The Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) system is an existing template if the Defense Department must move cargo through space. Even as U.S. airlift capability is furnished by military and commercial air carrier resources, spacelift capability will come from military and commercial space resources. This interdependence will be challenged to meet deployment, mobilization, and surge requirements. But if it can be pulled off, it will reduce costs and inefficiencies, create closer bonds with commercial space providers, increase agility, sustain the space industrial base, and enhance deterrence, which are all vital interests in an age of constricted funding but at the same time an age when the highest levels of government recognize the role of space in modern life.
In a May 2010 speech at the Eisenhower Memorial Library in Abilene, Kansas, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates predicted a new future for the Department of Defense (DOD) after a “gusher of defense spending” that followed the attacks of September 11, 2001. “Military spending on things large and small,” he stated, “can and should expect closer, harsher scrutiny. The gusher has been turned off, and will stay off for a good period of time. . . . [I]t’s a simple matter of math.”1 Echoing these themes in February 2011, the DOD top weapons buyer, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Ashton Carter, stated, “We are entering a new era in defense [where] we won’t have the ever-increasing defense budgets of the past decade and need to be attentive to the nation’s other needs. . . . Currently about half of our prime contract spending is in the services sector.”2
Air Force attack controller establishes communications with tactical operations center during Task Force Redhorse engagement in Parwan Province, Afghanistan
U.S. Army (Kristina Gupton)
To increase flexibility in the uncertain international environment that lies ahead, DOD must shift how it uses space to support warfighter needs from buying systems to buying capabilities. U.S. Government shortfalls in meeting warfighters’ space-based requirements exposes risks in the years ahead, necessitating a new government approach based on the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) system for presenting space-based capabilities. If DOD starts considering moving bits across the heavens as space cargo, it can adopt a system already in place for air cargo to prepare for the contingency operations that we cannot predict. This new approach will reduce costs and inefficiencies and forge closer relationships with commercial space providers, and in doing so will increase agility, sustain the space industrial base, and enhance deterrence.
New National Space Policy Drives Changes
A month after Gates’s speech, President Barack Obama released his National Space Policy. Part of the reason for the new policy, officially designated Presidential Policy Directive 4 (PPD 4), was recognition at the highest levels of the government that space is now critical to the American way of life.3 The policy laid out several guidelines for the commercial space sector:
Increased international engagement is also a major part of PPD 4. The second goal states that the United States should expand international cooperation on mutually beneficial space activities to broaden and extend the benefits of space, further the peaceful use of space, and enhance collection and partnership in sharing of space-derived information.5
Just 7 months after the announcement of the President’s policy, Secretary Gates and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a strategy to implement the policy for national security space assets.6 In this strategy, they not only acknowledged governmental dependence on space but also recognized the domain’s changing nature: “Space, a domain that no nation owns but on which all rely, is becoming increasingly congested, contested, and competitive.”7 To develop a U.S. space industrial base that is “robust, competitive, f lexible, healthy, and delivers reliable space capabilities on time and on budget,” the national security sector needs to “explore a mix of capabilities with shorter development cycles to minimize delays, cut cost growth, and enable more rapid technology maturation, innovation, and exploitation.”8
The President’s space policy also issues implementation guidance for international approaches to the executive branch agencies with responsibilities for space programs. This includes trying to strengthen U.S. space leadership, identifying areas for potential international cooperation, and developing transparency and confidence-building measures.9 With the United States “going it alone” in space less frequently and relying more on partners, space capabilities will become more resilient, dispersed, and easily replenished because they use state-of-the-world technology. State-of-the-art constellations also can be augmented with state-of-the-world capabilities to make these important capabilities more resilient. These state-of-the-world capabilities could be partners’ capabilities such as an ally’s satellite communications (SATCOM) constellation or a multinational partnership such as the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) constellation. The state-of-the-world capabilities could be better integrated into U.S. capabilities than allied capabilities are today.
