WASHINGTON — U.S. Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman said the Space Force is finalizing a blueprint for how it will integrate commercial satellite services into military activities. 

“One way we are enhancing our relationships with commercial partners is through a soon to be released commercial space strategy,” Saltzman said Sept. 13 at the Global Aerospace Summit organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

“This new strategy will provide a unifying guidance to the force to achieve competitive advantage through commercial augmentation,” he said.

The Space Force and the U.S. military at large rely on commercial companies for a wide range of peacetime and wartime services, but Saltzman said there is need for specific guidance on emerging space industry services — such as rapid-revisit satellite imaging and low-Earth orbit satellite communications — many of which have only become available in recent years.

He characterized the current period as a “true golden era for commercial space.”

“One way we are addressing future challenges is by exploring ways to better integrate commercial space,” Saltzman said. 

“Commercial capabilities, services and activities are expanding rapidly. The competition we are seeing today in commercial space is driving innovation and the Space Force wants to harness these efforts,” he said. “We know our commercial partners are a big reason that we can out compete our adversaries.”

“The speed and innovation offered by the commercial space sector can create a strategic advantage,” Saltzman said. The goal of the strategy is to help harness that innovation, he added. “I’m hopeful it will be approved and published in the weeks to come.”

‘Terms of reference’

Saltzman said the new guidance will help clarify the role of commercial providers and how their capabilities might be integrated into military operations, he added. “We will have terms of reference that the Space Force has created to help our industry partners address the augmentation and integration of commercial space capabilities.”

“My hope is that this will bring some clarity to the industry so that they can globally support and augment inherently governmental and military activities that we project from the space domain,” Saltzman explained.

As the conflict in Ukraine has shown us, space is critical to modern warfare,” he said. “It has played a vital role in communications, precision navigation and timing, missile warning, command and control, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance.”

“Commercial augmentation has proven its value during this conflict,” particularly in satellite-based surveillance. “It’s unclassified. It has promoted shareability It has enabled us to supplement classified data, he added.

‘Fundamental conversation’

The commercial strategy is intended to help Space Force buyers and contractors speak the same language, Saltzman said. “It’s important that we’re all having the same fundamental conversation. We have to define our terms.”

For example, he said, “we define augmentation as the use of commercial space goods, services and activities to increase both capacity and resilience. Similarly, we define what we mean by commercial activity, what is a critical function, what are inherently governmental functions, what tasks can be executed by the private sector.” 

With regard to the protection of satellites during conflicts, Saltzman noted that the Space Force intends to work with military allies and private companies to ensure collective security, enabled by data sharing.

“Going forward, all space users will be in the combat zone during a conflict. You cannot separate civilian and military assets in this domain. So we all share the risk if a war comes to space.”

“We need to increase our collaboration with the commercial space industry to enable new capabilities that support integrated deterrence,” he said. This integration includes data sharing, and interoperability between our allies and industry partners.”

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...