U.S. Space Systems Command is Leveraging Commercial Strengths to Establish National Security Resilience
The United States Space Systems Command (SSC) is establishing a program for commercial space companies to be called upon by the United States Space Force (USSF) in times of crisis. Akin to the U.S. Air Force’s Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) program, which leverages commercial airlift capability during an emergency, the Space Force is developing its own Commercial Augmentation Space Reserve (CASR) program focusing on how to expand commercial partnerships during peacetime to ensure access to commercial capabilities during crisis or conflict, ensure integration of those capabilities into its mission areas and ensure the capabilities are secure, reliable and available. Recently approved by Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, the CASR program is expected to secure funding by FY26 and reflects the growing interconnectedness of military requirements and commercial capability in the national security space mission.
“The government has developed draft objectives for CASR, and it currently includes three end state levels and nine framework elements,” said Maj. Gen. Roger Teague (USAF, Ret.), founding partner of Elara Nova: The Space Consultancy and former chief executive officer and president of PredaSAR Corporation. “The construct intends to ensure the Space Force can leverage the capabilities of the commercial space industry to enhance the resilience, capacity, and effectiveness of the national security space architecture during periods of heightened tension and conflict.”
Developing the CASR Framework
In its current form, the three levels of the CASR framework are Day-to-Day Operations, Priority Operations, and Full CASR Execution. While Day-to-Day Operations reflect the peacetime standard, Priority Operations would be triggered by regional conflict and Full CASR Execution would result from an international crisis or war. SSC is developing each of these levels with nine common-ground elements to ensure the successful integration of commercial space services across the national security space apparatus.
CASR Framework Elements
|CONOPS & Decision Authority||Policy, Regulatory, & Legal||Contractual|
|Interoperability & Integration||Risk Mitigation||Cost-effectiveness & Speed|
|Commercial Partnerships||Cybersecurity||Budget Integration|
In a Request for Information issued on July 24, 2023, SSC sought feedback from the commercial space industry on the drafted framework by an August 21 deadline. By incorporating commercial space input from the start, Colonel Richard Kniseley, Senior Materiel Leader of SSC’s Commercial Space Office, is demonstrating the value Space Force recognizes in its industry partners.
“Col. Kniseley and his team are developing CASR openly and transparently to capture the best and brightest ideas from across industry in order to make the program successful,” said Teague, who also served as vice president of space, intelligence, and missile defense at The Boeing Company. “As a part of their next steps, they intend to synthesize industry feedback and validate needed capabilities. I then expect they will bring recommendations forward and brief SSC and USSF leadership to ultimately shape and present CASR capabilities within the budgetary cycle.”
The SATCOM Precedent
While the Air Force’s CRAF model offers a standard for SSC to develop its own CASR framework, space is an inherently dangerous and very complex warfighting domain. But commercial capabilities have already been applied, albeit to varying degrees, across the broad spectrum of space-based mission areas.
“The Department of Defense has utilized commercial wideband satellite communication capabilities for several years. The CASR development process will force close examination across all space mission areas to understand what commercial capabilities can be brought to the fight, how much will be needed, how much they will cost and how quickly they can be integrated into an existing mission area,” said Teague, the former director of space programs for the Air Force. “Every space mission area is being considered for potential CASR application, whether it’s missile warning, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), launch or position, navigation and timing (PNT).”
CASR has great potential to broaden U.S. national security space architectures and further evolve as emerging technologies are brought to market. That’s where a contractual relationship like CASR can facilitate faster capability delivery and more rapid decision-making for commanders.
“Combatant commanders need their requirements satisfied in a timely manner, and commercial capabilities can definitely help,” Teague said. “A typical space program of record historically takes seven to 10 years to field capability. CASR gives the Space Force the ability to move at commercial speed and scale and provides the ability to replenish and refresh constellations rapidly, i.e. on three to five year timelines. All of this enables more and better data in support of decision-making. At the bottom line, this is all about the U.S. Combatant Commanders gaining and maintaining decision advantage. Commercial augmentation will greatly contribute to that objective and is a major building block for Tactically Responsive Space capability.”
