COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Space Force’s long-awaited commercial space strategy offers near-term action steps to improve the way it procures private-sector space capabilities, though it lacks detail on how the service plans to pay for them.

The 19-page document, released April 10, provides a broad look at the service’s vision for a more integrated government-commercial space architecture. It promises greater reliance on private systems in the pursuit of a diversified, resilient network of satellites and ground capabilities.

“The Space Force will pivot to a new model for integrating commercial space solutions,” the document states. “The hybrid space architectures we field will integrate Department of Defense, commercial and allied space systems into more resilient, redundant and combat-effective capabilities.”

The Space Force has made some steps over the last few years to better engage with commercial industry, encouraging the acquisition workforce to look for off-the-shelf capabilities before building new government-owned systems. Last year, it created an office tasked with finding more opportunities to buy commercial systems and services.

The service had planned to release its strategy last fall, but Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman called for more details and fewer platitudes. Since then, it has moved through multiple revisions ensure it aligns with a similar Pentagon-level strategy, which was released last week.

The document lays out action steps for the service, designating offices to lead the charge and setting near-term goals. It also spells out which mission areas are most primed for commercial partnership, putting satellite communications, space domain awareness, in-orbit servicing and logistics and tactical surveillance, reconnaissance and tracking toward the top of the list.

However, it only briefly addresses what funding will be required to implement it. An earlier version of the strategy drafted in February and obtained by C4ISRNET included a section committing to prioritizing commercial capabilities in the Space Force’s annual budget and called on the service to double its spending on commercial services over the next two years.

The draft also called for the service to begin to make changes to institutional processes and begin integrating commercial systems and services as part of the fiscal 2026 budget process.

The final version references the need to realign funding with commercial priorities, but doesn’t include the details from the earlier draft.

“Current funding levels and annual budgeting requests must evolve to achieve the desired end states,” the final document states. “As hybrid architectures are integrated into USSF force designs, budgets will be realigned and reprioritized to fully support their fielding. Likewise, as the [commercial space strategy] matures, the USSF will make any necessary organizational adjustments to fully leverage the operational benefits gained by hybrid architectures.”

Speaking April 10 at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo., Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman acknowledged that the strategy doesn’t provide the granular detail many companies and government organizations may be looking for.

He noted that as the service implements the strategy, it will need to make “tough choices” about where to shift funding in order to invest more in commercial systems.

“If you read the strategy expecting to see the answers to the most challenging promises of commercial integration, you’ll be disappointed,” he said. “But if you understand that effective integration will only come about with a common understanding of our priorities . . . I think you’ll find this document useful — useful as a tool to drive process change, to shift our mindset and useful to see the space versus relationship with industry in a new light.”


The strategy’s near-term lines of effort fall into four categories: collaborative transparency, operational and technical integration, risk management and emerging technology. While the document is vague on which specific processes need to change to support the strategy, it notes that it will soon release a planning ordnance that fleshes out any adjustments or new initiatives in more detail.

Within the first focus area, the service aims to increase its awareness of commercial capabilities and find ways to draw them into existing programs. It will also work to expose its own workforce to the private sector to learn from commercial best practices and better understand challenges.

The operational and technical line of effort addresses the policies and processes the Space Force will need to adjust in order to integrate more commercial systems. It lists how each mission area will leverage these capabilities and which will rely more on bespoke government systems. The latter category includes areas like positioning, navigation and timing, and command and control.

“For mission areas where the USSF has determined relevance for commercial integration, all USSF units will be able to operate within a framework and secure the tools necessary to fully integrate commercial space solutions,” the document states. “For each relevant mission, the USSF will ensure that there is a process to flexibly select commercial vendors to meet Joint Force operational needs.”

Mitigating risk

Another goal within this effort is to “aggressively” pursue commercial integration within its test and training systems. That includes taking advantage of commercial ranges and other training capabilities.

The third line of effort is focused on helping mitigate the risk commercial firms accept by supporting military space operations. The service notes that industry needs to have a better sense of the threats they face from U.S. adversaries and says it will develop a process to more quickly provide that information.

The Space Force also commits to reducing the classification barriers and improving clearance processes.

Finally, the strategy calls for the service to develop a process for scouting emerging technology in the commercial sector and work more closely with organizations already doing this work, like the Defense Innovation Unit, AFWERX and SpaceWERX.

“The USSF must establish a process to look across commercial offerings, to include traditional and non-traditional space sector, to identify the cross-cutting capabilities and services that can satisfy operational requirements,” it says.

Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.

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