At the Space Symposium earlier this spring, a single question was on the minds of many: as space becomes an increasingly adversarial domain, what will move faster? Our technology – or the threat?

The Space Force was founded under the rapid acceleration of adversary activity in the space domain, including the new threats of cyber and directed energy attacks. And earlier this year, U.S. Space Force Gen. Stephen Whiting warned Congressional committees of the need to defend U.S. satellites from threats posed by anti-satellite weapons developed by China and Russia that have the potential to disrupt global GPS capabilities vital to the U.S. military. 

Government leaders are well aware of the challenge, and the recognition is evident in the Space Force’s recently-released Commercial Strategy. As Gen. Chance Salzman and Secretary Frank Cavelli wrote in their framing of the document, “We must tap into the spirit of American entrepreneurship, innovation and vibrant competitive markets to be successful and sustain our competitive advantage across the spectrum of conflict in this era of Great Power Competition.”  

Outpacing the threat requires agility and adaptability — the timeline from concept to operational capability must be condensed. The government must find ways to quickly frame new requirements, accelerate new technologies and understand the best solutions available from the commercial industry. To do this, government leaders need help — urgently — from current Space Force prime contractors, like the one I lead. 

Making use of innovation from industry doesn’t just mean finding best-in-class data capabilities in Silicon Valley or hardening commercial technology for space. It also means adopting a new mindset for traditional space contractors. Cooperation from current primes will be critical in ensuring that new solutions can be fielded as agency and Space Force requirements rapidly evolve. We must work to establish an understanding of technology, at speed and at scale, and find innovative pathways to deliver the best capabilities to the government in areas like space domain awareness and positioning, navigation and timing. 

For Intelsat, this means actively seeking out new capabilities for partnership and pass-through to the customer, from real-time space-based intelligence, to atmospheric laser communications, to new software programs that integrate intelligence for the end user. And it means putting investment dollars into the innovation ecosystem, as we’ve recently done with new, promising upstarts like Aalyria. 

We must also find new pathways to ensure that capabilities are fielded — in some cases, with more creative contracting methods than a program-of-record ecosystem has historically allowed, including managed-services models like the Army’s recent SaaMS pilot, which enables the customer to rapidly redeploy terminals and offers the flexibility to quickly respond to different types of missions and operations around the globe. Finding these mechanisms shouldn’t be the sole burden of the customer. It should be an area where contractors like us apply our resources and thinking to drive outcomes. 

Technical innovation at the Pentagon has always been a paradox: despite the many innovations the military has provided to the commercial world, from GPS to the World Wide Web, the commercial innovation ecosystem has struggled to find ways to best service the DoD. With the Space Force Commercial Strategy, the customer has expressed an intent — and a desire for partnership.

To be an integrator in the age of an adversarial space domain is to work in the true sense of the word — to integrate the best technologies available to help the government solve their most critical problems. The $2.3 billion of unfunded requirements recently presented before Congress is indication enough of this urgency. It’s high time we do our part. 

Dave Broadbent is President of Intelsat Government Solutions. He is responsible for Intelsat’s government business globally.

Dave Broadbent is President of Intelsat Government Solutions. He is responsible for Intelsat’s government business globally.