The number of countries participating in the global space industry has skyrocketed in recent years. There are now 77 space agencies around the world (16 with launch capabilities). This massive growth is accelerating a Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) with new technologies being developed across industries that rely on free and unencumbered access to space. Disruption of services from space threatens public safety and economic stability.
The proliferation of, and dependence on, services provided by space assets demands that they be protected. Protecting commercial, civil, and military space assets from direct threats promotes a safe space ecosystem for all. Securing space requires more advanced technologies better positioned to maintain the safety, security, stability, and long-term sustainability of space.
Threats come from intentional actions, including physical attacks (which could create debris, an additional hazard), jamming of signals, or laser attacks that disable satellites. Not only do we need to protect our assets from known threats, but also those yet to be imagined.
The U.S. Space Force’s Space Rapid Capabilities Office (Space RCO), created in 2019 to accelerate government acquisition of key commercial space technologies, is looking for companies with proven track records and mature technologies to help protect space assets from threats. Specifically, Space RCO is pursuing products that:
Increase Space Visibility and Awareness using threat and hazard awareness capabilities that can quickly and accurately detect and prioritize threats either from the ground or space.
Advance Space Analysis and Vehicle Autonomy using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and/or autonomous technologies that reduce ground-based vehicle operator workload, inform intelligent vehicle response decisions, and decrease vehicle response time.
Increase Space Vehicle Lifespan and Maneuverability using advanced propulsion, refueling capabilities, and/or other fuel conservation innovations that allow space assets to maneuver freely without future negative consequences.
While companies may address each need individually, Space RCO is particularly interested in addressing the needs collaboratively in order to unlock new opportunities in space, enable safer and faster readiness and training activities, and even create new operating concepts not yet imagined. The ability to maneuver, coupled with timely awareness and decision support tools opens options for proactively avoiding threats or reactively responding to minimize threat effects. Taken together these capabilities may also open more orbit options, allow for more readiness and training activities, and even create opportunities for new operating concepts.