To reach digital maturity, the U.S. Space Force is rebuilding IT systems, some of which are more than 30 years old, to accommodate artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities and digital twin models. Space Force tech leaders hope to release a new strategy soon to guide these efforts.
"Fundamentally, Space Force is … three years old, and we have a vision to be a digital service," Lisa Costa, the U.S. Space Force chief technology and innovation officer, said at a Nextgov event this week. "A large part of what we're doing is focusing on shoring up and rebuilding the infrastructure so that the AI, the … digital twins that sit on top of that infrastructure can operate well and in a way that our guardians are used to accessing technology when they pick up their phone."
The Space Force Technology and Innovation Office is currently developing a model-based systems engineering strategy and implementation guide to establish standards, policies and guidance for how the service will develop and use digital models.
Model-based systems engineering, which keeps track of complex contemporary systems, accelerates transformation and reduces costs, is widely used across the Defense Department. Last week, the U.S Army awarded five rapid prototyping other transaction agreements for the Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System Increment 2 effort, which will utilize model-based systems engineering to "maintain alignment with the unmanned aircraft family of systems and higher-level system architectures."
"You can imagine if you're contracting for different digital models, different digital twins, you can imagine all of the different standards that might be used … the different inputs, the different measurements," Costa said. "The different processing, the different outputs, we want to be able to control for error … we want to be able to ensure that we're not vendor locked, and we're able to run those models on very different systems because we may have different capabilities at different locations."
Costa said the Space Force is working on an integrated operations network (ION), which will provide high bandwidth and low latency for essential capabilities, such as AI or improvements to its Unified Data Library (UDL).
"One of the things we're really trying to do is make sure as we build out ION, which is that base infrastructure that we are providing left and right limits for all the things that will sit on top of it like digital engineering, AI or enhanced UDL, putting out those standards to reduce regret over time," Costa said.
For the past three years, the Space Force has been building "vertical infrastructures," developing acquisitions, the Space Warfighter Analysis Center, the Space Training and Readiness Command and the Space Operations Command.
"Those are verticals of excellence that we need to integrate horizontally," Costa said. "The way they are integrated is based on older networking technology and so the CTIO office is heavily engaged in building and bringing to Space Force by ION, the integrated operations network, which focuses on integrating across those verticals so that they're able to pass off digital models to one another."