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Milsat Magazine: U.S. Space CEO Craig Weston

Command Center: Gen. Craig P. Weston
President + CEO U.S. Space LLC

Craig Weston is President and Chief Executive Officer of U.S. Space, LLC, a U.S.-owned provider of dedicated, commercial space solutions to serve the interests of the nation and its coalition partners and commercial enterprises worldwide. He also holds these same positions with ViviSat LLC, a joint venture dedicated to life extension of on-orbit satellites, and U.S. Space Mobile Communications LLC, a joint venture that provides end-to-end mobile satellite communications solutions. Previously, he was Vice President and Deputy Director of a business unit with SRA International, a $1.5 billion information technology and services company based in Fairfax, Virginia.

A retired Air Force Major General, he spent a large part of his career developing, launching and operating communications, infra-red warning and reconnaissance satellites. At various points in his career, General Weston was involved in the development and fielding of air launched munitions, airborne high energy laser weapons, airborne and ground warning and surveillance systems, command and control information systems, as well as foreign military sales and international security assistance.

His last active duty assignment was in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he brokered international collaboration to rebuild the Afghan defense, police and legal sectors, as well as to disarm militia forces and begin counter-narcotics operations.

General Weston earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Mechanics and a Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering.

He is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and serves on the board of directors of the National Capital Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.


MSM
General Weston, U. S. Space LLC has branched out in a variety of different directions since it was formed two years ago ….satellite life extension, mobile communications, military satellite communication...Why have you selected these particular business lines? What’s the common denominator?

General Weston
U. S. Space was formed as a call to service — to serve the nation. We believed from the start that by combining the best attributes of commercial and military satellite communications business practices we could provide our government a financially and operationally advantageous solution to a critical need. Fortunately, we had some of the best minds from both the commercial and government sectors working on the concept and the service — people like Ed Horowitz, Mark Piegza and Mark Albrecht. We have since been joined by other terrific people — Dr. Dany Harel, Randy Brinkley, Bryan McGuirk, Prof. Ed Wright, to name a few.

Drawing on their insights, we have expanded into satellite life extension and mobile communications — two business areas in which we have found new and better ways of delivering high-value services. I’ll give you two common denominators — we will only stand up a new business if it provides an essential service and if we have found a way to provide that service that delivers value in a different manner. We’re in business to change the game.

MSM
An area of great interest for you and U.S. Space is that of In-Orbit Servicing. Other companies as well as government agencies are intrigued enough with this approach to extending satellite life that they, too, have joined in this market segment. Would you please explain exactly what In-Orbit Servicing is, and how U.S. Space plays its major role in this effort? Why is such so important?

General Weston
In-orbit servicing is actually several decades old but I see this as a mission area that can experience explosive growth. It is an expensive and complex undertaking to place a satellite in orbit, so once there, it would be great if we could extend its life rather than undergo the expense and complexity of replacing it. So, in-orbit servicing is the ability to extend the life of a satellite, either by supplementing its original propulsion capabilities or by replacing failed modules like solar areas, batteries or other hardware essential to continued operation of the satellite. Over the past several decades, NASA has been a leader for in-orbit servicing, with several missions with astronauts extra-vehicular activity to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. These were astounding successes that prove the utility of in-orbit servicing. The time is right to apply many of these proven technologies to the commercial marketplace. The challenge is to perform in-orbit servicing without humans turning wrenches to replace hardware, and to do so at other than Low Earth Orbits, e.g., geosynchronous orbits, where humans cannot easily perform EVAs. Therefore, the future of this industry is very dependent on robotics and remotely manipulated devices. This is the reason U.S. Space is teaming with ATK Space Systems, a world-class developer of robotics for satellite servicing, in our ViviSat in-orbit servicing joint venture.

MSM
You and ATK created quite a stir when you announced ViviSat earlier this year. Were you surprised by the big reaction?

General Weston
It’s not often that an entirely new market in the satellite industry opens up. ViviSat offers satellite operators, the U.S. Government, and its coalition government partners a service that had previously been imagined but not realized commercially — in-orbit mission extension and operations protection services. These services are flexible, scalable, capital-efficient and low-risk operations that can add years to the revenue producing life of a satellite. The potential long-term impact for the commercial operator, government user, manufacturer, insurance provider is substantial. So it’s not surprising that players from all segments of the industry have been, and are today, quite keen to learn about ViviSat.

MSM
That being said, how’s the ViviSat business doing?

General Weston
The last several months have been a period of substantial progress and achievement. We are now well along in the design phase. We also now have firm fixed price offerings that we have communicated to potential customers that are being well received by the market. Our discussions with satellite operators around the world have become productive and we are in serious negotiations with several of them. In addition, ViviSat is currently testing its rendezvous and proximity operations at a new ATK lab in Beltsville, Maryland.

MSM
Shortly after you introduced ViviSat in January, MDA announced a competitive offering. Have there been any developments in the competitive landscape since then?

General Weston
In a business this young and exciting, we should expect rapid evolution in the service offerings, new entrants, business arrangements and enhancements of various kinds.

MSM
Is ViviSat technologically different from the competition?


General Weston
Unlike our competitors’ service, we don’t interfere with anything the client satellite is doing. Our approach does not have any electrical connection or fuel exchange of any kind. Like a “jet pack” for satellites, ViviSat simply makes a physical connection through docking. In addition, ViviSat can repeatedly dock and un-dock, servicing multiple satellites. Our solution is simple, low risk and unique — and can provide years of extra mission life.

MSM
Also, please bring us up to date on your mobile communications business.

