Administration Requests $15M for Office of Space Commerce

On February 11, 2020, the White House released President Trump’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2021. The budget includes a Commerce Department request of $15 million and 24 positions for the Office of Space Commerce, consisting of $4.1 million and 11 positions reallocated from NOAA to Departmental Management and $10.9 million and 13 positions in new appropriations.

The congressional justification for the request states:

This request provides the Office of Space Commerce (OSC) with the ability to respond to current and future National Space Policy Directives. Specifically, the direction for the Department of Commerce to ensure the continued provision of and improvement on space situational awareness data (SSA) and SSA services (Space Policy Directive-3), as well as new directives to streamline regulations and promote commercial use of space. This funding will: (A) Increase staff needed to execute program management, policy, technical assessment and cloud architecture. (B) Develop technical prototypes that will advance industry engagement and support a critical informational platform for space situational awareness. (C) Promote the partnership between the Department of Commerce and commercial industry to develop warnings to limit the potential impacts to space operations. (D) Initiate the open architecture data repository (OADR), which will then drive future RFIs (Request for Information) and
specialized industry days.

This funding also allows for improved management control and depth of the organization at a time of dynamic change in the global space economy and for additional investment in growing a civil space traffic management capability. It will also allow for increased interaction, experimentation and program involvement by emerging commercial vendors with our space traffic management responsibilities. Advancing Space Commerce is Section 1.1 in the Department of Commerce Strategic Plan. This recognizes the growing importance of space and space commerce to U.S. economic and national security, as well as the myriad activities required to foster the conditions for the economic growth and technological advancement of the U.S. commercial space industry. This program change will fund commercial projects to develop the commercial- and allied- oriented activities in the OADR as directed in SPD-3. Specifically, projects will seek to design systems and solve problems related to: (1) providing more timely and accurate alerts and warnings to satellite operators at risk of collision; (2) improvements to visualization and modeling of objects (including debris) within the space environment; and (3) enhanced interoperability between space operators and diverse commercial sensors.

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Along with the budget release, the Department published a report on the implementation of its strategic plan, including the Advancing Space Commerce objective cited above. The report cites DOC’s accomplishments in FY 2019 and performance metrics for FY 2020 and beyond.

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The report establishes the following Agency Priority Goal (APG) related to SSA during FY 2020-2021:

Space Situational Awareness. The increasing number of objects and participants in space present new threats that inhibit the growth of space commerce. To better track objects in orbit and predict where they will be at any given time, the Department of Commerce, as directed by the President per Space Policy Directive 3 and in partnership with the Department of Defense and the commercial industry, will coordinate the development and implementation of a modern space situational awareness (SSA) capability. The Department’s Office of Space Commerce will achieve SSA initial operational capability by 30 September 2021.

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