Another advantage of improved cooperation at the state-of-the-world level is that international cooperation complicates an adversary’s targeting calculus. Why attack a Luxembourg-f lagged satellite that carries U.S. military communications when such an attack could constitute an attack on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization? Why would an adversary attack a satellite when its own military is a customer of that provider? Alliance dynamics can lead to lowest common denominator outcomes, but more cooperation with allies and commercial partners at the very least means adversaries have more potential enemies to sort out. Since commercial SATCOM platforms typically support a host of international users including U.S. forces, the political costs and escalatory risks of carrying out attacks on those assets might deter an opponent from disrupting SATCOM unless the conf lict escalated to a higher level.10
During the 2009 Schriever Wargame, the use of commercial systems was important in maintaining military space capabilities as coalition assets were degraded or denied during the scenario. However, government decisionmakers did not have mechanisms to allow the coalition to make best use of commercial assets. In addition, the adversary recognized the value of commercial assets and effectively used them for their own purposes against the allied coalition by buying up the spot market before the coalition could. According to the Joint Force Component Commander for Space Lieutenant General Larry James, USAF, “the results clearly showed the need to develop better concept[s] of operations for integrating commercial capabilities and to have ‘on the shelf ’ plans and agreements that allow this utilization during heightened tensions and hostilities. It also reconfirmed the need to better manage commercial satellite communication capabilities and how we procure these services.”11
A case can be made for both government and industry that closer cooperation is mutually beneficial. As the two work together, increases in technical capability would lead to capacity increases, which would reduce cost per bit transmitted and received; security of communications would increase through focused beams; space situational awareness about adjacent payloads would increase, which would decrease radio frequency interference or blue-on-blue jamming from adjacent satellites using the same frequencies; and new products would be exploited faster and more cheaply, such as the new mobile services sector for communications-on-the-move supporting highly mobile warfighters.
Also, as government and industry work more closely, there could be technical and programmatic resource management improvements: industry could fill in unused gaps in coverage, increasing the number of users per transponder and providing more antennas for special users; industry could exploit switchable military-commercial frequencies to sustain their sales through low periods of government use, enabling more flexible and efficient resource management. Both sides could also develop alternative business arrangements for investment or sharing, leading to decreased costs for operations, sustainment, and, eventually, their entire enterprise, whether military satellite communications (MILSATCOM) or remote sensing. Some of these approaches, however, would require the government to use some commercial processes to meet government equities.12
Marine Reservists board chartered aircraft for Lima, Peru, to participate with nine other nations in exercise Partnership of the Americas 2010/exercise Southern Exchange 2010
U.S. Marine Corps (Peter Walz)
While some DOD leaders have concerns about the department’s dependence on the private sector, others appreciate a close government-industry relationship: “At the end of the day, it’s a great thing,” stated General James Cartwright, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responding to a question from a defense reporter about whether the military’s dependence on commercial bandwidth is “good, bad or unimportant.” “As we move to more exquisite sensors, the demand for high-definition video is substantially greater, so we have to move to mediums and compression algorithms that will allow us to do that,” he said after remarks during the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association conference in San Diego in February 2010. “The good news is that the industry is leading that. I don’t have to go invent it.”13
Commercial Marketplace Is Ready
Global commercial space capabilities are significant and growing steadily. There were 23 commercial launches worldwide in 2009 and 22 during 2010. In the geostationary market, demand averages about 20 satellites per year (or about 15 launches annually after accounting for dual-manifested missions) and has remained fairly stable.14 Global satellite industry revenues, dominated by satellite services, totaled $160.9 billion in 2009 while all global space activity (including government spending) rose 5 percent in 2010 to $168.1 billion while all global space activity (including government spending) climbed 7.7 percent to $276.52 billion in 2010.15 Europe and the United States remain the leaders in providing commercial services from space, but with China’s return to the commercial launch marketplace and other countries’ development of heavy launchers, most notably India, this leadership will change. In launch, this has already occurred as the United States is no longer competitive in providing commercial launch services, having ceded this role to Europe’s Arianne and Russia’s Proton. United Launch Alliance, the only current U.S. commercial launch provider, launches both the Boeing Delta IV and Lockheed Atlas V evolved expendable launch vehicles, but it has unattractive prices to commercial customers.
The commercial marketplace is mature and efficient, especially with respect to SATCOM, growing more so in remote sensing and ground operations. Closer governmentcommercial cooperation offers the potential for cost savings, greater availability of different space capabilities, more rapid throughput of information, and service provider diversity. It also offers improved mission assurance and technology risk reduction, as well as prospects for strengthening deterrence against attacks by increasing the number of actors that potential attackers must confront.
