As the Pentagon reorganizes its oversight of space and figures out the right mix of its future satellites, a similar transformation is going on with companies who build the spacecraft, rockets, and technology the Defense Department seeks.
Traditional large defense firms and small commercial startups are watching closely to see whether Congress will approve the Trump administration plan to create a Space Force, a new sixth branch of the military, and how the new Space Development Agency plans to create a web of hundreds of new military satellites in low-earth orbit.
“We’re in a really critical transitional time, it’s very transformational for something that we all know that we all feel every day,” Bill Gattle, president of Harris Corporation’s Space and Intelligence Systems segment, said in an interview at the Space Symposium, a trade show of military, civilian and commercial space professionals. “It’s changing pretty radically.”
Pentagon efforts to develop new satellite constellations are fragmented, however, and there remains a debate about what kinds of satellites the military should use. In recent years, there have been warnings that China and Russia are building weapons that could shoot down, jam, or hack the Pentagon’s larger navigation, communications, missile warning, and weather satellites. Those intelligence predictions have prompted a call for smaller and cheaper satellites that are closer to Earth and could serve as backups to the larger satellites in higher orbits.