka, of Fitch Solutions Macro Research, posted an article in which they pondered their survey finding that 60% of pharma executives expected space innovations to prove highly disruptive to their own industry in the next few decades. The history of pharmacological interests in space dates back to the 1973 Skylab mission, in which the unique environment enabled experimentation in growing crystals, an early step toward the pharmacology industries goal of manufacturing more effective—and more expensive—drug crystal structures in LEO. More recently, pharma companies Merck & Co, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, Sanofi, and Novartis have all experimented with the effects of space on their products. Attwood and Petroleka further argued that the advantages of drugs cultivated in space may ultimately include improved resiliency to fluctuation in temperatures, replacement of grueling infusions with quick injections, as well as less complicated and/or expensive production methods.
This research may also have implications for the unique health crises that may emerge from space, as an unintended side effect of exploration. We may lack adequate immune defenses against biological threats developing in the alien environment of space, in much the same way as uncontacted indigenous peoples are vulnerable to outsiders. For example, the search for life on other planets raises the issue of interplanetary contamination. Although forward contamination by humans is a concern from a conservationist’s point of view, the larger danger is back contamination from alien lifeforms.
A more immediate concern involves the very microbes pharmacologists are so eager to study as potential cures. Bacteria and fungi from Earth can behave in dangerously unpredictable ways when brought along into space. Bacteria can sometimes grow more rapidly and/or become more resistant to antibiotics, even as the bodies of the astronauts who may bring them aboard are already being placed under enormous strain, including bone loss and radiation poisoning. A similar strain, when placed on the types of fungi already being found on spacecraft, may lead them to produce carcinogens and toxins capable of damaging the human immune system. Medical research into this phenomenon may be necessary to avoid a health crisis aboard manned missions, especially as space tourism and even colonization begin to appear more and more feasible.
Communications From Space
A February OODA Research Report, “What Business Needs to Know About Security in Space”, noted that “Communication satellites, … support mobile phones, television streams, broadband internet, and data transfer services for individuals, commercial applications, civil government, and the US military.”
Satellites may act as an alternative to undersea fiber optic cables. Undersea cables have a lifespan of 25 years, before they become inactive “dark cables.” While satellites have widely varying design lifespans, concerns of over-cluttering protected space have led to the industry best practice of removing these satellites from their orbit within 25 years of concluding their missions. In the case of satellites in LEO, they can reenter the Earth’s atmosphere, but those in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) must be boosted further into space, into a so-call “graveyard orbit”. By contrast the dark cables are relatively low maintenance, expiring of their own volition and left where they lie.
Undersea fiber optic cables, rather than satellites, currently represent the most extensive communications infrastructure in place. But even when communications are primarily cable rather than satellite enabled, satellites may still play a key support role. Because extreme weather can damage undersea fiber-optic cables, sensing satellites may still be required to monitor this activity. Regardless of whether comms are satellite or cable supported, cybersecurity is paramount. Historically both infrastructures have been most threatened by accidents, but are now scrambling to defend themselves against purposeful targeting, and while kinetic threats remain a concern, cyber threats are regarded as most concerning.
The European Space Agency (ESA) recently created a video addressing the pivotal role of satellites in new 5g telecommunications. The situation may be more complicated for American companies, however. Chinese company Huawei is likely to be a major supplier, and despite being accepted by close American allies–including Britain, Germany, and New Zealand–the US intelligence community is concerned that Huawei’s technology could pose a security threat, while the Trump administration contemplates a broader ban on Chinese technology. In an effort to spur domestic 5g technology development, the FCC recently auctioned 5g spectrum, despite NASA protests, and appears to be preparing to do so again.
Although many companies have announced plans for more/better communications in space, SpaceX’s StarLink launches have already begun giving them a first mover advantage in what will soon be a very crowded area.
