Space Force wants to create a more welcoming environment for private industry

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Joy White: 'We've got to get a more clear access point for commercial industry'

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force’s procurement arm based in Los Angeles has launched a new effort to attract commercial space companies that do not typically work with the government, Joy White, executive director of the Space Systems Command, said Feb. 16.

The plan is to have Space Force representatives assigned at different locations in the United States who can engage with interested companies and identify opportunities for the Space Force to invest in “high potential technologies,” White said at a Space Foundation virtual event. 

White, who is also head of contracting at Space Systems Command, said the initiative was named “SSC front door” although it is still in its infancy. “We’ve got to get a more clear access point for commercial industry to come in and to bring us their ideas, and bring us their technologies. So that is what SSC front door is intended to do.”

Teams assigned to the SSC front door effort will be based at the command’s headquarters in Los Angeles but also at other space industry hotbeds like NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Others will be in Colorado Springs and Kirtland, New Mexico, home of the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Space Rapid Capabilities Office. In the future the plan is to bring people to the Washington, D.C. area as well, she said, “because there’s so much opportunity there to talk with folks and understand what capabilities are out there.”

The Space Systems Command is a massive organization with an $11 billion annual budget and nearly 10,000 personnel. White said the command has set a goal of transforming the military’s space architecture from one dominated by huge satellites in geostationary Earth orbit to more proliferated networks deployed in lower and higher orbits that would be more difficult for adversaries to attack. 

The command has a 2026 target date to have new networks of satellites in orbit and needs help from the private sector, said White.

The Space Systems Command was stood up in August 2021, replacing the Space and Missile Systems Center which was first established in 1954, making it the oldest space organization in the U.S. military. “Over decades programs have gotten bogged down by traditional processes,” said White. The new chief of Space Systems Command,  Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein, is restructuring the organization to be more agile, she said.

White said the front door initiative is one of many efforts to ensure “we keep pace with the innovation of the commercial space sector.”

The command is still fine-tuning the front door concept so it doesn’t become too complex for small businesses, she said. “One thing I worry about is whether we have too many doors and so it might be confusing as to how to come in. We’ve got to get that tightened up.”