The Defense Department (DoD) is considering boosting the number of communications systems it owns and leases. The Air Force’s investments in new communications satellites will be influenced by decisions on how much capacity to procure and how much is going to come from DoD-owned assets.
Despite increased anticipation for new space internet vendors, some military purchasers are wary about commercial solutions as a substitute for government-developed systems, according to a senior procurement official.
“We see the LEO craze, as well as the additional capability that has become accessible… Customers, on the other hand, have a confidence issue,” stated Clare Grason, who is the head of the Space Force’s COMSATCOM (Commercial Satellite Communications Office), in an online session held by the Aerospace Corporation.
Commercial satellite services from low Earth orbit (LEO) are one of many alternatives available from LEO, medium orbit (MEO), and geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) satellite operators to meet military communications requirements. “I’m trying to have DoD comfortable that commercial systems are stable and dependable,” Grason said of her office, which is in charge of aligning military satcom demand to commercial vendors. “We’re attempting to foster trust.”
Most military purchasers of commercial satellite capacity”, according to Grason, still prefer to use commercial bandwidth on short-term leases rather than purchase fully managed services presently offered by the industry.
A seven-year agreement between the Department of Defense and Iridium Communications for unlimited usage of the company’s mobile communications constellation was inked in 2019. Otherwise, Grason stated that “most of what we’re acquiring today is transponder capacity. They [military customers] demand ownership and control of the ground segment, the terminals, and network traffic management.”
However, according to Grason, some users are becoming more accepting of commercial services. For example, the United States Army has just begun a pilot program to test commercial services, which will most certainly be followed by a managed service contract. The United States Marine Corps is considering doing the same.
She explained that “in many cases, the obstacle is essentially cultural.” The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan propelled commercial satellite communications purchases to a high in 2012. “There was a modest drop after 2012,” Grason explained. “Right now, our numbers are on the rise.”
The event on June 2 was intended to emphasize a recent white paper that gives government agencies broad principles for determining whether it makes sense to purchase commercial services. The “commercial readiness assessment framework” outlines how government agencies might evaluate commercial providers and markets in order to meet national needs.
Ronald Birk, who is the associate principal director at Aerospace and one of the report’s authors, said that for at least two decades, US administrations have told agencies to ” As much as feasible, use commercial,” but haven’t told them how to ” analyze the providers’ suitability and readiness.”
“When deciding to buy a commercial capability, government entities should identify the amount and extent of assessments required to align with their risk tolerance,” the Aerospace report stated. “We’re laying the groundwork to grow and focus on commercial relationships,” Grason said. “We’re seeing that in satcom,” says the space sector, which is at the vanguard of numerous fields.