Surface to Space


The rapidly evolving commercial space industry presents a challenge to established air and space domains: how to support the growth of this innovative industry while maintaining safe and efficient skies for all users. MITRE has a plan.

The space race is on again, this time to develop space-based services for agriculture, telecommunications, weather forecasting, and pharmaceutical research in addition to vital national security missions.

Over the next decade, the commercial space industry—already a $400 billion global enterprise—plans a tenfold increase for objects on orbit and an expansion of rocket launches for tourism, research, and resupply of installations in space.

During launch and reentry, these vehicles pass through an increasingly complex airspace—one full of unmanned aircraft, high-altitude balloons, and traditional aircraft. MITRE has a plan to enable all these operations to happen safely and efficiently.

A group of humanoid robotsTo facilitate that integration, we applied our 60 years of experience in the air and space domains to create a functional “architecture.” It maps out the shared information and situation awareness decision makers will need to coordinate their operations in a way that works for everyone.

We’ve also begun creating prototype tools to support those processes. And we’ve arranged to test those tools in a real-world environment: NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. The nation’s third busiest federal spaceport, Wallops handles public and private rocket launches and unmanned aircraft system operations.

Our prototype launch planning tool integrates previously separate data feeds about aviation and maritime operations. It uses that information to identify launch windows with the least impact to both operations. It also automates much of the launch planning previously done manually.

By establishing collaboration practices and systems for exchanging real-time and planning data, and integrating that data into a common picture, we can enhance the efficiency of launch facilities’ operations across the nation.



The broader space industry will double by 2030.


Estimated number of commercial air travelers in 2035.


The number of satellites projected to be launched each year by 2025. The number orbiting Earth could quintuple in the next decade.


Projected number of small model UAS in the U.S. alone by 2021.

Let’s continue to collaborate. Let’s continue to find better ways to enable this industry. … As we do that, we will unleash the benefits of the space economy.

Steve Dickson
FAA Administrator, 23rd Annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference, Jan. 30, 2020

MITRE is collaborating with the space and aviation communities to develop a surface-to-space architecture. This functional map will ensure effective coordination at every mission stage: from pre-launch through atmospheric transit, to low Earth orbit and payload deployment, and return to Earth.

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