Podcast

The Elara Edge: Expert Insights on Space Security

Episode 3: The Space Force’s CASR Framework: Bridging Military Requirements and Commercial Capability

Earth planet and satellite view from space - elements of this image provided by Nasa

00:00 – 01:23
Earlier this year, Col. Richard Kniseley of the United States Space Systems Command initiated a program for commercial space companies to be called upon by the United States Space Force in times of crisis. This program, dubbed the Commercial Augmentation Space Reserve – or CASR for short – is akin to the United States Air Force’s Civil Reserve Air Fleet program where commercial airlines pledge to provide airlift support to the Department of Defense during an emergency. 

Recently approved by Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, the CASR program is expected to secure funding by Fiscal Year 2026 and reflects the growing interconnectedness of military requirements and commercial capability in the national security space mission. Welcome to The Elara Edge: Expert Insights on Space Security. I’m your host – Scott King – and to better understand the purpose of CASR, I am joined by Major General Roger Teague, who retired in 2017 as Director of Space Programs in the United States Air Force. 

Before becoming a founding partner of Elara Nova, General Teague served as the vice president of Space Intelligence and Missile Defense at the Boeing Company, as well as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the PredaSAR Corporation.

General Teague – thank you for joining me today. So just as we get started – can you share a little bit about what Space Systems Command is trying to do with this CASR program?

01:23 – 02:57
Hi, Scott. It’s great to be with you. First, let me thank you personally for taking the time to talk and help inform our clients about the importance of this topic. The Commercial Space Office of the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command has brought forward CASR, the Commercial Augmentation Space Reserve Initiative, as part of a broader framework to seek commercial capabilities that would augment, enhance and supplement existing capabilities, and most importantly, to add resilience to national security space, constellations and networks.

The initiative kicked off earlier this year, back in February of 2023, when Space Systems
Command held a reverse industry day to roll out the CASR concept. And more broadly, CASR is based on the historical Civil Reserve Air Fleet or CRAF construct utilized for decades by the United States Air Force, where during times of crisis, conflict or urgent need, the government could call upon commercial airline partners to carry out appropriate transport or resupply or logistical support missions.

The Space Force is now actively investigating the viability of implementing a similar model for space capabilities under the CASR construct. The government team has developed a draft program and framework for CASR, which includes three levels of support and nine framework elements. 

Now the framework is designed to ensure that the Space Force can leverage the capabilities of the commercial space industry to again enhance the resilience, capacity and effectiveness of the national security space architecture.

02:58 – 03:09
I’d like to build on that idea of the CASR framework being designed off of the U.S. Air Force’s Civil Reserve Air Fleet model. In what ways is the space mission area just inherently different for a program like this?

03:10 – 04:37
Yeah, Scott, it’s a great question and it’s not always well-known that the Civil Reserve Air Fleet model has served our nation very well for many years now. Ensuring, for example, that deployed forces had the required logistical support elements in place and / or that there was support for, in and cross theater troop movements or relief supplies that were provided in response to humanitarian crises.

The CASR model is much different, though, and is significantly more comprehensive. Under CASR, Space Systems Command seeks to provide commercially augmented capabilities across every space mission area. Missions like missile warning, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, communications, navigation, launch all of them are going to be evaluated for enhancement under CASR. Space Systems Command seeks not only to validate what commercial capabilities exist today, but also what capabilities might be available in the very near future.

The next step is going to be to understand how those commercial capabilities could be integrated into our broader U.S. government mission architecture. CASR’s success will require significant analysis to not only evaluate the near-term capability, but also define desired end-states and outcomes, including answering important questions like: How much warfighting reserve capability do I need? When do I need it? How do I contract for it? And ultimately, how much is it going to cost? 

04:38 – 04:52
Now, space is an inherently dangerous and complex warfighting domain – so can you elaborate on what ways the Space Force has already been leveraging commercial space capabilities and how does CASR help them expand commercial space relevance to other mission areas?