General Weston
We launched U. S. Space Mobile Communications in April 2011. This business provides the U. S. Government and commercial entities the most reliable, secure, flexible, stable and cost-effective mobile communications services available in the market. This is an operationally intensive business, so we have spent a lot of time ensuring we have top quality customer support capabilities, and have been reaching out to hundreds of potential customers. We have also been working with selected customers on end-to-end solutions that include our industry-leading durable, small and smart mobile satellite handsets, and a compact IP broadband terminal that is a generational leap forward in design and performance.

MSM
Do you have any customers yet at USSMC?

General Weston
We do. We are generating revenue and, more importantly, we have happy customers. We have had some exciting reports from users in the field, in places like Ulaanbaatar, Addis Ababa and the Himalayas who have told us that the phones and IP terminals have made critical differences for them.

MSM
How does USSMC address the government customer’s specialized service and security needs?

General Weston
U.S. Space Mobile Commun- ications is a U.S.-owned and operated Company. We offer U.S. military personnel with increased OPSEC for sensitive operations by shielding customer identity from our service provider. Our Network Operations center that provides the 24x7 Help Desk and Customer Care Services for USSMC is based in Maryland and is staffed by native-English speaking, cleared U.S. citizens.

MSM
One area of great interest for commercial and military firms is the hosted payloads segment. How do you see the role of hosted payloads gaining ground, and what importance will it play in our future satellite launch efforts?

General Weston
I see hosted payloads as an important ingredient in our nation’s future space architecture. Whether it is a commercial communications satellite with a secondary military payload or our U.S. Space business model of purpose-built satellites dedicated to hosting military payloads as the primary mission, the government gains a number of benefits from hosting, among them: 1) A less expensive means of getting to, and operating, in space, 2) diversity of assets on orbit, 3) diversity in the industrial base, and 4) relatively rapid delivery timelines. In the forthcoming belt tightening our national security agencies must endure, hosted payloads is an idea whose time has come!

MSM
Start-ups are rare in this industry. Did U. S. Space make a mistake in the timing of the company’s introduction in light of the way the budgetary environment has developed over the last two years?

General Weston
We think our timing was perfect. U.S. Space was created to provide rapidly delivered, high-quality services in a resource-constrained world. We bring to government customers private financing and proven commercial business practices that provide space services that are transparent and fit easily into the government’s existing operations infrastructure. The marketplace, Congress and the Administration all seem to be saying that this kind of cross-fertilization is precisely what these challenging times demand.

MSM
And are there other business initiatives we haven’t heard about yet?

General Weston
Yes. Our business model is flexible and can be applied quite broadly, so we are developing and nurturing a number of other initiatives in the government space arena. Stay tuned!

MSM
General Weston, during your many years within the satellite and space segment of the U.S. Air Force as a Major General developing, directing, launching and operating MILSATCOM spacecraft, there must have been many projects which remain with you as the most satisfying of your military career. Would you please tell our readers about those projects, and why you consider them to be so important?

General Weston
I had the good fortune to be a part of a number of ground-breaking programs and systems during my Air Force career, both in the space and other mission areas. The most satisfying MILSATCOM project to which I contributed was the MILSTAR program, and the launch of the first military EHF frequency satellite in 1994. As with many high-technology programs, MILSTAR underwent a difficult birthing process but it and its successors, like the Advanced EHF satellites, provide a unique capability. The ability to communicate without disruption at all levels of conflict and in all conditions is a priceless advantage to our battlefield commanders, and is only possible with EHF satellites.

MSM
The technical needs of firms such as yours are huge. In order for our nation to compete on the global stage, our students’ education must radically improve in the sciences, mathematics, the various technologies and engineering disciplines. Unfortunately for both the military and commercial segments, there is a decreasing pool of trained professionals from which to drive new projects and missions through new hires. How important is STEM training in your estimation? How can our industry drive home and support the need for today’s students to be immersed in the sciences, mathematics, various technologies, and engineering disciplines? Is U.S. Space involved in any such programs?

General Weston
Yes — it is critical to our competitiveness as a nation to improve quality of education, especially at elementary and secondary levels, and especially in the areas of math, science and technology. That’s why a number of us at U. S. Space are very involved in educational programs. As examples, I work with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, which has extensive programs to support educators at all levels in math, science, and technology; our Chairman, Mark Albrecht is involved with the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science, and he donated the proceeds of his recent book to that program; and our co-founder Ed Horowitz serves on both The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University and the Board of Trustees of the New York Hall of Science.

While we have much work to do, it’s also important to note the United States has the finest universities and colleges in the world. The U. S. dominates everyone’s list of world’s best universities, including schools like MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Cal Tech, Chicago, Johns Hopkins, as well as our outstanding service academies. No other country in the world is close to us in the choice of top-tier higher education — that’s true in math, science and technology and across other areas of study.

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U.S. Space Board Member Don Kerr Named Senior Fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies

From the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies: The Honorable Donald M. Kerr, PhD Named Senior Fellow And Member of the Board of Regents.

Dr. Don KerrThe Potomac Institute for Policy Studies (www.potomacinstitute.org) is pleased to announce that The Honorable Donald M. Kerr, PhD, has joined the Institute as a Senior Fellow and Member of the Board of Regents. Dr. Kerr is a distinguished scientist who has held several prominent positions in government service and private industry. He has served as Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, Director of the National Reconnaissance Office, Deputy Director for Science and Technology at the Central Intelligence Agency, and Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in charge of the Laboratory Division. He has been honored with the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal and the CIA Distinguished Intelligence Medal. Dr. Kerr is a Research Professor in George Mason University's Volgenau School of Engineering, and serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for the MITRE Corporation. He is also a member of the Defense Science Board.

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