By Douglas Messier
To better leverage commercial capabilities, the U.S. Space Systems Command (SSC) has launched a program, the Front Door Initiative, to help companies better navigate the command’s convoluted organizational structure.
“When you guys come to us, you know who to talk to,” said Maj. Adam Bernetta, program manager for SSC’s Space Enterprise Consortium, during a keynote address on Tuesday at the Space Tech Expo in Long Beach, Calif.
Thirty years ago, governments accounted for 90 percent of space activity. With the commercial sector rapidly catching up, the US Space Force (USSF) realized it needs to improve its cooperation with private industry, Bernetta said.
The Front Door Initiative helps companies connect to three programs: Commercial Services Office (CSO), SpaceWERX and Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC).
CSO is focused on driving an “acquisitions paradigm shift” involving mature commercial technologies at a technology readiness level (TRL) of 8 or above that can be easily adapted for military uses, Bernetta said. The office’s focus includes communications services, collected data/information, infrastructure and related areas. CSO is attempting to establish a working capital fund for this area, he added.
SpaceWERX works through multiple programs to foster the development of nascent technologies with low TRLs, Bernetta said. Programs listed on SpaceWERX’s website include:
- Space Ventures works with industry to accelerate capabilities and allows USSF to act as an early-stage investor in companies;
- Small Business Innovation Research provides funding for companies developing innovative technologies;
- Small Business Technology Transfer Research awards funding for partnerships between companies and academic institutions;
- STRATFI/TACFI provides strategic and tactical funding increases to bridge the gap between SBIR/STTR grants and operational use;
- Space Spark connects end-users to lab engineers and acquirers to pursue novel solutions to their toughest challenges;
- Space Challenges allows individuals to propose solutions to challenges issued by USSF;
- Colliders brings together entrepreneurs, warfighters and experts to discuss current challenges; and
- Hyperspace Challenge connects technology startups with government innovators.
The Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC) uses an innovative contracting mechanism known as other transaction authority (OTA) to solicit bids for prototypes in a quicker and more agile manner, Bernetta said.
“The OTA’s innovative contracting process allows SpEC to solicit bids from a mix of member companies including companies that have not previously done work with the DoD. The SpEC OTA’s mission is to work to: minimize barriers to entry for small businesses and non-traditional vendors; promote integrated research and prototyping efficiencies; and leverage partnerships to increase flexibility and agility, reduce cost, improve technology and decrease program development cycles,” according to a website description.