Space Force chief technologist hints at future plans to build digital infrastructure
Lisa Costa was appointed Space Force Director of Technology and Innovation in September 2021
WASHINGTON — Lisa Costa, director of technology and innovation for the US Space Force, said the service is considering investments in edge computing, in-space data centers and other necessary technologies to build a digital infrastructure.
“Clearly, the imperative to make data-driven, threat-informed decisions is number one, which means we need in-space computing and storage power, and resilient communications broadband in orbit,” Costa said Jan. 13 during a virtual event hosted by GovConWire, an information site on public procurement.
Costa was appointed Space Force CTIO in September 2021. She previously served as Director of Communications Systems and Director of Information for United States Special Operations Command.
She said Space Force had a long-term vision to be a “digital service” and was now developing a strategy to invest in “the right infrastructure for a competitive and contested field.”
One of Space Force’s primary goals is to be nimble and “outrun our adversaries,” Costa said. Timely and relevant data is imperative, and this will require investment in public and commercial infrastructure in space, she added. “Things like cloud storage, elastic computing, critical computing for machine learning, infrastructure in and across orbits.”
She noted that the Space Force needs to do a better job of communicating its needs to commercial industry and universities that are developing many of the technologies the service seeks.
Edge computing and in-orbit data management are growing market segments in the space industry. On-board computing allows satellites to process the data they collect and perform autonomous decision-making and tasks faster than if the data were to be transported to a server on the ground.
Space Force Guardians need those capabilities so they can analyze the data using machine learning and artificial intelligence, Costa said. “AI is incredibly important in space. So where are we going to do this processing?”
Having space-based orbital computing power is “really essential, so we don’t have to download huge amounts of data to ground stations to do the processing and then download the information,” said she declared. “So help us find the best ways to process the information and get it to the decision makers.”
A digital infrastructure that can move data quickly “is absolutely imperative because of two main factors: the nature of the threat and the size of our Space Force, which is quite small.”
“We are the only US military service that was created in the information age,” Costa said. “And so the Space Force has this unique opportunity to be born digital. And we seize this opportunity.