The Department of Defense has recognized the urgent need for cutting-edge space technologies to stay ahead of its competitors in the evolving domain. In an environment where change is constant, a strong and readily available base of industry offerings can significantly speed up the rate at which the department is able to deploy the capabilities necessary to keep up in the race to dominate this critical domain.
To establish a marketplace of advanced space technologies and revolutionize the way the DOD approaches space technology acquisition, the Space Development Agency is working to assemble a “coalition of the willing and capable,” according to SDA Technical Director Frank Turner.
“We want a marketplace where people can go buy what they need to buy and be able to use it, and there are multiple sources that have the capability of providing things to the government, to other companies and to this enterprise,” Turner said during a keynote address at ExecutiveBiz’s Space Technologies Forum on Tuesday.
This initiative is built around several major considerations, including identifying spaces in which new mission partners can be found, determining how they can be brought together and offering them opportunities to to support the goals of SDA and the broader DOD, said Turner.
One aspect of bringing the marketplace to fruition is engaging small businesses. Integrating these partners into the effort is essential because it allows SDA to improve existing capabilities and “put things on our roadmap going forward that will make a difference in the fight,” Turner said.
Though the SDA has already crafted a plan for its future activities, Turner said the agency still heavily values input from emerging space companies on what new capabilities the DOD needs, what they will look like once completed and their development timelines.
The agency’s contract opportunities, said Turner, are questions for the private sector. When issuing requests for information, the agency is asking current and prospective collaborators for feedback on the feasibility of a program’s goals.
“We are trying to send that demand signal [to industry]. We’re trying to create these demands, but they can build more marketplace than we can enable,” he said.
To ensure that SDA and its potential partners are “speaking the same language,” the agency released a set of publicly available guidelines companies can refer to while communicating with SDA to help eliminate barriers that may hinder the collaboration process.
“Let’s get these sorts of things, these standards, these agreements on the street. Let’s work toward them and make sure that when we then start building the systems, we already have that first hump that we’re over – getting a capability,” he said.
These standards are not just available for U.S.-based organizations, but also for international allies looking to work with the agency.
Turner shared that SDA has already met with prospective partners from Japan who are interested in connecting a sovereign capability to the transport layer of SDA’s Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture constellation to share data with the U.S. The idea behind these talks, he said, is anticipating and preparing for future developments that would require a strong space infrastructure.
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