The United States Space Force (USSF), the sixth and newest branch of the United States military, announced earlier this month that it awarded a $25.2 million, 39-month contract to Slingshot Aerospace, Inc., a company that produces space simulation and analytics products to accelerate space sustainability.

The contract from the U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command, which will receive strategic support from SpaceWERX, will facilitate delivery of two key Slingshot Aerospace products: the company’s Digital Space Twin, and the deployment of the Slingshot Laboratory training product for USSF. Funding was provided by Space Systems Command and SpaceWERX, the recently established venture arm of the Space Force, as part of its Strategic Financing (STRATFI) program.

Slingshot develops the Digital Space Twin, which simulates the space environment and maps “on-orbit” objects and space weather in real-time. The product is able to combine real-time mapping of the objects with physics based simulations to show users how planned missions will behave in the real space environment. It allows users to simulate various scenarios and identify the best approach to accomplishing missions.

The company has been developing the tool as a commercial product for the last two years, and with this new contract will adapt it for the Space Force missions, where it can be used to enhance the service’s ability to analyze and respond to current and future threats.

“The intent of the SpaceWERX STRATFI program is to scale technology development over the ‘valley of death’ by capitalizing on the most promising emerging commercial solutions to deliver better capabilities to the warfighter, faster,” said Lt. Col. Walter ‘Rock’ McMillan, Director, SpaceWERX. “Each year, the STRATFI program places its ‘big bets’ on the most innovative technologies that meet critical mission gaps. Slingshot’s space education and simulation products have garnered support from across the Space Force operational and acquisition community as we see tremendous value in the technology.”

Wargaming, Mission Planning and Spacecraft Design

The USSF could utilize the technology in a number of ways that could include wargaming, mission planning, and spacecraft and constellation design.

As a wargaming tool – also known as scenario planning – it could be used as a critical aspect of maintaining national security. The Slingshot Aerospace’s Digital Space Twin could train individuals to visualize potential nefarious acts that could occur in orbit. And by being apprised of and understanding the impact of current threats, users could then employ known data to plan and simulate responses and predict future adversary behavior in order to maintain national security.

The Space Force Guardians are currently charged with operating satellites and other space objects from earth, however, the inherent complexity of the space environment makes it difficult to employ predictive modeling of scenarios in response to real world events. By using the Digital Space Twin, Guardians could hone their mission planning skills via simulated scenarios that are otherwise challenging to visualize. In one example, the Guardians could employ the Digital Space Twin to map out the best course of action when an unknown object approaches a satellite of interest. The Digital Space Twin provides a real-world, hands-on environment to simulate mission execution so the Space Force can identify the most viable way to respond.

In addition, the technology could be used with spacecraft and constellation design. As the Space Force must identify the constellation’s design to combatant command’s need, the service must consider various approaches. Guardians can use the Digital Space Twin model to evaluate the safest, fastest and most effective way to deploy the satellite constellation. The technology can also enable users to quickly model various scenarios and identify the best path forward, taking into account safety, effectiveness and cost.

Moreover, by simulating the launch and the orbital environment using the Digital Space Twin, the government can identify the approach that eliminates the most risk and provides the greatest likelihood of success.

“Space is a complex, rapidly evolving and unforgiving environment,” explained Melanie Stricklan, co-founder and CEO at Slingshot Aerospace.

“Our Digital Space Twin is an unprecedented leap forward that provides a high-fidelity, physics-driven simulation of the actual, live space environment,” Striklan added. “This combined with the deployment of Slingshot Laboratory creates an extraordinarily powerful product suite that simply didn’t exist before. I couldn’t be more excited to know that our team and technology has the opportunity to vastly improve and optimize operational decision-making, increase overall readiness, and ultimately empower our Guardians and Airmen to out-innovate a determined adversary.”


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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.