The U.S. military has become dependent on commercial SATCOM (COMSATCOM) capabilities to supplement its own. Prior to Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility was predominantly supported via military satellite communications (MILSATCOM). There were limited commercial SATCOM links via commercial terminals during the late 1990s and early 2000s. SATCOM requirements were mainly short duration and only in support of the no-fly zones over Iraq; thus, needs were met via MILSATCOM resources and not commercial SATCOM leases.16 Today, industry experts estimate that 80 percent of all satellite bandwidth used by DOD is purchased by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) from commercial SATCOM companies.17 This percentage is expected to decrease in the near future as DOD launches organic MILSATCOM systems, such as WGS and Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF), and if DOD adds military transponders as hosted payloads on commercial spacecraft. In the long run, commercial requirements may further decrease as U.S. forces return to their garrisons.
New, organic MILSATCOM will meet some needs currently filled by COMSATCOM. For example, the first WGS satellite provided more bandwidth than the entire Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) constellation, which the WGS constellation is designed to replace. Peter Stauffer, director of the Wideband SATCOM Division at the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command, spoke about WGS improvements over DSCS. “WGS provides a quantum leap in capabilities—not only in throughput but in operational flexibility,” he stated. “The ability for the warfighter to exchange information faster using higher data rates, and more efficiently, with the ability to reach different locations simultaneously is part of the inherent capability of WGS. Data, full motion video, maps, voice and imagery will be received and transmitted by warfighters at all levels—tactical, operational and strategic.”18 When the WGS constellation is complete, currently planned at six satellites, it is expected to be in use for a decade or more. Similarly, the first AEHF satellite will provide more capacity than the entire Milstar constellation, providing protected, anti-jam, high-data-rate communications. The Pentagon’s Selected Acquisition Reports outline six satellites in the AEHF constellation. The first satellite will provide a five-fold increase in the number of terminals serviced, according to Colonel William Harding, vice commander for the organization that oversees MILSATCOM procurement at the Space and Missile Systems Center.19 Both SATCOM systems included Allies in the developmental phases of the programs.
However, although new organic MILSATCOM capabilities will make the U.S. Government less dependent on commercial SATCOM in future steady-state operations, the requirement to have a surge capability remains. In fiscal year (FY) 2008, DOD spent $924.8 million on commercial SATCOM.20 The bulk of this expenditure was for commercial SATCOM services bought on the spot market; these are 1-year leases for commercial service funded by nonrecurring annual defense appropriations. Yet even as the United States curtails long-term overseas operations in favor of more short-term contingency deployments, warfighters have an ever-increasing appetite for communications bandwidth and other space-related products and services. For example, the Secretary of Defense directed 65 MQ–1 and MQ–9 orbits by 2013 in support of ongoing operations in Afghanistan. These remotely piloted vehicles are entirely dependent on commercial SATCOM for operations and delivery of intelligence.21 In March 2011, the Pentagon terminated DOD access to popular streaming video Web sites including YouTube at the request of U.S. Pacific Command to meet the needs of the military in operations following the Japanese earthquake/tsunami because there was not enough bandwidth available.22
The advantage of the spot market is its f lexibility: services can be bought or sold for immediate or future delivery and prices closely follow demand and availability. These attributes are also disadvantages: the spot market allows the government to buy bandwidth as needed but costs are unpredictable. Relying on the spot market for future bandwidth delivery is highly speculative and exposes the government to the risk of unfavorable changes in bandwidth costs. Industry estimates suggest that more than 70 percent of the commercial bandwidth acquired by the U.S. military is paid for via supplemental funding poured into the spot market instead of being a line item in each Service’s annual budget. This approach is not an incentive to reduce costs and may actually drive up costs.
The U.S. Navy is the only Service that has a budget line for commercial SATCOM because Navy officials understood a long time ago that being out of communications while operating at sea would make it harder to compete for MILSATCOM. As a result, the Navy permanently turned to commercial satellite communications for some requirements and made the strategic decision to budget for these requirements.23 The Army and Air Force, however, approach contingency SATCOM differently. The Army predominantly has used supplemental funds in the past while the Air Force’s hybrid approach uses both programmed and supplemental funds. In recent years, according to a DOD report delivered to Congress in 2010, the majority, “around 75%,” of funds for SATCOM were supplemental funds and used to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.24
In most cases, DOD components use COMSATCOM not by choice but because MILSATCOM is unavailable when it is most needed.25 It is time for DOD actions to match the President’s and Secretary of Defense’s intentions with actions because the one thing that cannot be predicted is the contingency operation: an operation in Darfur, an earthquake in Haiti, a tsunami in Indonesia. Why buy so much additional capability for contingencies that cannot be predicted? DOD prefers to own its own capabilities outright rather than lease them, determining that government satellites cost significantly less than leasing commercial capabilities. But DOD demands are driven by conflicts, which are always subject to change, and in this way DOD cannot contract long-term services.26 Contingency requirements are less predictable over the long haul than are peacetime requirements, but they are just as significant to mission accomplishment.27 Yet for years the government has been buying on the spot market to support immediate space needs, most often SATCOM. The time to prepare for contingency operations for an increasingly expeditionary military is today, not when the crisis happens.
