HASC Stresses DOD Use of Commercial Space Services From Earth to the Moon

HASC Stresses DOD Use of Commercial Space Services From Earth to the Moon

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) will direct DOD to step up its use of commercial space services for everything from space domain awareness to addressing emerging defense needs in cislunar space in the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), H.R. 6395.  Committee action on the bill begins tomorrow.

All six HASC subcommittees will mark up their portions of the NDAA tomorrow and Tuesday. The Strategic Forces subcommittee, which handles most of the space portfolio, meets tomorrow. The committee released the draft text today and summarized key national security space provisions in a press release.

The committee’s focus on using commercial space services is evident throughout the draft report.

The committee directs DOD to award at least two contracts for low Earth orbit (LEO) commercial space domain awareness services (the new term for space situational awareness).  To drive home the message, the bill limits obligation of the funding provided for enterprise space battle management command and control until the awards are made.  Only 75 percent may be obligated until the contracts are signed.

The committee also wants DOD to use commercial services for space-based radio frequency mapping.  The draft report directs the Chief of Space Operations (CSO) in coordination with the Commander of U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) to report by December 1, 2020 on how those commercial services can support joint and allied warfighting capabilities, a plan to test and evaluate U.S. commercial services, and associated costs.  HawkEye 360 is perhaps the best known U.S. company offering such services.  At the moment, the CSO and Commander of USSPACECOM are the same person, Gen. Jay Raymond.

Expressing concern that establishment of the Space Development Agency (SDA) has been “rocky,” the committee wants SDA to focus on what it considers to be the top priorities of the planned transport layer and missile warning layer in LEO using commercial architectures.  It also wants SDA to keep the committee better informed on what it is doing overall.  “The committee supported the mission and the initial plans for SDA,” but those plans quickly changed and the committee was not informed.  The SDA’s “core mission” included plans to procure commercial space services, but those plans were “dropped, with its focus shifting instead to solely a payload and software development and procurement model.”  It wants a “detailed plan to procure commercial services, including funding requirements” by December 1, 2020.

In other SDA action, the committee reasserts Congress’s position that the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), not SDA, be responsible for developing the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS).  Congress made that clear in last year’s NDAA, but the Administration’s FY2021 budget request would move it to SDA. To make its point, the committee limits the amount of funds authorized for FY2021 to SDA for operations and maintenance to no more than 50 percent until DOD certifies that MDA has been given the HBTSS responsibility.

The committee offers praise for companies developing LEO broadband satellite communications systems and urges DOD to leverage them by developing defense-specific applications.

The committee’s insistence that DOD use commercial services does not stop at Earth orbit.  Noting it is aware DOD is assessing capabilities and requirements for cislunar space — the region between the Earth and the Moon —  including “space domain awareness, space weather, and space control,” the committee wants DOD to use commercial capabilities where possible.

In other space matters, the committee limits obligation or expenditure of funds for increment 2 of military GPS user equipment terminals to not more than 80 percent until DOD certifies that the Air Force is implementing section 1607 of the FY2020 NDAA to establish a program to prototype an M-code based, multi-Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver to increase resiliency and capability.

DOD’s efforts to ensure it has the weather satellite data it needs, particularly cloud characterization and theater weather imagery, continues to be an issue of concern. It dates back to the cancellation of the DOD-NOAA-NASA National Polar-orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) in 2010.  The committee “encourages” the Air Force to stop slipping the acquisition schedule and “to pursue modern technologies, instead of pursuing other risk reduction pathways that rely on outdated and costly systems that will not meet requirements.”

The draft language requires a number of reports, including the following.

  • How the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the CSO and the Commander of USSPACECOM coordinate on decisions about maneuvering national security satellites to avoid collisions.
  • How innovation in mission assurance requirements for National Security Space Launch and small launch can take into account reusability and advances in areas like artificial intelligence and thereby save costs.
  • What challenges are encountered by non-traditional space companies in competing with traditional defense prime contractors and pathways to resolve them.
  • What are the requirements for sustaining and improving the physical infrastructure at the Vandenberg and Cape Canaveral launch ranges.

Tomorrow’s subcommittee markup will be webcast on the committee’s website beginning at 1:00 pm ET.  Subcommittee markup is just one step in getting legislation signed into law. Any of these provisions could change and more could be added as the process unfolds.

The Senate Armed Services Committee completed markup of its version of the bill on June 10, but the full text has not been released yet.

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