‘The Future is Now’ Air Force calls industry partners to action in advancing space capabilities

  • Published
  • By Richard Lewis
  • SMC Public Affairs

Senior Air Force leaders met with key industry partners and contractors to discuss the future of space acquisition Oct. 16-17 at Space Industry Days. The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), the world leader in space acquisition, seeks innovative solutions from its industry partners to stay on the leading edge of national security space.


“The future is now,” Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, SMC commander and program executive officer (PEO) for space, announced to the crowd during his opening remarks at the Los Angeles Airport Marriot, just blocks from passenger jets flying overhead at nearby LAX. “We must get comfortable with change and get comfortable with the pace of change.”


The general says he wants to hear new ideas from industry, as the stakes have never been higher. “We are getting better but we are not getting better fast enough,” said Thompson.


“We are in competition against a thinking enemy. They have the capability, will and motivation to take us down. It’s adapt or get overcome – and we can’t let that happen.”


SMC is doing its part, completely restructuring the way acquisition is done here through a 2.0 organizational change construct. SMC leaders say 2.0 will allow the center to deliver space capabilities faster and smarter and that they are already seeing results. The center accomplished 78 successful launches including four national security space launches in less than 60 days for the “Summer of Launch” campaign. Also for the first time in SMC history, the center brought all ground services together.


SMC vice commander and PEO for Space Enterprise Corps, Brig. Gen. Donna D. Shipton adds we need to focus on providing superior warfighter capability.


“I really see our mission as not only supporting satellite acquisition and development – but providing assured access to space,” said Shipton. “We need to protect the information and innovation developed by industry to keep it out of the hands of our adversaries.”


Shipton echoed the need for speed.


“As we get more rapid in our delivery of satellite development, we have to be just as rapid in our launch and ground support.”


In addition to speed, partnerships and collaboration were highlighted as imperative for the future of space.


“These events are really important to bring together both industry and government, so we can talk and work together to come up with best solutions to meet the needs of the nation,” said Lane Gilcrest, Alpha Omega Group. “Space is important, of course, because our warfighter needs it and our nation needs it to continue to live the way that we live and do the things that we do in the world.”


More than 450 pre-registered attendees, joined by walk-ins and dozens of exhibitors, crowded around to hear these talks and panel discussions. None was more anticipated than the day-two keynote address by Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Stephen W. Wilson. Unlike timeless space, the message for space in our time is this: do better, or lose the domain.


“Everything is enabled by space,” said Wilson. “Nothing the joint force does happens without space. But we are threatened in space. And if we lose in space – we lose.”


Wilson says we must make investments to build the force of the future and we must do it faster than we ever did before. And that is where we rely on our industry partners for help.


“The aerospace industry in Southern California has a history of being bold, innovative, risk takers. And that’s exactly what we need in space.”


The general turned to the crowd, his easy-going manner not belying the urgency of the message. “We not only want you,” Wilson said, “we need you. We need to dominate space. Speed in development wins as does speed in battle.”


Space Industry Days enables SMC to strengthen partnerships with the Aerospace industry, which is critical, as we continue to face an ever-evolving and increasingly contested space environment.


“The focus now needs to be on great power competition,” said Wilson. “It is a competition about values. It’s about what we value as a nation – our way of life.”