A unique and significant part of the Nation’s air mobility resources is the Civil Reserve Air Fleet.28 Selected aircraft from U.S. airlines, which are contractually committed to the CRAF program, augment DOD airlift requirements in emergencies when the need for airlift exceeds military capability. A similar program could be developed for DOD space requirements that would implement significant portions of the President’s space policy as well as reduce dependence on the spot market for communications purchases, the government’s addiction to exquisite technologies, and its need for access to spacelift.
CRAF is a better approach than buying a massive f leet of dedicated airlifters because it reduces costs and forges close relationships with commercial air service providers to achieve a regular, habitual relationship through exchanges of information, data, and personnel. The greatest advantage for the government is the ability to diversify operations while ensuring effective and efficient use of organic military airlift. Commercial airlift companies can gain greater insight into and predictability about government actions that often seem inconsistent to outsiders.
Commercial satellite image of Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan
Satellite image by GeoEye
Using commercial practices as the base for state-of-the-world national security space requirements, the government could achieve CRAF-like advantages by reducing costs and forging closer relationships with commercial space-based capability providers to achieve a regular, habitual relationship that is not dependent on the spot market. A CRAF-like program would also reduce inefficiencies in budgeting, contracting, technology, requirements, and launch needs, and in doing so decrease costs, increase agility, sustain the space industrial base, and enhance deterrence.
CRAF has three main segments: international, national, and aeromedical evacuation.29 The international segment is further divided into long-range and short-range sections and the national segment into the domestic and Alaskan sections. Assignment of aircraft to a segment depends on the nature of the requirement and the performance characteristics needed. The long-range international section consists of passenger and cargo aircraft capable of transoceanic operations. The role of these aircraft is to augment the Air Mobility Command’s (AMC’s) long-range inter-theater C–5s and C–17s during periods of increased airlift needs. Medium-sized passenger and cargo aircraft make up the short-range international section supporting near offshore airlift requirements. The aircraft in the Alaskan section provide airlift within U.S. Pacific Command’s area of responsibility, specific to Alaska needs. The domestic section is designed to satisfy increased DOD airlift requirements in the United States during an emergency.
The airlines contractually pledge aircraft to the various segments of CRAF, ready for activation when needed. To provide incentives for civil carriers to commit aircraft to the CRAF program and to assure the United States adequate airlift reserves, the government makes peacetime DOD airlift business available to civilian airlines that offer aircraft to the CRAF. DOD offers business through the International Airlift Services Contract. For FY 2007, the guaranteed portion of the contract was $379 million. AMC estimates that throughout FY 2007, it also awarded more than $2.1 billion in additional business that was not guaranteed but was additional business that went to CRAF carriers.30 As of May 2007, 37 carriers and 1,364 aircraft were enrolled in the CRAF. This included 1,273 aircraft in the international segment (990 in the long-range international section and 283 in the short-range international section), and 37 and 50 aircraft, respectively, in the national and aeromedical evacuation segments and 4 aircraft in the Alaskan segment. These numbers f luctuated on a monthly basis.
Similarly, the SpaceCRAF should have three main segments: satellite communications, remote sensing, and launch. The SATCOM segment could be further divided into the various military frequency bands. Assignment of spacecraft to a band would depend on the nature of the requirement, expected levels and likelihood of emergency use, spacecraft capabilities and capacities for on-orbit systems and systems in development, and performance characteristics needed (for example, large bandwidth, secure links, and so forth). The remote sensing segment could be similarly subdivided by the various available resolutions or methodologies (for example, electro-optical or synthetic aperture radar). The spacelift segment could be subdivided by lift capabilities or launch site.
To join CRAF, an air carrier must maintain a minimum commitment of 30 percent of its CRAF-capable passenger f leet and 15 percent of its CRAF-capable cargo fleet. Aircraft committed must be U.S.registered, and carriers must commit and maintain at least four complete crews for each aircraft. Carriers with aircraft whose performance does not meet minimum CRAF requirements are issued a certificate of technical ineligibility, so they can still compete for government airlift business. To participate in the SpaceCRAF program, the commercial service providers would contractually pledge transponders in the various military frequency bands of SpaceCRAF, ready for activation when needed.
