| COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. May 23 The U.S.
government's growing acceptance of commercial military
satellites is opening the $20 billion-a-year market to new
companies and forcing big arms makers such as Lockheed Martin
and Boeing to change how they operate.
U.S. officials are trying to boost security of U.S. military
and intelligence satellites, with an eye on risks from space
debris and the proliferation of space-faring countries that
could target U.S. satellites in a war.
Officials hope the booming commercial satellite market can
help the government obtain simpler and cheaper satellites, lower
the cost of launching and create more options in other areas.
After years of talk, U.S. budget cuts and changes in
technology have started to alter a market long dominated by big
contractors like Lockheed.
"The space market is changing dramatically," said Henry
Obering, senior vice president with Booz Allen Hamilton and
former Missile Defense Agency director. "The big companies will
either adopt new ways of doing things or they will fail."
"Change always creates angst," said Doug Loverro, deputy
assistant secretary of defense for space policy. He said market
giants were more open to commercial practices, cutting costs,
speeding up programs and testing new technologies.
For instance, he said the Air Force cut the cost of a new
ground-based radar for tracking space objects by two thirds by
mandating prototypes and manufacturing demonstrations. A
contract award to Lockheed or Raytheon Co is expected
Lockheed, Boeing and others are embracing new production
processes such as 3D printing, and hunting down commercial
orders to offset an expected slowdown in U.S. government buying.
Loverro said the Pentagon was still expected to spend about
$300 billion on military space programs over the next 15 years,
but buying practices will change to make satellites more
"Do we continue to buy what we've been used to buying, or do
we move in a different direction?" he said. He cited widespread
agreement that the Air Force should stop buying Boeing-built
Wideband Global System satellites since commercial satellites
now carry more bandwidth.
The Air Force is studying ways to use commercial bandwidth,
beyond leasing services as it does during military operations.
That could create opportunities for satellite operators like
Iridium Communications, which plans to launch 66 new
satellites starting in 2017 that will host payloads for the
government or other customers.
James Clapper, director of U.S. National Intelligence, said
90 percent of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's
underlying intelligence now comes from companies like
DigitalGlobe Inc. But he said companies should not rely
on the government to underwrite new satellite programs.
U.S. officials said they welcome competition in the rocket
launch market. But new players such as Space Exploration
Technologies, or SpaceX, have complained that change is slow in
coming and say the United States risks being overtaken by other
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, editing by Ros Krasny and David