The report “State of the space industrial base” calls for a national plan to compete with China

The report calls on the US government to lay out a national space strategy that embraces the private sector as a key partner

WASHINGTON – For the fourth year in a row, the State of the Space Industrial Base report has called out what it sees as outdated thinking in the U.S. government about the use of commercial technology in space programs.

2022 edition of the report, subtitled “Winning the New Space Race for Sustainability, Prosperity and the Planet,” was written by military and civilian officials from the US Space Force, the Defense Innovation Unit, the Department of the Air Force and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

The content of the 110-page report was developed over two workshops held earlier this year with more than 250 participants. It reflects the themes of previous editionsand argued that the United States should lay out a strategy to remain a space superpower that embraces the private sector as a key partner for government.

“China could surpass the United States in space superiority if we don’t increase our investment,” Michael Brown, director of the Defense Innovation Unit, said Aug. 24 at an Atlantic Council event to discuss the report.

Brown said the U.S. needs a “national vision” for space investment and innovation to stay ahead of China. The report says, for example, that the government must increase spending on space infrastructure such as space mining, manufacturing and solar energy, which will stimulate private investment.

The space economy is being “profoundly impacted” by private investment, Brown said, meaning the government doesn’t have to shoulder all the costs.

“Therefore, what is required to win the space race is the strengthening of private-public partnerships that emphasize commercial technology over tailor-made systems,” he added. “We need to provide public contract revenue to these companies that are building the future of space travel.”

Steven “Bucky” Butow, space portfolio director at the Defense Innovation Unit, cited the National Reconnaissance Offices 10-year agreements with three commercial imaging satellite operators as examples of how the government should work with the space industry.

“This is mmeaningful contracts from the NRO, said Butow. “Now these companies can plan for the future as they are part of government business.”

Col. Eric Felt, director of space architecture in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration, said the report lays out ambitious goals and bringing them to fruition will require significant cooperation and coordination among government agencies.

Felt, one of the report’s authors, said it was important to continue repeating the recommendations from previous years because “We still have a long way to go in these areas.” STragic plans and long-term visions are “hard things to do, and we haven’t made enough progress.”

According to the report, China is making steady progress toward its goal of surpassing the United States as the dominant space power by 2045. Meanwhile, in the United States, “the agile engineering ecosystem that has characterized the new space age is at risk because of American policies and procurement practices intended to another era that embraces static requirements.”

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