Interested in receiving innovative proposals from private companies, the Air Force Research Laboratory has announced that it is seeking proposals. They are focusing on those that serve to advance scientific knowledge about space systems, including any technological developments that could help them achieve these goals. The solicitation was released late last week.
The timing is right, as the Air Force is in the midst of pushing for technological change to occur at much faster rates than now. They are concerned that other, rival nations may develop their own systems that could jeopardize the US’s ability to operate in or further explore outer space. To help them find new and innovative solutions, they have opened the doors for private companies to pitch them their best idea.
Pitches on everything from launch devices, communication links, user equipment, ground systems, payload adapters, and on-orbit systems are welcomed. While the Air Force hopes to attract small businesses, they are not restricting any company from pitching, making it clear that the competition is to be “full and open.”
Currently, US military forces rely heavily on space systems, such as satellite communications, to support their missions across the globe. It is crucial that the military come up with ways to continue operating these systems and satellites, even in situations where they may be under attack. While space is still a fairly uncontested environment, it is impossible to predict what type of change could happen later down the road. Given today’s competitive market and fierce political climate, may experts believe space may become a contested environment relatively soon.
The agency reached out to the private sector as a way to find more innovative thinkers and outside-the-box solutions. Agency representatives admitted that there is a lot more innovation and rapid development of space technology being done by private companies than government operations. Being able to foster a relationship between the private and public sector is key if the Air Force and other government agencies want to remain competitive.
Air Force leaders are primarily concerned about China, and its rapidly developing technology. They are deploying satellites and other payloads with increased speed, leading many to be worried about China’s eventual goal.
Some people believe that this call for innovation from the private sector comes as the result of a late-2017 review of the Air Force’s current technology strategy. This report was to set clear priorities for future development.