Space Force to complete commercial space strategy by the end of this year

By Apurva Minchekar  / October 19, 2023

The Space Force is expecting to complete a revised commercial space strategy by the end of this year, which will outline the specific requirements of the service and provide concrete guidance to industry, a top service official said Wednesday.

Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman last month said the original strategy submitted to him was based on “aspirations” and did not provide enough details on actions to accomplish the service goals.

Expanding more on his reason for not approving the original strategy, Saltzman, at a Center for New American Security event yesterday, said the strategy submitted did not provide “necessary specifics” to industry on service requirements.

“So, it was not about a content thing, it was about let's go to the next step. Let's provide some more specificity, some tangible guidance that I think industry is looking for from us,” he said.

“Are we looking for commercial services or are we looking for commercial assets to be given to the government? And then you say, well, how do I decide? What are the inherently governmental functions that have to be performed by either the military or Space Force, versus what services could I outsource and let industry do for us and I just pay as I go? We didn't have really good solid answers for that,” he said.

Saltzman said that the service must provide clearer space domain awareness guidance to industry, adding that in certain areas, the Space Force provides launch services to industry to launch the service’s satellites.

“Do we want a commercial entity to do collision avoidance determinations? [Commercial companies] are capable of it. But that might be an inherently governmental function. If you start thinking about hostile kinds of actions that might be collision intensive,” he said.

“And so, I just felt like it was important that we answered those questions first,” he added.

Space Force spokeswoman, Col. Lori Hodge, in September, told Inside Defense the strategy focuses on the commercial space industry’s speed, innovation and capabilities to create strategic advantage.

“The strategy is intended to institutionalize, operationalize and integrate commercial space goods, services and activities to support joint operations by providing coherent, unifying guidance to the Space Force on how to further integrate commercial efforts,” she said.

Further, discussing the actions of Elon Musk, chief executive officer of SpaceX, to limit the locations of Ukrainian operations in the Ukraine-Russia conflict, Saltzman said he is not concerned about continuing to work with the company.

“We write contracts with SpaceX, not Elon Musk, and we have several contracts in place with SpaceX. It clarifies all of our intentions in the full spectrum of operations,” he said.

“I have no reason to believe that the contracts wouldn't be fulfilled completely,” he continued.

The general also highlighted that the service has been in discussion with other companies about “expectation management” if the space operations move from “competition to crisis to conflict.”

“Half of this is about, you know, the old saying about plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. I think this is exactly the same kind of thing,” he stated.

“Let's work through the contingencies. Let's do the expectation management upfront. Let's document our findings. Let's document where we stand, and then we'll execute that way,” Saltzman said.