04:53 – 07:27
Yeah, it’s a great question and it’s really an important one, Scott. And I think it’s one that SSC Commander General Mike Guetlein and Colonel Rich Kniseley, who’s director of the Commercial Space Office, and frankly, the broader SSC team are sorting through right now. 

For example, the Department of Defense has successfully utilized a partnership with the commercial industry purchasing satellite communication capabilities across multiple vendors for several years now. During this time, the Department has learned a lot about how to best acquire commercial services. What works – what doesn’t. All of those lessons can be successfully applied now, under CASR. 

The Space Force is going to have to evaluate all capabilities of interest on a case-by-case basis, really to fully appreciate each of them on their own merit and then understand how they can be brought to the fight. They’re going to need to answer questions like: How do I integrate them into existing architectures? How do I present those capabilities to war fighting forces? And do I need to modify my current operations? And if so, what are those changes look like?

I’ll give you one other example. Like for the ISR mission, the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. There are several commercial providers today that can bring real additional capability to bear that would augment and supplement existing U.S. national capabilities to support combatant commanders who don’t always have tasking priority or the ability to have their requirements satisfied in a timely manner.

Commercial capabilities could cover down on some of those requirements, and while not always satisfying the full requirement set, they could offer support to 80% or more, which would be more than a significant addition. The idea is to provide persistent coverage and awareness more frequently over a broader area – that ultimately helps augment, supplement and complement national capabilities. 

Commercial launch is another great example. Look how the launch market has changed over the last decade or so as SpaceX has brought its capabilities into the national security space launch market. They’re now executing and delivering critical missions in direct support of national security space today. 

Finally, I would note that the CASR Initiative is complementary to the commercial space strategy now being developed at headquarters U.S. Space Force under the direction of General Saltzman. This strategy paves new ground and sets a vision. It’s an approach and strategy for national security space to be able to leverage and take advantage fully of the commercial space capabilities at large.

07:28 – 07:35
And so what are the advantages for commercial space companies? Are there any benefits in this opportunity for them to join something like the CASR framework?

07:36 – 09:32
Yeah, I think there are several advantages, Scott, for commercial space and commercial capabilities to participate in the CASR model. And I think this is the heart of what SSC is trying to get to. And one of them first is the real ability to be able to contribute to national security space. I think there are a number of companies ready to contribute that may not have had the ability to compete for or be selected as part of a service program of record. 

But nonetheless, they have an important and viable capability that could contribute to our nation’s overall defense posture. And we need to be able to find and understand what those companies are and what their capabilities are. Additional benefits include being a trusted business partner of the United States. Another foundational element I think that should not be understated.

But even more important, I think it’s just the ability for commercial business to be included as part of the broader discussion to understand and have a broader conversation about how we collectively get after some of these pacing threats that are facing the nation. It’s going to take our collective talent, wisdom and energy. Truly, a team effort is going to be required to address the very real challenges that our nation faces.

I also think it’s important to note that it’s not necessarily one company or one service. The defense of our nation has always been built around the success of the joint team and the joint fight and commercial capabilities are going to be an important part of the solution to address those threats.

Space enables every aspect of modern warfare and it’s essential that our warfighters, our partners and friends have a shared understanding of the challenges that we face and be able to contribute wherever possible. 

In the end, this is about giving our U.S. combatant commanders – those four stars responsible for protecting the U.S. and our Allies around the world – the decision advantage they need to conduct their operations with speed and lethality.

09:33 – 09:43
And sir, what is the Space Force looking to leverage from the commercial space industry? Why is it important to involve them and engage with commercial and industry partners this early in the CASS-ER development process?

09:44 – 11:42

Yeah, it’s a great question, Scott. It may be one more appropriate for General Guetlein. In my opinion, I believe that SSC first wants to gain a better understanding of all the commercial capabilities that could currently support each of the space missions.

