SAN FRANCISCO – U.S. and U.K. defense agencies plan to award $1 million to startups at the first International Space Pitch Day in November during the Defence Space Conference in London.
The event, backed by the U.K. Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Royal Air Force, U.S. Space Force and NATO, is designed to identify commercial technology with military space applications.
“This is all about fast-tracking innovation and cutting-edge technology to the front line quicker than ever before, and fresh ways of working with industry to make sure we stay ahead of our shared adversaries and the threats they pose,” Director Space Air Vice-Marshal Harv Smyth said in a statement.
The rapid pace of space technology development around the world is prompting military organizations to look beyond national borders to find promising technology. The Techstars Allied Space Accelerator established in 2019, for example, received funding from the U.S. Air Force, Netherlands Ministry of Defence, Norwegian Ministry of Defence and Norwegian Space Agency support.
“For more than two years, we have broken down barriers for innovative companies with great ideas to work with the government,” Will Roper, Air Force assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in a statement. “Now, with International Space Pitch Day, we are once again expanding our opportunities for partnership with international companies bringing pioneering capabilities to our Space Force professionals.”
International Space Pitch Day will be the culminating event for a new Allied Defence Accelerator. Unlike accelerators focused on fine-tuning business models or preparing products for sale, the Allied Defence Accelerator focuses on international readiness.
“We’re lowering the barriers for startups to do business with the Ministry of Defence and Department of Defense,” Van Espahbodi, Starburst Aerospace co-founder and managing partner, told SpaceNews.
Starburst Aerospace will work with the U.K. Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) to provide training and mentoring for startups admitted to the Allied Defence Accelerator.
Companies interested in participating in the Allied Defence Accelerator must complete a DASA registration questionnaire by Aug. 19. Proposals are due Sept. 2. On Oct. 15, the Allied Defence Accelerator will announce companies selected to take part in a five-week mentoring and training program.
To be admitted to the Allied Defence Accelerator, startups must offer technology to address challenges like visualizing on-orbit conjunctions, understanding space weather’s impact on various systems and merging space domain data sources.
“Through this pitch-day event, we will tap into the genius of the commercial space industry, who will provide new technologies and services for the U.S. and our allies,” Lt. Gen. John Thompson, Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center commander, said in a statement. “Creating new economic opportunities with our industry partners, ensures a robust space economy, which is vital to retaining our advantage in this important warfighting domain.”
During International Space Pitch Day, a panel of U.K. and U.S. military leaders plans to award contracts worth $66,000 or less for as many as 15 projects proposed. Each project must be completed in three months of less.
“Contracts awarded as a result of this competition will fall under an extant memorandum of understanding between the U.K. Ministry of Defence and U.S. Department of Defense,” according to the International Space Pitch Day Competition rules. “This will facilitate the unimpeded exchange of proposals, prototypes and associated information between the U.K. and U.S. governments. However, this effective exemption from export controls only applies to the U.K. and U.S., not to third countries, and all bidders must therefore abide by the export control requirements of their originator country.”