To provide incentives for commercial carriers to commit transponders to the SpaceCRAF program and to assure the United States adequate SATCOM reserves, the government would make peacetime DOD SATCOM business available first to commercial SATCOM companies that offer transponders to the SpaceCRAF. DOD currently offers business through the Future COMSATCOM Services Acquisition (FCSA) program but DOD is already experiencing sticker shock in new costs, seeing as great as a 300 percent increase in commercial satellite communications cost. FCSA is a recent agreement with DISA, through which the General Services Administration manages the purchase of satellite services for Federal agencies.31 DOD also purchases services through the program.32 FCSA may be a good start, but many believe that it is just a short-term acquisition fix rather than a more explicit strategic commitment by DOD to the commercial SATCOM industry upon which it relies, an approach accepted so far only by the Navy, which has chosen to budget annually for spot market SATCOM purchases to support the f leet.33
Three stages of incremental activation allow for tailoring an airlift force suitable for the contingency at hand. Stage I is for minor regional crises, Stage II is for major theater war, and Stage III is for periods of national mobilization. The commander of U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), with approval of the Secretary of Defense, is the activation authority for all three stages of CRAF. During a crisis, if AMC has a need for additional aircraft, it would request that the USTRANSCOM commander take steps to activate the appropriate CRAF stage. Each stage of activation is only used to the extent necessary to provide the amount of civil augmentation airlift needed by DOD. When notified of call-up, the carrier must have its aircraft ready for a CRAF mission 24 to 48 hours after the mission is assigned by AMC. The air carriers continue to operate and maintain the aircraft; however, AMC directs aircraft missions.
A good place to start to build a SpaceCRAF capability is SATCOM. To join SpaceCRAF, companies must maintain a certain minimum commitment of its SpaceCRAF-capable f leet. The standard in air cargo is 30 percent, and that could be applied as 30 percent of available bandwidth for SATCOM or 30 percent of available time for remote sensing, for example. Spacecraft committed need not be U.S.-registered satellites—currently the only U.S.-f lagged COMSATs belong to SiriusXM, DishNetwork, and DirecTV, which are only over North America—but would certainly need to have a U.S. license to broadcast. Carriers with spacecraft whose performance does not meet minimum SpaceCRAF requirements would be issued a certificate of technical ineligibility, so they can still compete for government SATCOM business if they have a U.S. license. Three stages of incremental SpaceCRAF activation would allow for tailoring a SATCOM capability suitable for the contingency at hand. Stage I would be used for minor regional crises, Stage II would be used for major theater war, and Stage III would be used for periods of national mobilization. The Secretary of Defense would delegate SpaceCRAF activation authority to the commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) for all three stages. During a crisis, if DOD has a need for additional SATCOM, an agency would request the USSTRATCOM commander to take steps to activate the appropriate SpaceCRAF stage. Each stage of the SpaceCRAF activation would only be used to the extent necessary to provide the amount of commercial SATCOM augmentation needed by DOD. When notified of call-up, the commercial provider response time to have its transponders ready for a SpaceCRAF mission would be 24 to 48 hours after the mission is assigned by DISA. Vendors would have to be willing to preempt other paying customers so that the government could use the capability, potentially knocking off important commercial traffic, possibly including a basketball tournament or the Super Bowl. The commercial carriers would continue to operate and maintain the spacecraft with their resources; however, DISA would assign the communications traffic across the transponders.
In today’s congested and contested space environment, information security is a paramount concern, and numerous procedures would remain in effect to ensure the SATCOM carriers with which DOD contracts afford the highest possible level of information security to DOD SATCOM traffic. Prior to receiving a SpaceCRAF contract, all carriers must demonstrate that they have provided substantially equivalent and comparable commercial service for 1 year before submitting their offer to operate for DOD. All carriers must be fully certified and licensed Federal Communications Commission carriers and meet the stringent standards of Federal Information Security Regulations pertaining to commercial SATCOM.
To ensure fitness to participate in the SpaceCRAF program, a DOD survey team, composed of experienced and skilled space and communications professionals, would perform an on-site inspection of the commercial SATCOM carriers. This team would conduct a comprehensive inspection that includes the carrier’s spacecraft manuals, training facilities, crew qualifications, maintenance procedures, quality control practices, and financial status to maximize the likelihood that the carrier would perform well. After passing this survey, the carrier would be certified by DISA before receiving a contract. DOD analysts, likely at DISA, then would continue to monitor the carrier’s information security record, operations and maintenance status, contract performance, financial condition, and management initiatives, summarizing significant trends in a comprehensive review. These initiatives and surveys would be further supplemented by an open f low of information on all contract carriers between DISA and DOD through established liaison officers.
