The White House and Congress have made funding space defense a high priority, and Congress looks poised to authorize a Space Force in some form.
In the Washington, D.C. area, government contractors are poised to benefit from the government’s growing interest in and spending on space defense.
The Government Is Prioritizing Space Defense
The Pentagon has proposed spending $14 billion on space defense in fiscal 2020, more than 20% of the total amount it proposed spending on “air domain” projects. The Pentagon also proposed establishing a Space Force as a separate component within the Air Force.
The House Armed Forces Committee has voted to establish a space force within the Air Force, although it refers to the unit as a “Space Corps,” according to a report issued by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) on June 27. The Senate Armed Services Committee also voted to establish a space force within the Air Force. But CSIS warns that the committee “ never explicitly declares the establishment of a new service of the U.S. military, although it is clearly implied. “ Nevertheless, CSIS says “ it is likely that military space reorganization will be placed in the final version of the” fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
During ManTech’s earnings conference call, the company’s CEO, Kevin Phillips, said the Pentagon’s budget “request marks the fifth consecutive year of steady, total budget growth with priority funding for strengthening the nation’s position across all warfighting domains, but particularly in space and cyber.”
Herndon, VA-based ManTech company looks very well-positioned to benefit from the government’s increased prioritization of space defense. In October 2018, it announced that it had received a ten-year, $158 million contract from the U.S. Air Force Space Command to provide “security services.” That deal came a little more than a year after ManTech won a ten-year contract worth up to $450 million from NASA “to manage and transform” the organization’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Institutional Computing Environment (ICE).
Based in Germantown, MD, Hughes, owned by publicly traded satellite giant Echostar, is developing networking technology for the DoD’s satellite communications systems. The technology will make satcom systems more resilient and compatible with other systems “in contested environments,” Hughes told ClearanceJobs in an email. Additionally, the company has developed many ground networks that communicate with satellites for the DoD.
In April, Hughes was awarded a contract by Boeing to develop software for an “anti-jam” satcom project. According to a Hughes press release, the Air Force plans to use the satcom developed through the project, expected to last through 2025, to enhance the secure communications capabilities of its combatants.
The Pentagon awarded Hughes a follow-on contract in May 2018 to “assess the feasibility” of enabling multiple satcom systems to interface with each other. Specifically, Hughes is developing a prototype of a modem interface that would enable various satcom systems to securely work together and provide communications capabilities in combat areas.
“Not since the Kennedy era have we seen so much excitement about the space industry,” the company’s president, Pradman Kaul, wrote recently.
SAIC, based in Reston, VA, says that it’s currently working on multiple types of space-based projects, including “hypervelocity weapons, space traffic management, lunar gateways (moon-orbiting space stations), and cyber hardening.” The company is also developing space-based “command and control infrastructure” and integrating technologies in space.
Meanwhile, SAIC is “building a satellite/robot that will extend the mission lives of current satellites in orbit.” SAIC’s product will fix satellites while they’re in orbit, the company indicated. The company is also advising NASA’s engineers who work on the International Space Station and helping the organization plan space walks, the company stated.
Whether it’s a Space Force or a Space Corps, the Pentagon’s expanding interest in space will certainly mean more opportunities for government contractors.