Internet from Space
For years visionaries and space enthusiasts have been thinking through what global Internet connectivity from space would look like. The best way for the lowest latency would be via constellations of low orbiting satellites. The use cases for connectivity like this include covering areas that are unreachable by terrestrial communications including rural areas and the oceans. But it can also change how highly populated areas get and use their Internet and will set off new competitive dynamics with current ISPs and telecom companies. Several firms have been conceptualizing what Internet from space may look like but the first mover is SpaceX. On 16 Nov 2018 the US FCC granted approval for a SpaceX design to launch 7,518 satellites for their global Internet project (the SpaceX Starlink constellation). The goal is to blanket the entire planet in high-speed internet connectivity. Amazon also has plans for a constellation of 3,236 LEO satellites (Project Kuiper) as a means to provide broadband internet to those struggling to access it, as noted in an OODA brief issued in April. And space companies are not the only ones working on ambitious projects to improve internet access, as several cross-continental undersea cables are currently being built to improve internet speed.
Positioning, Navigation, and Timing from Space
The state of the art for Positioning, Navigation and Timing from Space today is the Global Positioning Service (GPS).
GPS satellites function by sending radio signals back to Earth while circling it twice daily in medium Earth orbit (MEO). In order to provide truly global coverage, a constellation of 24 of these satellites is required. This enables four gps satellites to be reachable from just about anyplace on Earth. Currently the only state actors managing GPS satellite constellations capable of global coverage are the United States, Russia, China, and the European Union, though China, Japan, and India have also established gps constellations with a more regional focus. Since 2011, the United States Air Force (USAF) has improved upon the 24 core satellite constellation, establishing a more extensive configuration utilizing 27 core satellites.
Of course, in case a satellite is taken out of commission or taken down for repair, a reliable constellation includes more satellites than the baseline number required at any moment. At present, the USAF maintains a constellation of 31 fully operational gps satellites. These include one Block IIA satellite from the the 1990 to 1997 generation of launches; 11 Block IIR satellites from the 1997 to 2004 generation; and seven Block IIR-M satellites from the 2005 to 2009 generation. Each and every one of these nineteen satellites has outlived its seven-and-a-half years of designed lifespan. The remaining 12 satellites in the constellation comprise Block IIF satellites designed to endure for 12 years, and launched sometime between 2010 and 2016. The next generation of satellites will comprise GPS III and GPS IIIF satellites, designed to last 15 years. The first such satellite launched in December, and the next is expected to launch in July. Efforts to modernize America’s GPS are already well underway, but will ultimately cost billions of dollars.
Freed of state imposed “Selective Availability” inhibiting civil GPS ever since President Clinton ordered this barrier removed back in 2000, GPS has emerged as a particularly stable space industry in the 21st century. As GPS III satellites replace antiquated models, the US government will lack not just the motivation, but the ability to reapply Selective Availability. Simultaneously, the US government has declared its commitment to protecting civil GPS from jamming and other threats, ensuring interoperability with foreign GPS, and making both GPS data and information on GPS equipment development freely available.
Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) was one of the broad categories of space services identified in the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA’s) “Challenges to Security in Space” document published in March. PNT satellite constellations are utilized regularly by a variety of different actors, whether military, corporate, or civilian, and are critical to facilitating transportation, whether by land, sea, or air. For militaries, they also serve to enable precision targeting with artillery. The most pervasive PNT technology is likely the Global Positioning System (GPS), which in addition to serving the aforementioned transportation needs on an individual level, was the first space technology to become an intrinsic part of military operations on the ground, being used to guide bombs beginning in the Gulf War. It should also be noted that the “timing” element of PNT represents a critical capability underlying modern life, particularly in the financial sector. It enables accurate timestamping and supports everyday transactions such as credit card charges and automated cash withdrawals. According to GPS.gov, USAF GPS satellites launched from 1997 to 2004 were the first to be outfitted with “on-board clock monitoring”, and those launched from 2010 to 2016 were outfitted with “advanced atomic clocks”.
