WASHINGTON — The chief of the U.S. Space Force said Feb. 13 the service’s long-awaited plan for partnering with private space companies is in its final stages, and currently is being coordinated with the Office of the Secretary of Defense.  

The commercial strategy has been highly anticipated by companies across the space industry that seek more clarity around how they can compete for future contracts as the Space Force takes shape.

Space Force chief Gen. Chance Saltzman last year revealed his office was working on a blueprint to guide the Space Force’s integration of commercial satellite services into military activities, aiming to leverage private sector innovation to modernize legacy systems. 

Speaking with reporters at the Air & Space Forces Association’s Warfare Conference in Aurora, Colorado, Saltzman said the commercial space strategy is very close to being completed. 

“I’m hesitant to say imminent because I think I’ve said that too many times,” he commented. One reason for the latest delay is that it is being coordinated with the Pentagon’s space policy office, which has also been drafting a commercial space strategy. 

“We wanted to synchronize with the secretary of defense’s staff that’s working on a commercial strategy, so we are making sure that our teams mesh together,” Saltzman said. “That’s kind of what the current delay is.”

Strategy needs to be ‘actionable’

Saltzman previously said he was not happy with early drafts of the strategy because it didn’t have specific enough guidance on what services, for example, the Space Force would outsource to the private sector, and he wanted the document to be more “actionable”. 

Industry executives have said they want the Space Force to articulate a vision and create opportunities for private firms that are investing in satellites and other systems aimed at providing services to commercial and government customers.

Saltzman said he’s had interactions with industry “and I get a lot of feedback. So we are still incorporating feedback into that document to make sure it’s as useful for industry as possible.”

At the AFA conference Feb. 12, the Department of the Air Force unveiled a series of initiatives aimed at reshaping the Air Force and Space Force to concentrate resources on the strategic competition with China.

One of those initiatives is the establishment of a “Space Futures Command” to focus on the way forward. Saltzman said this new command will need to forge ties with the commercial space industry.

“We absolutely are going to leverage industry in the Futures Command,” he said. The military doesn’t always have “the best ideas on what technologies maybe an adversary would use against us or which ones might be a true force multiplier for us to use,” he said. “I expect industry to maybe have some ideas about that, about our operational concepts for how to use systems.”

“We have some ideas,” said Saltzman. “But industry has given us some really good ideas as well. So involving them in some of our war games, some of our tabletop exercises, really being partners and collaborating early in this process, that is my plan,” he added. “They’ll know what our challenges are. They’ll know what our needs are.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...