Image: Xona Space Systems

What’s New: Space Force touting expanded collaboration with industry and leveraging commercial capabilities. See this June press release about their Commercial Space Office.

Why It’s Important: This could give a real boost to companies dedicated to establishing LEO PNT constellations.

What To Know: 

  • The Space Development Agency, which reports to an Undersecretary of Defense, not Space Force, says it is establishing a government-owned LEO constellation that will provide ‘enhanced navigation.’
  • Constellations of commercial LEO communications satellites have been used for navigation. However,
    • Accuracy is not nearly as good as from dedicated PNT constellations
    • Most communications satellites need GPS or another GNSS to properly function.
  • Full disclosure, two LEO PNT companies, Xona Space Systems and Trustpoint, are RNTF members/supporters.’


Commercial Space Office Brings Unity of Effort to Industry Collaboration

  • Published 
  • By Linda Kane, SSC Public Affairs

By unifying key commercial initiatives under one roof, the newly expanded COMSO is structured to take full advantage of a booming commercial space industry.

Space Systems Command (SSC) has broadened the scope and responsibilities of its Commercial Services Office to maximize and optimize opportunities for commercial collaboration in its race to resilience by 2026. The office is now known as the Commercial Space Office (COMSO). It includes the Commercial Satellite Communications Office (CSCO), the Space Domain Awareness Marketplace, the SSC Front Door, the partnership with AFRL and AFWERX for SpaceWERX, and the Commercial Augmented Space Reserves program (CASR) currently in early stage development.

Col. Richard Kniseley is the Senior Materiel Leader overseeing the newly expanded COMSO.

“Private dollars are flowing into the commercial space industry at a record rate and innovation is flowing out at an all-time high,” said Kniseley. “The goal of COMSO is to leverage the full force of this innovation with speed, cost efficiency and minimal duplication of effort to deliver efficient and sufficient commercial space capabilities to the warfighter.”

By consolidating SSC’s various commercial enablers under one SML, COMSO removes seams between the various initiatives and establishes a central authority for synchronizing disparate efforts. COMSO will maximize synergies and integration with the Program Executive Officer’s Space Portfolios, as well as with SSC’s Space Systems Integration Office to align warfighter priorities.

“We are also increasing our dialogue with other agencies involved in commercial space development efforts, including  NRO, NGA, and NASA,” said Kniseley.

As cited by the Hon. Frank Calvelli, echoed by the CSO,  and formalized in SSC’s exploit-buy-build strategy, commercial collaboration is critical to U.S. and allied efforts to outpace near peer challengers and adversaries. Building on the success of SSC’s Commercial Satellite Communications Office (CSCO) and Space Domain Awareness Marketplace, COMSO will cast an even wider commercial innovation net. Expanded areas of interest will include launch services; range and network operations; on-orbit servicing and logistics; weather monitoring; space situational awareness; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and data generation, analysis and transport.

In addition to full-service and hybrid service solutions, COMSO’s acquisition focus will also include technologies and end-user equipment.

“Part of accelerating speed is minimizing duplication of effort and taking advantage of what’s already in motion,” noted Kniseley. COMSO aims to do this through a four step process of monitoring, implementing, integrating and assessing.

“Before we start a new contract, we’ll be going out to our agency and combatant command partners to inventory what companies they have on contract, the different mission areas they cover, and their timelines for completion,” he said. This monitoring phase also includes commercial market analysis, posing questions such as: Which companies have more mature areas? Which areas are less mature? And where does nascent development warrant more investment?

“Having alignment with SpaceWERX is ideal because it gives us direct access to an established avenue for maturing those areas and companies we determine to be in the best position to help us deliver fight tonight capabilities,” said Kniseley.

The implementation phase focuses on contracts. Kniseley said COMSO will be working closely with the broader spectrum of space development organizations to take advantage of existing contracts and/or model the most flexible and fast contracts available to deliver capability quickly while also leaving room to innovate.

The integration phase focuses on accelerating commercial technology transfer to operational capability. Assessment closes the loop by evaluating the results and improving on subsequent iterations.

“The key is to move quickly to enable the rapid assessment and integration of commercial opportunities to address our warfighter priorities and capability gaps,” said Kniseley.

Strategic planning and funding are also top priorities in COMSO‘s aggressive year-one agenda.

“With SAF and USSF/S8, we will expand our understanding of existing funding sources and define current (FY23) needs and develop clearly defined budgets for FY24, FY25 and FY26 to inform unfunded requirements and POM decisions,” said Kniseley. “Additionally, we will focus on understanding how to implement flexible contracting, aligned with the FAR, and leveraging the successes of mission partners, including the NRO and Space Development Agency, to enable this office to move with speed and agility to identify and integrate commercial capabilities in support of the warfighter.“

Front Door will continue to be SSC’s one-stop-shop for industry to engage with and learn about SSC. To keep pace with industry demand for access, Kniseley said a new and more robust Front Door website will launch in Q3 to handle heavier traffic flow and provide more timely responses.

Also in year one, Kniseley said COMSO will issue the Commercial Augmented Space Reserve Framework and open a new collaboration space in the national capital region with technology transfer support provided by VT-ARC, a research organization associated with Virginia Tech.  By October of 2024, Kniseley expects to have a working capital fund established, which will allow COMSO to seamlessly pursue quick capabilities and expand into new mission areas.

From new collaboration spaces to new forms of funding, things are moving fast at SSC’s newly expanded Commercial Space Office.