Remote Sensing from Space
Satellites specializing in “remote sensing” can provide images of things back on Earth, ranging from emerging weather to military installations. The technology has its origins in the 1950s, when it was monopolized by American and Soviet agencies and used exclusively for military ISR purposes. The technology began proliferating in the 1970s.The US government announced its decision to encourage privatization in 1984, and France’s SPOT satellite first began providing images with discernible roads and buildings for sale two years later. Soon it became apparent that the cost of this imagery was so low that it would not prove a barrier to any state or even non-state actor motivated to acquire it.
Still, the bulk of private companies dominating today’s remote sensing satellite industry are still accountable to their home states, which have established policies enabling government oversight to prevent secret information from being leaked. Rather than seeking to micromanage all global remote sensing data of a potentially damaging nature, an impossible task, governments have been better served by encouraging domestic industry while also setting down clear restrictions on what is acceptable to publish. This has enabled private adopters of remote sensing technology to thrive while simultaneously alleviating state concerns regarding national security.
Moreover, the proliferation of remote sensing to private actors has improved the resiliency of such capabilities. Even if US government owned remote sensing satellite capabilities were successfully destroyed by a hostile foreign actor, the government could resort to the dual use capabilities of privately owned satellites to continue providing remote sensing of further military mobilization on the ground, and even help identify the responsible party.
Space Situational Awareness
Space situational awareness (SSA) is the keeping tabs on objects in space in a way that is actionable to decision-making. The objects they focus on may include foreign spacecraft—so as to deter them from attacking one’s own—and emerging weather events threatening to space infrastructure—such as solar flares. However, their primary value is in managing space traffic to prevent inadvertent spacecraft collisions, with each other or with debris from previous collisions. While remote sensing capabilities became attainable by a range of state and non-state actors decades ago, SSA capabilities are only now starting to proliferate similarly.
The group of state actors starting to pursue their own SSA capabilities comprises Russia, Japan, and India, in addition to the ESA. Even as the number of state SSA programs remain limited, a private sector SSA industry is emerging, selling data to customers concerned about the security of their satellites. Analytical Graphics’ Commercial Space Operations Center, debuting in 2014, and Leo-Labs, debuting in 2016, represent two such private sector SSA services already available.
The disastrous collision of the Iridium and Cosmos satellites may have driven a broader range of actors to develop their own SSA capabilities. In 2009, the same year as the aforementioned collision, the ESA began trying to develop its SSA program, and the Space Data Association (SDA) was established by a group of Iridium’s fellow satellite communications companies in order to facilitate SSA data sharing. SDA has since grown from three participating organizations, to thirty, including NASA.
Despite this proliferation, far and away the best SSA capabilities are possessed by the US Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) 18th Space Control Squadron. The US appears unlikely to allow this advantage to lapse any time soon. On April 9, the head of the newly formed Space Development Agency announced an intention to partner with private contractors in order to create a constellation of small satellites for the US military in order to precisely locate and track tens of thousands of objects between the Moon and the Earth.
Despite the DoD’s occasional willingness to share its data with foreign states and private companies, much of its SSA data is still kept secret. There remain two databases, one made publicly available at space-track.org, one not. While the range of data available at space-track.org has broadened significantly over the past decade, the restricted database still contains approximately 6,000 more objects than the open source database.
Space debris is a central security threat to all satellites, a fact perhaps most memorably demonstrated when a tiny fleck of paint was able to create an alarmingly visible chip in the window of the International Space Station (ISS). Such tiny bits of debris are impossible to track, and so, lacking perfect information, it is necessary to rely on probabilities of catastrophe. Although it already represents a significant challenge to spacefaring, the problem of debris has the potential to rapidly spiral out of control through a phenomenon known as the Kessler effect, whereby cascading collisions leads space debris to multiply. The ESA predicted that the Kessler effect could render key regions of space inaccessible within just a few decades if we do not find an adequate solution to the problem of space debris..
