Military buyers challenged to keep up with the latest commercial space innovations

Space Force Lieutenant General Michael Guetlein said commercial innovation today is “outpacing the government’s demand signal”.

WASHINGTON — US military buyers of space systems for decades have relied on a stable group of aerospace and defense companies to develop technologies and launch them into orbit at the request of the government.

in the years since SpaceX discontinued military launches market, the growth of space saving fueled by private money overturned what was historically a government approach to technological developments.

Keeping up with commercial space activities has been a challenge for military procurement organizations, Lieutenant General Michael Guetlein, commander of the US Space Force’s Space Systems Command, said on May 18.

We’re seeing more innovation coming out of the industry than we’ve seen since the moon thrust, a massive amount,” Guetlein said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event.

“Today we are at the point where commercial innovation is really outpacing the government’s demand signal, which traditionally hasn’t happened,” Guetlein said.

Since taking the helm at Los Angeles-based Space Systems Command last summer, Guetlein began a series of efforts to bridge the gap between military buyers and new space companies.

One initiative is to help startups and small businesses navigate the complex government procurement ground. Guetlein. There are many business opportunities for companies, but they are not presented to them in a friendly way, he said. “With the acronyms, the office names, the different buckets out there, we completely confuse the industry, they have no idea how to do business with the government.”

Space Systems Command has assigned officials known as “sherpas” to help guide startups and small businesses that are unfamiliar with defense procurement, he said. “They will be the ones who kind of show a client the way.”

The command also created a commercial services office “to embrace as much of the commercial industry as possible,” Guetlein said. “When we raised Space Systems Command, we did so with a mantra that we’re going to ‘buy what we can and build only what we should’ model of sorts.”

The commercial services office has a responsibility to “try to look across the industry to understand what’s in the realm of the possible,” he said. Its main task is to identify technologies developed for commercial use that might also meet a military need.

Space Systems Command will also increase the frequency of face-to-face “industry day” meetings with the private sector.

Last fall, the command hosted a meeting focused on cross-communication technologies for connecting satellites in space.

On the 19th and 20th of May, companies were invited to present technologies in an “ISR industry tactical day” focused on space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in the commercial sector.

“It’s going to be a reverse day for the industry,” Guetlein said. Instead of companies showing up to hear about the government’s wish list, Space Force program managers will hear about what companies have to offer. “It allows us to learn more about what’s out there,” he said.

Next month there will be a similar event focused on cislunar space dominance awareness and another later in the year on commercial data analysis tools.

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