Space Enterprise Consortium Membership Meeting to Bring Government, Space Industry Together

  • Published
  • By Lisa Sodders, SSC Public Affairs
More than 300 professionals are expected to attend Space Enterprise Consortium’s (SpEC) annual membership meeting in Los Angeles, Calif. on Oct. 17 at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott.

Established in 2017 to bridge the cultural gap between military buyers and commercial space startups and small businesses, SpEC uses a Department of Defense procurement mechanism known as OTA, or Other Transaction Authority, to carry out certain prototypes, research, and production projects. OTAs were created to give necessary flexibility for select federal agencies to adopt and incorporate business practices that reflect commercial industry standards and best practices into U.S. Department of Defense award instruments. SpEC’s innovative contracting process allows it to solicit bids from a mix of member companies, including those which have not previously worked with the Department of Defense.

“That’s one of the prime objectives for the SpEC OTA: attract and break down barriers to entry for those non-traditional defense contractors,” said Maj. Philip R. Duddles, SSC SpEC program manager. “We believe that innovation doesn’t just exist within the big defense ‘Prime’ contractors.”

More than 600 companies have joined SpEC, 70 percent of which are considered non-traditional defense contractors, Duddles said.

“The general membership meeting embodies what SpEC is meant to be about: facilitating better and broader engagement between the government and the commercial and academic sectors,” said Tim Greeff, CEO and founder of NSTXL, which manages SpEC.

“One thing we all missed during Covid was that in-person engagement,” Greeff added. “As we work to put non-traditional companies in business with the federal government, it’s hard to fathom having successful business relationships without that in-person interaction.”

Through the consortium, “we create that environment where government gets to meet and develop relationships with the top performers in industry, and industry gets to meet with government and get that support,” Greeff said.

The annual members meeting will include keynote speakers, including Joy M. White, executive director for SSC, and Col. Richard Kniseley, director of SSC’s Commercial Space Office, Duddles said.

The second section will include breakout sessions where consortium members can listen and learn from program officers talking about their projects, government requirement owners sharing coming requirements, and networking conversations with industry.
“Since January, we’ve seen more than 100 new companies join the consortium,” Duddles said. “A lot of that is from (SpEC members) learning about us when attending symposiums and conferences and our efforts at getting the word out to industry that this opportunity exists.”

Working with the government can seem, to some, like a cumbersome or unclear process, especially for smaller companies if they’ve never worked under federal acquisition regulations before, Duddles said. Traditionally, the timeline between solicitation of bids for a project and awarding the contract could sometimes take years – another barrier for smaller companies.

But with the OTA, the time from a government program posting a solicitation to the membership portal to the time the contract is awarded could be as short as 90 days, Duddles said.
“It lets the government disperse the risk a little bit,” Duddles said. “If you do a big, single contract with a traditional defense contractor for a large effort that includes development, prototyping, production, sustainment, etc., that contractor is going to have to calculate and absorb all that prototyping and risk.”

“But if the government can take and manage the prototyping efforts - sometimes among multiple companies - and identify the best performer or the prototype that’s been validated and works, when you move on to the production phase, whoever wins the production phase is taking on less technical risk,” Duddles said.

“The unique thing about SpEC is that we actually facilitate and encourage companies to come together and ‘team’ on responses to solicitations,” Duddles said. “At the end of the day, that often delivers SSC a better product at a better price.”

With technology, innovation and space threats all becoming more complex, “it’s now pretty unlikely that any one company is ever going to have the entire capability or solution that the government is looking for,” Greeff said.

And with government working within compressed timelines to deliver solutions, successful teaming needs to happen before the request for proposal goes out – which is where SpEC comes in -- encouraging companies to figure out what they can offer, who they can partner with and develop a team, Greeff said.

SSC “owns” SpEC’s OTA, but it’s a tool that can be used by any U.S. Department of Defense agency with a space-related prototype requirement, Duddles said.

“Our scope is defense-related, space prototypes,” Duddles said. “We can engage with any DoD organization that’s doing space prototyping, like the MDA (Missile Defense Agency), SDA (Space Defense Agency), AFRL (Air Force Research Laboratory). A big benefit of this OTA consortium model and having a large and active consortium is that these companies are vetted and educated, and communication is kept flowing between government and the consortium.”

Governed by Title 10, U.S. code 4022, the OTA is about two pages of regulations, as opposed to thousands in the federal acquisition regulations. SSC’s OTA is a 10-year, $12 billion ceiling vehicle that individual efforts can be nested within, Duddles said. No money is assigned to it. Typically, the entity who owns the requirement brings the funding, which then gets nested or assigned under the OTA. SpEC has a team of contracting officers who serve as the point of contact for the OTA.
Recent successful SpEC-funded projects include:
  • The Hosted Payload Interface Unit (HPIU) is a key capability enabling the U.S./Japan QZSS Hosted Payload mission, an international partnership with Japan in which U.S. Space Force (USSF) sensors are hosted on Quasi-Zenith Satellite System, Japan’s version of the Global Positioning System. The HPIU program successfully integrated with Japan’s QZS-6 satellite in April, and a second system was delivered to Japan in May to be integrated on QZS-7.
  • Data Exploitation & Enhanced Processing – Position, Navigation & Timing (DEEP-PNT) leverages on-orbit mega-constellations, providing operational threat monitoring, detection, and actionable characterization of the GPS signal environment, said 1st Lt. Alexander G. Saylor with SSC’s Environmental and Tactical Surveillance Delta. DEEP-PNT showcased a successful prototype through SpEC in less than one year.
Being a part of SpEC allowed the DEEP-PNT team to rapidly prototype and fostered a sense of urgency to deliver a proven operational product into the hands of users, Saylor said. DEEP-PNT has proven its utility by supporting multiple crewed/uncrewed NASA, USSF, and National Reconnaissance Office launches as well specific mission requests from USNORTHCOM. This “quick-win” prototype has found its home at the Joint Task Force Space Defense – Commercial Operations Cell where it is briefed twice a day to numerous national partners during crew stand-ups.
  • Space Mobility & Logistics On-Orbit Servicing/Refueling project – SSC awarded a $25.5 million contract to Astroscale, a Colorado based aerospace company, for an on-orbit refueling vehicle. Astroscale’s was one of 23 bids that came in through SpEC. By utilizing the SpEC OT, SSC leveraged an industry cost-share, significantly increasing the total value of the effort while codifying a mutually beneficial industry/USSF partnership. Astroscale is on contract to deliver, within 24 months, a prototype vehicle capable of refueling satellites as they remain on-station and on-mission. This game-changing capability will leverage a broader commercial refueling architecture advanced by previous industry/USSF investments. 
“In the outreach that we do, and with the size of the consortium membership, we typically average between three to five times the number of qualified proposals being submitted, than if the government posted an opportunity on by itself,” Greeff said.
Greeff said SpEC is constantly looking for emerging companies with promising technology.
“It’s not just a database, or an email list – SpEC is a living community of folks that we are driving to interact with each other, to create better teamed, qualified solutions so that the government has much broader awareness of what’s available and can really select from a greater group of companies – and that competition is good for everyone,” Greeff said.
“We’re starting to see a very steep innovation curve with new space technology. Government is now competing on a global stage like we have never had to do in the past,” Greeff said. “Keeping up to date on all the new technologies coming out – and also being able to contract them in an efficient manner is the only way we’re going to maintain our space superiority.”
For more information about the SpEC annual membership meeting or to register, visit