In Science and Space: The U.S. Space Force is buying billions of dollars worth of satellites that take an average of seven years to develop, and China is rapidly building new constellations. This is a problem that requires new ways of doing business, said Frank Calvelli, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration.
During his discussion at the Air, Space & Cyber Conference panel on Sept. 20, Calvelli said satellites need to be smaller, cheaper and faster.
To produce satellites faster and at a lower cost, the Space Force must move away from cost-plus contracts that encourage contractors to redesign and overhaul systems, he said.
One of the models the Space Force should follow, he said, is the Space Agency’s model of buying more satellites on fixed-price contracts. “We want to move very quickly. The traditional way of building satellites and the big cost of seven years. I need to,” he said. “And stop redesigning everything.”
Referring to the next generation of geostationary missile warning satellites the Space Force is buying, he said, “The old approach, the seven-year development contracts we have for GEO satellites…we need to change that.” He said, “it shouldn’t be too difficult,” he added. “This is his seven-year development of the class of spacecraft that we as a nation have been building over his 30 to 40 years.”
Addressing the industry leaders in the audience, Calvelli said, “Bid for programs with realistic costs and timelines, and bid for programs that you can succeed with. And if we win that contract, we’ll be able to execute and deliver those programs on budget and on schedule… I think that’s the key to our success as a nation and countering the Chinese threat. ”
brig. Adm. Stephen Purdy, in charge of secure access to the Space Force’s space program director, said contractors may be contributing to the problem by promising solutions they know they can’t provide. said.
“I want an honest and open conversation with the industry, but what I don’t need is his BD pitch,” he said, using the business development acronym. One example is digital engineering tools, a technology in high demand in the Space Force. According to Purdy, “there’s a lot of industry pitching” aimed at getting buyers who are unreliable and haven’t grown up with the technology. “What I really really need is for the industry to understand where our systems are, what our needs are, and how to meet those needs in a non-proprietary way. “Don’t try to sell me something that requires me to buy a one-year to perpetual license.”
“You may have a great solution that works well in your lab, but there are a dozen other contractors saying the exact same thing,” he said. Beyond that, it is very difficult to get into the actual discussion.”