Space Force procurement chief criticizes over-engineered satellite programs

September 21, 2022

Space News:

The U.S. Space Force is buying billion-dollar satellites that on average take seven years to develop while China is moving to build new constellations at a rapid pace. This is a problem that calls for new ways of doing business, said Frank Calvelli, assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration.

Speaking on a panel Sept. 20 at the Air, Space & Cyber conference, Calvelli said satellites need to be smaller, cheaper and made more rapidly.

To produce satellites faster and at lower cost, the Space Force needs to move away from cost-plus contracts that incentivize contractors to redesign and over-engineer systems, he said.

A model for the Space Force to follow is the one used by the Space Development Agency, which buys larger numbers of satellites on fixed-price contracts. “We really want to go fast, we have got to stop the traditional way of building satellites, and the sort of large seven-year cost-plus contracts and go to smaller systems that are more proliferated,” he said. “And stop redesigning everything.”

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