Collaboration in Space
The working relationship between commercial and military space continues to grow, as various commercial space companies have been working hand-in-hand with the DoD to rapidly field new capabilities. As an example, Teague points to his experience as president and chief executive officer of PredaSAR, a Terran Orbital Corporation.
“We sought to field the world’s largest commercial SAR constellation. From inception, we worked to present PredaSAR capabilities in a way that would augment, complement, and enhance the existing national security apparatus,” Teague said. “From my perspective as an industry and former uniformed national security space leader, it was important to advocate for fielding commercial capability that addressed the pacing threat as quickly as possible.”
It’s not just the Space Force that will benefit from an initiative like CASR, as commercial space companies of all sizes can find opportunities to grow their business by considering the framework’s requirements.
“The business opportunities from being a government partner and contributing to our national defense is good for commercial business,” Teague said. “Especially for smaller companies, who may not have had an avenue to compete for a program of record that the Space Force or the Air Force may have previously fielded. CASR creates an opportunity for them to contribute an important and viable capability to a mission area on a case-by-case basis. In a time of crisis, that capability could be invaluable.”
The wide-ranging elements that make up the CASR framework represent not only the varying threats to our nation in the space domain, but the challenge of coordinating a capable military response.
“Overcoming the rising threat environment will require teamwork. It’s not necessarily one company or one service that provides a solution to every problem,” Teague said. “The defense of our nation has always been built around the shared success of the joint team and the joint fight. Space enables every aspect of modern warfare. It is essential that our warfighters, partners, and friends have a shared understanding of the challenges we face and be able to contribute wherever possible.”
A Real-Time Requirement
A fully-functioning CASR program is not just a future requirement, as the need for leveraging commercial capabilities for the national security space mission is being realized in real-time. As an example, one needs to look no further than the role of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation in the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“The commercial capabilities that have been provided in support of the Ukraine crisis represent the first conflict in which commercial space has made a difference in a conflict,” Teague said. “These are the first instances of commercial providers providing capabilities across several mission sets. We will continue to see growth in commercial space to satisfy any number of different military space requirements, not only in the United States, but around the world.”
Now, by developing the CASR framework, SSC is rounding out other DoD efforts already spurring innovation and fielding capabilities in the national security apparatus.
“The CASR effort is complementary to rapid acquisition program initiatives like SpaceWERX and AFWERX, which has been historically working with organizations like the Defense Innovation Unit to help bring commercial capabilities to the forefront much more rapidly,” Teague said.
As such, CASR is the logical next step in the Space Force’s growth process as the DoD’s newest military service.
“Lieutenant General Mike Guetlein and his team are looking to pave the way for bringing in and adopting more commercial practices and capabilities as a key component of the SSC acquisition vision,” Teague said. “CASR complements and is an integral piece of the U.S. Space Force commercial space strategy now in development under the direction of the Chief of Space Operations, General Chance Saltzman. The strategy unites the overall approach and intent for national security space to leverage, where possible, commercial space capabilities at-large.”
Bridging the Gap
Yet, at times there can be a disconnect in understanding the growing intersection of military space requirements and commercial space capabilities. Consequently, a program like CASR requires a coordinated effort between government and industry partners. That’s where Elara Nova, as a space consultancy firm with a diverse and rich bench of former senior military and industry space consultants with direct experience in the national security space apparatus, can facilitate opportunities to meet the pacing threat.
“The Elara Nova team brings unique insight with both industry and national security space expertise to bridge conversations to help better understand the threats we face and how commercial space can make a difference,” Teague said. “We can help commercial space companies understand how to do business with the United States Space Force, so they can better field the capabilities the Space Force is seeking. Likewise, Elara Nova can help the Space Force better understand what commercial capabilities exist today and how to plan space capabilities and architectures as driven by future requirements.”
Elara Nova is a global consultancy and professional services firm focused on helping businesses and government agencies maximize the strategic advantages of the space domain. Learn more at https://elaranova.com/.