There are two emerging Space-as-a-Service trends, with one taking on the acronym SPaaS, and referring to the paradigm shift in the way the commercial real estate industry provides products and services to tenants, changing the role of commercial landlords from rent collectors to service providers. As it readjusts to post-COVID office realities, the government contracting sector could see the benefits of SPaaS to address the challenges of finding affordable office space in highly saturated markets, such as around the nation’s capital. But is a different Space-as-a-Service that is now coming into focus – and opening up the doors to billions in commercial sector space spending.
“Outer Space” Needs
In this case, it is about the literal heavens above, rather than the proverbial cloud – and it involves the way that the U.S. Space Force, along with the private sector, could deploy satellites into Earth’s orbit. It still involves an office – in this case, the Commercial Services Office (COMSO).
Space Systems Command (SSC), which oversees the COMSO, was set up to assess and secure commercial services, ranging from traditional satellite communications to satellite imagery. It is responsible for most space-related commercial services for the Space Force, including intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
This includes the fielding and sustaining of lethal and resilient space capabilities for warfighters. As part of this effort, the command is responsible for launch operations, on-orbit checkout, developmental testing, sustainment, and maintenance of military satellite constellations, and other Department of Defense (DoD) space systems.
In July, SSC also hosted a successful Space Domain Awareness Industry Day in Colorado Springs, which drew approximately 200 companies, as well as active participation from both DoD and the Intelligence Community.
Services from Industry
COMSO will ensure that the military will have access to commercial technologies which will help with procurement bottlenecks. To accomplish these goals, the new office has already been charged to acquire a vast array of services from industry, including commercial satellite imagery, space situational awareness data, and more.
The office will also be in charge of determining the military efficacy of acquiring new commercial capabilities as well as their cost-effectiveness.
“We need to figure out how do we go and buy not just satellite communications but things like space domain awareness – and other capabilities that are being turned into services – that we might want to leverage both in peacetime and certainly in time of conflict,” Brig. Gen. Timothy Sejba, program executive officer for space domain awareness and combat power at the Space Systems Command, told attendees of the Space Industry Days conference in Los Angeles in October.
Also known as “Satellite-as-a-Service,” and “Space Data as a Service,” this is the newest business model of the space industry. According to a May report from the International Defense, Security & Technology Inc. (IDST), the modern space industry could witness exponential growth in small and nanosatellite areas, which are among the fastest-growing segments in the satellite industry.
It is also expected that the number of satellites in orbit are going to increase more than linearly with about 8,000 spacecraft in orbit in 2024 due to constellations alone.
Moreover, using the cloud and a baseline subscription service model, the sector could achieve steady recurring revenue, high customer renewal, and scalability. In turn, customers access the exact solutions they need, avoiding upfront costs and risks.
COMSO could be well-placed on the proverbial ground floor for this emerging sector.
Commercial Services Office to partner with ic leaders
While COMSO is part of the Los Angeles-based SSC, it is taking a broad space approach in its locations, with at least two planned locations in Northern Virginia, SpaceNews reported. One of COMSO’s locations in Northern Virginia will be in Chantilly, near the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). That location will allow COMSO to benefit from NRO’s existing leadership in commercial contracting.
Jeremy Leader, COMSO director, told SpaceNews he was eager to work with NRO as Space Force builds out their satellite communications contracts, which he estimates at about $1 billion a year. He further told SpaceNews he plans to “exploit what we have, buy what we can and only build what we must.”