Communications, while the largest, is only one of the commercial space markets. Until recently, only a few nations had remote sensing capability. Today, anyone with access to the Internet and a credit card can task commercial imagery satellites to photograph their house or a military formation in the desert. Actor George Clooney is a frequent user of commercial remote sensing in his work in Darfur. Privately funded and publicly accessible, the Satellite Sentinel Project (SatSentinel.org) allows Clooney to buy pictures of military movements in the impoverished nation. “I’m not tied to the U.N. or the U.S. government, and so I don’t have the same constraints. I’m a guy with a camera from 480 miles up,” Clooney states.34
The United States has forged close relationships with many commercial remote sensing providers, using their capabilities to fill coverage gaps, even while the commercial providers continue to support the requests of business, agriculture, mining, and other commercial needs. In the case of a remote sensing SpaceCRAF, there are two U.S. vendors—GeoEye and Digital Globe—and several international providers of commercial remote sensing (CRS) capabilities, which are closely aligned with friendly national governments. Several companies, many foreign, provide electro-optical or synthetic aperture radar images with resolutions that were available only to governments just a decade ago. A situation could be arranged that would allow DOD or the Intelligence Community to add additional taskings to these extra-U.S. CRS providers, most likely in the form of higher payments—much as a first-class ticket costs more than coach on the same f light. If two customers wanted time on the satellite at exactly the same moment, the higher payer would get the capability.
In no way is the U.S. commercial launch industry as robust as U.S. aviation, even as weak as the airlines are. U.S. commercial launch revenues rose slightly in 2008 to $1.1 billion, but the U.S. share of worldwide launch revenues declined from 31 percent in 2007 to 28 percent in 2008. Meanwhile, U.S. satellite manufacturing revenues declined from $4.8 billion in 2007 to $3.1 billion in 2008 while its market share fell from 41 percent of the world total in 2007 to just 29 percent in 2008.35 These data point to a waning industrial base that, once gone, will be nearly impossible to rebuild as jobs and technologies migrate to other sectors or move abroad and contribute to other nations’ space capabilities. DOD is increasingly affected by the shrinking industrial base in the United States, as well as work going overseas to foreign companies and competitors, a major concern in President Obama’s space policy.36 Therefore, a CRAF-like capability for launch services is much more problematic given the current state of the industry. There were no commercial COMSATs launched from the United States in 2011. However, one could imagine that if the launch industry bounced back, a SpaceCRAF-like capability could be envisioned that would bump payloads off manifests or add payloads to boosters for multi-satellite deployments.
Modified NC-130H fired laser successfully hitting ground target at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico
U.S. Air Force
Changes are coming in the way that the United States gets astronauts to space, and these changes may benefit the military-commercial partnership and someday lend themselves to a more SpaceCRAF-like arrangement. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) announced plan, called Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS), will buy seats for astronauts aboard commercial launchers and resupply the International Space Station using nongovernmental rockets. COTS commercial partners are responsible for the overall design, development, manufacturing, testing, and operation of their systems; NASA plans to purchase these services competitively once they become available. NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office is working with industry to provide reliable, cost-effective cargo and crew transportation services that can serve existing markets and help develop new markets, possibly launching a new era for commercial space.37 “If ROSCOSMOS [the Russian Federal Space Agency] can do it, U.S. industry can, too,” stated NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.38 COTS could end up being the launch portion of the SpaceCRAF program.
Just as the U.S. national airlift capability is provided from military and commercial air carrier resources, so too is the national space capability provided from military and commercial space resources. Equally important, interdependent military and civil space resources must be able to meet defense surges for mobilization and deployment requirements in support of U.S. defense and foreign policies. The advantages of a CRAF-like program for space-based capabilities include reducing costs through lower dependence by DOD on the spot market for leased SATCOM; offering commercial providers a more predictable commitment; and improving technology as commercial providers introduce upgrades faster than DOD. U.S. forces will not remain garrisoned overseas in the large numbers that they have been for the last decade, and the U.S. military’s reliance on commercial providers will likely decrease as well, but the need for surge capability available through a CRAF-like program will remain. The President’s space policy declares the ends for our strategy to provide effects from space for our warfighters. SpaceCRAF is but one of the ways to ensure they have what they need when they need it. JFQ