Space Force sets up innovation hub to connect with commercial partners

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The trend of military offices looking for innovative solutions within the commercial realm just expanded a bit.

The Space Force announced Monday that it will have its own liaison to the tech world, dubbed SpaceWERX. The name is taken from the Air Force’s AFWERX and U.S. Special Operations Command’s SOFWERX.

“As we approach the first anniversary of our newest service, the United States Space Force, we also celebrate the opening of the first space-focused innovation hub at Los Angeles Air Force Base,” said Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett.

SpaceWERX will closely align its efforts with space operators and acquisition professionals within the Space Force and Space and Missile Systems Center. It will work with groups that contribute to the national security space architecture and with the Air Force Research Laboratory.

“The global space economy continues to grow at rapid rates, and SpaceWERX is going to help us continue our momentum,” said Lt. Gen. John Thompson, Space and Missile Systems Center commander and program executive officer for space. “The goal is to expand the space industrial base by guiding additional partners, leveraging commercial investment, and rapidly pursuing new space technologies that could be game changers for our space warfighters,” he said. “SpaceWERX will help ensure that Space Force can tap into those cutting-edge space technologies.”

SpaceWERX will be led by Lt. Col. Rock McMillan.

Thompson said Monday at the AFWERX Accelerate event that small businesses focused on space face many of the same challenges as other small businesses trying to work with the Defense Department.

The Space Force has also created the Space Enterprise Consortium (SPEC), which will build partnerships between government, traditional industry partners and nontraditional companies.

“That consortium has grown to more than 440 members and we’ve awarded more than 80 different prototyping contracts worth an excess of $850 million using a unique contracting structure called other transaction authority,” Thompson said.

He added that more than 350 were nontraditional companies. The Space Force current contract can award $1.5 billion through the consortium. It plans to have a follow on contract that is a decade long with a ceiling of $12 billion.

“We are calling that SPEC Reloaded and we are hoping to have it awarded at the end of this month or early in January,” Thompson said.

The Air Force’s AFWERX has recently been engrained deeper into the service’s acquisition core.

Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper said AFWERX successfully completed the experimental phase and has transitioned to the Air Force Research Laboratory under the Air Force Materiel Command.

AFWERX is “connecting formally to the acquisition system and AFMC, the big purchasing engine that we represent in the Air Force and Space Force,” Roper said.

The Air Force announced in September that AFWERX would be promoted to a program-executive-office-type level.

“Given the daunting challenges we face against peer competitors, the operative question is: ‘What are we doing to tip the scales?’” Roper wrote in a Sept. 1 memo. “One answer is relaunching AFWERX with expanded authority. With so much of the battlefield — over 80% — in commercial markets having a frontline organization bridge back to our PEOs, research labs and major commands can lower our fence line, multiply our partnerships and provide a plain-speaking menu for defense work where the first course isn’t acronym soup.”

The relaunch breaks AFWERX into three different branches. One focuses on commercial markets, one on empowering innovation and the final on leveraging government resources.

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