Space Matters Panel: Commercial Space is Reshaping the Future of National Security

Originally aired on: December 12, 2023

Private businesses are rapidly becoming the leaders and innovators in space, and perhaps this was no more apparent than in 2023. The year’s final installment of Space Foundation’s Space Matters looks at the gradual “transfer in ownership” of space from governments to industry, and the implications for national security.

The Space Matters panel is led by former U.S. Rep. and MoonWalker Associates CEO Bob Walker, and  features former NASA administrator and former U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, BryceTech CEO and founder Carissa Christensen, and Constellation Advisory LLC’s President and founder Patricia Cooper.

“We really are in an age of commercial space, and the relationship between the government and the commercial space community is one that is going to be making its way through many problems in the future,” Walker said.

The space industry is experiencing massive amounts of investment and new startups, with the government weighing how best to take advantage of that without hindering innovation. Christensen described the commercial rush into space as a chaotic mix filled with a lot of opportunities.

“We’re in a period where commercial space and national security space are interacting at almost every level,” Christensen said. “Now, none of that is new in a certain way… But what’s different today is that it’s happening in the context of the last decade’s influx of venture capital and billionaire investment, the hundreds of startup space companies we’ve seen emerge, and a different model for transactions for both acquisition and cooperation.”

Cooper explained the benefits that the national security community receives from being a customer, namely that many of their wishes are now available from the commercial sector: multi-system contracts, global coverage for imagery and communications, and avoiding vendor lock.

“In many ways, commercial industry gets way out in front of what the government can keep up with,” Bridenstine said. “We’ve seen that happen with all types of technology throughout history, and of course now it’s happening  in space.”

Because this is the last episode of the year, Space Foundation Senior Vice President Thomas Dorame also asked the panel what they thought was the most notable advancement in space for 2023.

“Because of the proliferation of spacecraft launched into low Earth orbit, LEO is no longer wrapped around in conversations that space is big and we don’t have to worry about our impact,” Cooper said. “We’ve moved into a more conscious understanding of our effect on space domain.”


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