WASHINGTON — The procurement arm of the U.S. Space Force is making a major push to work more closely with allies abroad and is pressing the Pentagon to adjust classification policies to allow more open information sharing with trusted international partners.
“We now have partnerships with 28 different countries, most of which happened within the last 18 months,” Lt. Gen. Michael Goettlin, commander of Space Systems Command, said Oct. 18 at the AFCEA Space Industry Days conference in Los Angeles. Angeles.
Gotlin said the command’s Office of International Affairs is busier than ever.
He said: “We now have employees in the Supreme Security Committee in Australia, Belgium, Germany and Japan, and there are more to come.” “We have international allies sitting with us here in Los Angeles from the UK, Germany and soon Australia.”
The Space Force is taking unprecedented steps to work with international partners because of the shared nature of the space domain and increasing global investments in space technology. Challenges from space debris to cyberattacks and anti-satellite weapons are common threats, and the Space Force says they would be best met by linking arms with allies.
“We’ve been talking with our international allies about common interface standards, so that everything they build or what we build can easily be linked together in the future,” Gotlin said.
Gotlin said he expects military sales of space equipment to allies — estimated at $570.5 million last year — to rise significantly. “My prediction is that over the next 12 to 24 months, it will rise to more than $4 billion.”
For the first time, the United States will sell a satellite jammer known as the Counter Communications System to Australia, Gotlin said.
However, hurdles remain, such as export controls that restrict the sharing of certain sensitive U.S. technologies, and classification policies that limit non-U.S. citizens’ access to software.
“We still have some political conflicts, but the door is more open than ever,” Gotlin said. He said that it is worth noting that some allies have been invited to participate in the design of the future satellite architecture of the US Space Force. “We have established what we call ‘Alliance by Design,’ with the Space Warfare Analysis Center (SWAC) now inviting allies to participate in discussions.”
“We leverage tools such as foreign military sales, joint development of revolutionary capabilities, and working across the board with our global aerospace industrial base,” Brig. Gen. Jason Cawthorn, deputy commander of Space Systems Command, said Oct. 19 at the 2023 MilSat Symposium in Mountain View, California.
Cawthorn said the Pentagon’s Office of Space Policy is trying to help “increase our ability to share information with our international partners.” “We are working with the Department of Defense to reconsider how information is classified.”
Although there are still barriers, he added, “I’ve certainly seen more progress recently than I’ve seen in the last 30 years.”
Forging strong international space partnerships will require a cultural shift within a U.S. military establishment that has traditionally prioritized secrecy and independence, said Diana Rials, director of the Space Systems Command’s Office of International Affairs in Los Angeles.
“We’re trying to bring partners and their industrial base and capabilities into space engineering,” Ryals said at the MilSat symposium.
The main challenge today is the difficulty of sharing information about space programs that are mostly classified. “The second thing is culture,” she said. “We have not yet fully accepted, on the government side, I don’t think, openness to partnerships with trade and industry.”
“We’re getting there,” Ryals added. “We are really working on it, and we have the leadership support and direction to make it happen.”
“Today we are doing a really good job of providing capabilities that our international partners and allies can purchase,” she said. Going forward, “What I would like us to do over the next five to 10 years is purchasing our allies’ systems and bringing those technologies and capabilities that are complementary to our own into their architecture. That’s what we’re pushing for.”
Ryals said many U.S. allies have built national space strategies to defend their satellites. They are investing in space domain awareness sensors, Earth observation and communications satellites. “Each of these areas is ready to either exploit what our allies and partners have, or allow them to purchase those capabilities and contribute them back to the engineering.”
Officials from Space Systems Command and representatives from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany and Japan will explore opportunities at an upcoming conference in Chantilly, Virginia. For the first time, countries will discuss ways they can work together to support the global supply chain for the space industry, Ryals said.
Satellite launches outside the United States
The Space Force has begun a “rapid-response space” program aimed at speeding up satellite launches. Ryals said the involvement of allies would be a big boost. “We need to open up responsive space around the world. We need launch capabilities in the Southern Hemisphere, and we need more launch capabilities outside the United States.”
Again, technology-sharing agreements could pose a problem if the United States wants to launch a payload from foreign soil, Rials said. “We have to continue to work with our government and our regulators to look at this, and we need the industry to send that message to our regulators.”
Allowing allies to participate in SWAC-led Space Force satellite architecture designs was a big step forward, she said. “We bring them in in the early stages of the acquisition process to find out what are they thinking, what are they doing? What are they building?” She added. “I think this will be a game-changer for us moving forward.”
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