Unleashing Space Transformation with Commercial Partners

Unleashing Space Transformation with Commercial Partners

Their speed and innovations plus our engineering rigor and government mission experience combine to rewrite the norms of space program development

Calendar icon 04-13-2023
Profile photo David Ray
Category icon SPACE

Key Takeaways:

  • Government space stakeholders are integrating commercial innovation and capacity into their missions.
  • Space systems integrators can help deliver commercial speed with the mission-critical safety and rigor needed for government programs.
  • Start-ups with novel capabilities gain quicker entree into government missions by partnering with an experienced space systems integrator.




Stakeholders in civilian, defense and intelligence community space missions look at the commercial sector and ask, “Why aren’t we moving, innovating and deploying that fast?” It’s a reasonable question until you consider the difference between a commercial outcome and a government one. If a commercial satellite is hacked, the new shoes that you purchased online may be delayed by a day or two. Should there be a problem with a government space asset, national security and people's lives may be in peril. Commercial industries can move fast in part because the stakes are not as high as federal missions. Understanding of consequences and risks must factor into the pace and adoption of technology advancement for government space missions. 

Despite that, SAIC’s federal customers are taking a serious and forward-leaning look at how to bring commercial speed to space missions, where failure is not an option. On NASA’s OMES (Omnibus Multidiscipline Engineering Services), the Space Development Agency's PWSA (Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture) and a host of other government programs, we are beginning to see commercial-style practices and solutions deployed in safe and strategic ways. SAIC partners with agencies on these types of programs integrating commercial technologies to help stakeholders balance speed and safety.

As a space systems integrator we combine an understanding of missions, technologies and processes with the objectivity of a company that is not entrenched with the traditional OEM platforms. This is a component-agnostic and stakeholder-focused development approach that's vital in today's age of commercial technology proliferation.

A mere 10 to 15 years ago, space was almost entirely a government domain. The cost of going into space and operating there deterred commercial ventures. Today, commercial organizations are pushing the possibilities of space at an astonishing pace. New launch systems and multi-payload rideshare solutions are occurring with greater frequency and offering low-cost access to space for even the smallest commercial and scientific ventures. 

Proliferation of satellites means that space systems are no longer composed of singular assets that also represent single-fault vulnerabilities for critical missions. Space systems are now resilient and adaptable, with capabilities being deployed incrementally over a program's lifecycle. Distributed assets in space with data crosslinks offer near-real-time access to data across the planet with low latency. 

Space-based technologies are connecting the world to satellite images that are not filtered through the lens of propaganda, and warfighters can access data via space links rather than Ethernet cables. With the lower cost of access into orbit, we are seeing a proliferation of commercial offerings: launch, data transport, imagery and more. We now live in a very different world that requires new ways of thinking.

Straddling the space between government and commercial can be uncomfortable, but we have been there before, and we seek out opportunities to do it more.

Looking ahead into the future, we see satellites that are essentially nodes in a global network, where each one has its own peripherals such as sensors, actuators and propulsion and attitude control systems and can be rapidly equipped and configured via software. We see a future of "Swiss Army knife" satellites that can be configured and deployed in months or even weeks to meet any operational challenge in space.

While government customers benefit from the ability to integrate commercial offerings into their missions, the commercial side can benefit from access to the government's resources and decades of space experience. A small start-up may have an amazing idea to use cubesats in a novel way, but it may not have the mission knowledge or resources to navigate the government acquisition process. We at SAIC have the engineering rigor to evaluate emerging technologies, the experience to recognize the potential of an innovation and the resources to connect commercial entities to government missions.

In fact, this past fall we entered into a strategic partnership with Rogue Systems, a New Hampshire start-up that's building robots for in-orbit services. As its space systems integrator, we are introducing Rogue's capabilities for government mission owners looking to repair, upgrade or refuel satellites as well as take them out of orbit. We're helping to build the "space superhighway," and we're just getting started. We are constantly working with other commercial partners to infuse their capabilities into government missions and the nation's critical space infrastructure.

Straddling the space between government and commercial can be uncomfortable, but we have been there before, and we seek out opportunities to do it more. We want to be the design agent that helps rewrite the norms of space program development and build the framework for new space capabilities.

In the past, there was only a few players that made exquisite platforms with control over their technologies and investments, and missions were tied around them. Now, what used to be exquisite has become accessible — and for some technologies, a commodity. The next evolution in space is no longer the domain of the platform builders but those that can build missions using the multitude of nascent commercial capabilities.


Learn more about how we support customers with solutions and capabilities for the space domain at SAIC's Space page.


Posted by: David Ray

Senior Vice President, Space

David Ray is senior vice president of the Space business unit within the National Security and Space Sector for SAIC. In this role, he is responsible for leading the $1.3 billion Space Business Unit with customers spanning the intelligence, defense, and federal/civil agencies.

Ray joined SAIC in 2021 with a wealth of experience in both managing and growing large technology businesses that serve government customers around the world.

Prior to his current position, Ray served as president of the Government and Defense Business Unit at FLIR Systems, Inc. where was responsible for leading all aspects of the $900 million business unit, including strategy, research and development, operations, business development, and marketing.

Ray has held several leadership roles in general management and business development at Raytheon Company from 2002 to 2017. His most recent role with the company was as vice president, Global Business Development and Strategy for the company's $6 billion Intelligence, Information, and Services Segment, serving intelligence, Department of Defense, federal/civilian agencies, and international customer markets.

He also previously served in many leadership positions of increasing authority for Raytheon Missile Systems (RMS) and Space & Airborne Systems (SAS) businesses during his 16- year tenure with Raytheon. Prior to this, he began his career as a senior management consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Ray received a Bachelor of Science degree in business management from the U.S. Air Force Academy and served five years in the Air Force at Andrews Air Force Base and the Pentagon where he led teams responsible for communications-related projects designed to support senior members of the government and military. He also earned a Master of Science degree in systems management and strategy from Central Michigan University.


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