State of the Space Industrial Base 2020

State of the Space Industrial Base 2020: A discussion on sustaining U.S. economic and military leadership in space 

In May 2020, NewSpace New Mexico hosted the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Defense Innovation Unit, the U.S. Space Force, and more than 120 experts from across government, industry, and academia for a four-day conference to discuss a comprehensive unified civil, commercial, and national security space strategy.  The workshop resulted in “State of the Space Industrial Base Report 2020,” detailing findings and recommendations from the workshop. A prior report was released in 2019.

The Aerospace Security Project has invited the authors of the report and industry experts to discuss the State of the Space Industrial Base. Both panels will include time for an audience Q&A.


Panel workshop focused on partnerships and six areas around the US industrial base. The 2020 State of the Space Industrial Base Workshop brought together more than 120 voices from  across the federal government, industry, and academia to assess the current health of the space industry  and to provide recommendations for strengthening that industrial base. 

  • Dr. Joel Mozer, U.S. Space Force
    • Space needs to be a part of our overall U.S. economy for three reasons: 
      • 1. It will shape the environment we operate in. 
      • 2. Many of the technological innovations in the space business are from entrepreneurs, and we must harness their innovation 
      • 3. We must overmatch our strategic competitors. 
    • We must work with  our allies to defend our capabilities and to ensure our technological capabilities are  abreast. We need to protect US interests and learn how the space can best take advantage of our most strategic domain. 
  • Col Eric Felt, Air Force Research Laboratory 
    • At AFRL, the technology in the commercial sector should be readily available to enable the space force. Sent three recommendations:
      • Protect, support and leverage commerce in space with emphasis in “protect” for our interest in space. Strengthen the technology pipeline – especially in the cislunar area. Maintain awareness and strengthen logistics to make the space capabilities more resilient not vulnerable
      • Government partnerships – make the US space economy thrive with public private partnership – “buy what we can – build what we must”- link up to commercial capabilities to meet  military and space force needs – for the hybrid architecture within our allies. A whole of government and nations approach to encourage spacial commercial activity – focus on the 80% of the investment from the industry and the commercial sector. We don’t want to do it the chinese way, but the US way to harness economic might.
      • Enabling new missions in space – tech is at its tipping point for the younger generation – AFRL – to make younger generation more excited about STEM and for careers in space 
      • A worldwide pandemic is effective, because it will affect the industry. Government should be the best customer we can be – accelerate the planned activities to allow the companies and system to work.
  • Dr. Tom Cooley, Air Force Research Laboratory
    • If we don’t figure out how to enable partnership with the private sector then we’ll lose our competitiveness 
      • We have to clarify our competitiveness 
      • Set standards and norms of behavior – provide leadership role for space 
      • Create partnerships 
    • Reinforced importance of logistics 
    • Prognosticating is  vital in industrial engagement. 
    • Noted the industry leaders (three generals) – General dynamics, General motors, and General electric to set forth the importance of industrial base is to the ecosystem 
  • Brig Gen Steve Butow, Defense Innovation Unit
    • DIU was founded in 1915 to increase access to commercial R&D 
    • The report is helpful because it asks the question – what are we doing today to secure America’s future – how do we want the 21st century to end? 
    • Re: acquisition – the paradigm of how we access space is changing. In the past, we had to have the government build rockets or satellites, but now we have a commercial ecosystem (ex. modular sensor/halo) to contract out the systemic/operational costs. Commercial technology is the best foundation to build friends and allies –  as we can exchange commercial information.
  • Therese Jones, Satellite Industry Association
    • The issue in engaging the next generation is getting students in brain trusts – like welders and manufacturers to come in – instead of math and science.
    • Stem ROTC is a great program, such as providing public scholarship
    • We are looking for economic parts in the USG (EXIM Bank) that support the transformational technologies government entities such as the space council colleague to view the tools they may have. 
  • Kevin O’Connell, Director, Office of Space Commerce at U.S. Department of Commerce 
    • Report emphasizes the note of protecting intellectual property – NIST/US Patent Office – key to help industry to achieve the shared goals
    • Need to anticipate better what is coming into the market 
    • Government could be more of an early adopter – to step into the market quickly to acquire technology
  • Bhavya Lal, Institute for Defense Analysis – Science and Technology Policy Institute
    • Government should have architecture in place for when technology is commercially available to transition the operations. Focus on systematic level coordination 
  • Mandy Vaughn, VOX Space
    • Clarifying the role and streamlining the approach for acquisition in the US is vital I.e., Speeding up licensing activity 
    • More aggressively define what it means to be a good client and clarify the  process – role, responsibility, and clarity of action 
    • Detailing how the country would be an end user to the acquisition process than what it would look like than through a total export would help to stream some of these efforts 
    • The speed of technology also introduces challenges