New Ways of Doing Business in Space

Space systems are essential components to modern US warfare, but they are also some of the most expensive. That’s why the Air Force is trying to find new, more affordable ways of doing business in space, said David Madden, the executive director of the Space and Missile Systems Center, during a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event on Capitol Hill Friday. For example, USAF is experimenting with a new waveform to use for protected tactical communications in the future. “An (Advanced Extremely High Frequency) satellite costs $1.2 billion,” he said. “Try sticking that into this budget.” However, increased use of commercial technologies is helping to curb acquisition costs, he said, particularly improved microchip development and improved commercial data busses. There also are efforts underway to improve interoperability with unclassified comms and joint ventures with allies, such as cost sharing SATCOM access with Australia. Madden said the center’s budget came in around $10 billion annually just a few years ago. Today, that number is closer to $5.6 billion.