WASHINGTON — The Space Force is moving forward with plans to establish a commercial space reserve to ensure the U.S. military has access to commercial satellite services during conflicts.

In a request for information issued July 24, the Space Systems Command asks contractors to submit comments by Aug. 11 on the Commercial Augmentation Space Reserve (CASR) program.

CASR is an initiative to establish agreements with companies to ensure services like satellite communication and remote sensing are prioritized for U.S. government use during national security emergencies.

The initial thinking on CASR is to model it after the Air Force Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) program, where during crises the government calls upon commercial airlines to carry out transport missions.

“The Space Force is actively investigating the viability of implementing a similar model for space capabilities under the CASR construct,” said the RFI.

Government has to define ‘framework’

Col. Rich Kniseley, head of the Commercial Space Office, said the government wants to define a “CASR framework to ensure that the Space Force can leverage the capabilities of the commercial space industry to enhance the resilience, capacity, and effectiveness of its national security space architecture.”

Commercial companies that want to be part of CASR would enter into voluntary pre-negotiated contractual arrangements.

The Space Force and U.S. Space Command would “develop minimum requirements for CASR companies during peacetime, and minimum commitment of capability,” said the RFI.

An issue that has to be sorted out is how U.S.-based foreign companies would participate in CASR. 

The U.S. military, noted the RFI, “acquires a significant percentage of commercial satellite communications support from U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-based parent corporations.”

This creates a risk that those services may not be available during a conflict if foreign parent corporations terminate support based on government pressure or adversary coercion, the RFI said. “Risks must be assessed and mitigated, to the extent practicable.”

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...