I believe that this is going to be an eye-opening exercise in a lot of ways. The great news is that as we identify capabilities, these capabilities are going to grow and evolve – over time. And this creates a healthy conversation and dialogue when introducing new ideas regarding the best way to accomplish mission objectives.

In addition to system acquisition knowledge, it helps inform the requirements, planning and programming process, which gives the Space Force the ability to help steer growth as well as desired outcomes through specific targeted investment in specific space mission areas. 

Second, this gives the Space Force the ability to move at commercial pace to deliver at scale and replenish constellations rapidly and that cannot be understated. These timelines are much faster than typical programs of record development schedules, and combatant commanders need their requirements satisfied in a timely manner. 

A typical space program of record historically takes 7 to 10 years to field capability, and CASR gives the Space Force the ability to move at commercial speed and scale and provides the ability to replenish and refresh constellations rapidly, for example, on 3 to 5 year timelines.

All of this enables more and better data in support of decision-making. And again, this is all about getting the U.S. combatant commanders the ability to gain and maintain decision advantage. Commercial augmentation is going to greatly contribute to that objective, and it’s a major building block for tactically responsive space capabilities. We must get after the pacing threat and commercial is to help deliver and replenish capability at comparatively blistering pace and bring new technology to the fight much faster.

11:43 – 11:49
Why now? Are there any real-time examples of how leveraging commercial space capabilities can be applied to the space-based mission?

11:50 – 12:50
Yeah, you could probably make the case that, for example, the Ukrainian crisis is the first conflict that commercial space has made a difference in a conflict. The world is starting to see commercial space in action and the counter strategies of opposing forces to deny, degrade, disrupt or even destroy their services and effects.

I believe that we’re very soon going to start seeing even more commercial capabilities operating alongside their government, purpose-built counterparts in blended or hybrid constellations across – again nearly every space mission area. It’s also not surprising that commercial capabilities are now being targeted by adversaries. Their message is clear that if you’re contributing to a kill chain, your mission is at risk.

Commercial providers are going to need to understand and accept this risk to each of their business plans. But again, I would also re-emphasize the point that at the strategic level, it’s not about the platform. It’s only about whether commanders can make decisions and direct actions at the speed of need. 

12:51 – 13:09
Thank you, sir. And one last question here: As a founding partner of Elara Nova – how does Elara Nova’s team of consultants find themselves uniquely positioned to support the United States Space Force and Space Systems Command in essentially merging military space requirements with commercial space capabilities in something as distinct as the CASR construct?

13:10 – 14:25
Well, as we close, Scott, let me again thank you for taking the time to talk about this important topic. Your question gets to the very heart of why we – and many of our clients – believe that Elara Nova can make a difference. Elara Nova is purpose-built. No other consultancy has the breadth and depth across space like we do, and no one can speak and work across government and industry like we can.

Our team has decades of both government and private sector experience in space strategy, operations, acquisition, engineering, technology and policy. Our diverse and extensive team brings vital insights and powerful national and international connections across the defense, intelligence, civil and commercial space sectors to enable our clients’ success. 

This is a unique time in history, and Elara Nova is well-positioned to serve as an interactive leader supporting the CASR initiative and help shape and refine the conversation to bring commercial space capabilities to the United States Space Force. Help commercial companies understand how to do business for the United States Space Force, and ultimately help field the critical capabilities that the United States Space Force requires.

14:26 – 15:10
If you’re interested in learning more about the CASR framework, and the growing interconnectedness of military requirements and commercial capability in the space domain – visit our Insights page at
www.elaranova.com.  

This has been an episode of The Elara Edge: Expert Insights on Space Security. As a global consultancy and professional services firm focused on helping businesses and government agencies maximize the strategic advantages of the space domain, Elara Nova is your source for expertise and guidance in space security.

If you liked what you heard today, please subscribe to our channel and leave us a rating. This episode was edited and produced by Regia Multimedia Services. I’m your host, Scott King, and join us next time at The Elara Edge.