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HomeDefenseDoD launches new 'effort' to rapidly adopt commercial space capabilities

DoD launches new ‘effort’ to rapidly adopt commercial space capabilities

Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu speaks during a press briefing announcing a university-affiliated research center initiative with historically Black colleges and universities, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., June 27, 2022. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

SPACE SYMPOSIUM — The Defense Department is launching a new “effort” to closely collaborate with the private sector in hopes of better harnessing commercial space capabilities for the US military, the Pentagon’s top technology officer said today. 

“The goal of this effort is to incorporate [the] incredible innovation system of the commercial space economy and link them into our joint warfighting concepts to access and accelerate capability adoption,” Heidi Shyu, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, said today at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. 

Military space organizations have long clamored for, and are working towards, integrating their efforts more closely with commercial sector players, but Shyu’s announcement suggests the broader Pentagon sees cross collaboration in the space domain as a priority.

She added that the news of the effort doesn’t imply that DoD isn’t innovating on its own, but rather that there needs to be more rapid acceleration of the capabilities within the space “ecosystem.” The effort will be spearheaded by Lindsay Millard, the principal director for space in Shyu’s office.

“We will actively work to understand how commercial companies assess risks and adopt new technologies, how to break down government-commercial barriers, [and] how to rapidly transition commercial capabilities to be available to the US government and allies and partners when needed,” Shyu added. “We need to take advantage of the diversity of novel ideas and products available from the commercial sector to complement the DoD space and deliver capabilities to our warfighter at a far quicker pace.”

The new initiative follows US Space Command’s own efforts to collaborate more closely with industry. Earlier this month, SPACECOM announced it would be establishing its own new Commercial Integration Office also focused on adopting commercial capabilities.

That office will be stood up this spring and will coordinate with the command’s Joint Task Force-Space Defense and Combined Force Space Component Command.

Earlier in January, SPACECOM also launched an Industry Engagement Portal for the commercial sector to get involved with the command and implement its Commercial Integration Strategy

“Our success and competitive edge will enable the United States and our allies and partners to maintain our advantage in space, our relentless exploration of this endless frontier of scientific knowledge, combined with our ingenious invention of new technologies will strengthen national security,” Shyu said at the symposium.

Other efforts spearheaded by Shyu aimed at engaging with commercial industry — not necessarily solely focused on space — include the Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve, a series of experiments focused on closing joint gaps with commercial prototypes. DoD’s forthcoming science and technology strategy will also showcase how the department plans to move ahead on its rapid prototyping efforts.

During last year’s Reagan National Defense Forum, Shyu also announced the establishment of the Strategic Capital Office (OSC) meant to provide startups with long term funding in order to bridge the “valley of death” where innovative technologies fail to transition into programs of record.

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