The US government’s mode of operation is to write a spec, issue a request for proposals, and pay the winner to build something. Even though new capabilities are constantly being fielded by industry, the USG doesn’t seem to know how to incorporate a fee-for-service model into some of its major mission areas. This is particularly true in space. The Aerospace Corporation has just pointed this out in a new study:
Space robotics is an area that will be dominated by commercial efforts for the foreseeable future. Northrop Grumman has already demonstrated automated docking and life extension with its MEV-1 capability. NG’s partnership with DARPA on the Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program will result in a vehicle with even more impressive capabilities, including repair of deployment anomalies, addition of upgrade modules, and ultra-close inspection. Yet there is no indication that the Space Force has realized how valuable these capabilities are for its mission of improving the survivability of US space assets.