Once the domain of only a few technologically advanced nations, there are now more than 70 nations operating earth-orbiting satellites. More importantly, space has also become the domain of a range of commercial companies involved in spacecraft launch and operations, with some space entrepreneurs even planning missions to distant asteroids and planets.
For example, there is a growing recognition that the way we conduct space situational awareness needs to be different in the future. The DoD needs to put greater reliance on commercial capability to do some of the work for military and civil agencies. Companies like AGI with their Commercial Space Operations Center (ComSpOC), the Shafer Corporation, and others are pushing the boundaries of what commercial can do in the Space Situational Awareness arena.
Satellite flight and ground operations are also ripe for commercialization. Commercial operators are already capable of providing space flight and ground services to the U.S. and other governments. Companies often conduct operations with more experienced personnel and less expensive CONOPS. This would provide the opportunity to re-purpose resources for higher priority missions; improve network reliability, diversity, and resiliency; and promote technology insertion more affordably.
Intelsat alone flies 75 satellites using a network of some 550 ground antennas at 30 locations worldwide, with about 100 people—including all bus and payload operations and engineering — but less than ten of these per shift are satellite controllers.
And of course there is Satellite Communications. The U.S. government has relied on commercial space increasingly since Desert Storm across different mission areas, but none more than commercial satellite communications. The U.S. government leased commercial capacity because it did not have enough military satellite bandwidth to support multiple missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are many reasons for governments to rely more heavily on commercial space capabilities, but three are key:
To meet those threats, DoD leaders are refocusing on the value industry brings to the mission. We understand the problem. We understand the benefits of solving it. We have proven solutions.
All the building blocks are in place for a new partnership in space. All that is needed now is action.
This post was produced by Intelsat General and is being presented on SpaceNews.com as partner content.