U.S. military space officials want to streamline acquisition and cut costs and time to develop, buy and operate a new line of more relevant satellites. Credit: Northrop Grumman artist's concept

WASHINGTON — The Space Enterprise Consortium — an organization created in 2017 to attract space companies to work on military contracts — is canvassing firms to gauge the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on businesses.

The consortium known as SpEC is run by the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles. It has more than 350 member companies, many of them space startups and small businesses.

In an April 15 email the consortium asked members to identify those that have fewer than 50 employees.

“As you know, COVID has increased the government’s concern regarding the health of the defense industrial base,” said the email. “The Space and Missile Systems Center would like to understand how many SpEC members are ‘very small’ – defined as 50 or less employees. We ask that you please respond to this email – the data may support COVID related funding for additional SpEC opportunities.”

Senior DoD and SMC leaders have voiced concerns that the pandemic is straining businesses that develop cutting-edge technologies for the U.S. military.

Using a nontraditional contracting process known as Other Transaction Authorities, the SpEC solicits bids for projects and awards contracts much faster than traditional procurement agencies. So far more than $500 million worth of space technology projects have been awarded. SMC projects the consortium will award $12 billion in projects over the next 10 years.

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...