Testing of counter-space ASAT weapons has been one especially controversial contributor to the problem of space debris. A Chinese test in 2007 contributed significantly to the problem of space debris. Despite originally taking place in LEO, so too did the recent Indian ASAT test, which NASA decried for endangering the ISS, as noted in a pair of OODA briefs issued in late March and early April, respectively.
Finding a way to clear debris represents a lucrative prospect. The ESA’s CleanSat Project was established to encourage innovative solutions to the problem. In November of last year, the ESA suggested clearing 5-10 large objects every year from particularly cluttered stretches of space could be the only way to ensure the problem of space debris does not get out of hand. Such a plan will become less effective the more it is delayed.
Military Space Threats
Gone are the days when a satellite could be considered safe once the launch proved successful. Though the dual use nature of space technologies has been lauded as creating a variety of opportunities for private actors, it also creates some risk. State forces may target private satellites, either to weaken the overall space infrastructure of a rival nation or due to a misperception of its intentions. As noted in a late January OODA Brief, China’s Argentinian space control ground station has been regarded as more militaristic than its American or European corollaries due to the integration of China’s space companies into its political and military organization. As corporations become increasingly involved in space, the American corporate interests may come under similar suspicion. The dual use of repair robots also means they may be used to dismantle rival satellites. As discussed at length in DIA’s “Challenges to Security in Space” , counter-space capabilities have been developed by Russia and China in particular, while American defenses of their space infrastructure remain lacking. Additionally complicating matters is the lack of acknowledged borders in space and concerns regarding the potential for purposeful collision with other satellites.
However approaches by foreign satellites may be geared more towards espionage than sabotage, according to Brian Weeden, of the Secure World Foundation. While the United States, Russia, and China each possesses the capability to launch a kinetic attack against a rival power’s satellite, they appear to lack the willingness to do so, appearing to prefer less provocative and more deniable methods in cyberspace, such as jamming and hacking, and it is in this sphere that civilian and military space actors alike are increasingly looking to defend their assets.
The organizations responsible for space operations are currently in the midst of ongoing debates regarding how they might be reorganized. President Trump’s administration has famously pushed for the establishment of a separate Space Force and a Space Development Agency. As noted in a March OODA brief, the latter objective has already been realized and as a stepping stone to the former. Concurrently, the Air Force Missile Systems Center, the organization primarily responsible for acquiring new space capabilities for the military, is similarly undergoing reorganization as part of the air force’s SMC 2.0 initiative. This organizational instability means contractors may struggle with uncertainty about what missions and which organizations they should be appealing to, and may lead to any new contracts being put on hold until the reorganization dilemmas have been resolved. Space News reported that this was a central concern at the 35th Space Symposium, held between April 8 and 11 in Colorado Springs.
Another potential source of bureaucratic reshuffling may come as the management of space traffic is increasingly regarded as a job for civilian government agencies rather than the military. The Commander of Air Force Space Command, the Deputy Commander of US Strategic Command, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space have all come out in support of delegating SSA space traffic duties from the DoD to a civilian agency, despite the current lack of any civilian agency with comparable experience in space. Still, civil-military shared oversight of space programs is hardly unheard of. While the United States GPS program may be primarily funded by the DoD, it is also funded, to a lesser degree, by the Department of Transportation, and the program is managed by a joint civil-military administration. Moreover, any proposed delegation of SSA to civilian agencies would still preserve the DoD’s ultimate control over SSA sensors in order to vouchsafe national security, and the DoD would continue to provide SSA services to the military and intelligence communities directly.
OODA will continue to track these many elements of space innovation and keep our members up to date. Be sure you are subscribed to the OODA Daily Pulse to be alerted when we update our assessments.
For more on these topics see:
- OODA Research Report: What Business Needs To Know About Security In Space
- Chinese threats necessitate new space structures, Shanahan warns
- Elon Musk’s SpaceX takes shot at broadband supremacy
- SpaceX Starlink satellites shown on a Falcon ready for launch
- Securing satellites: The new space race
- India Joins Space ‘Super League’ As It Shoots Down a Satellite for the First Time