CFSCC commander visits Cal Poly CubeSat Lab, lauds first space research and development agreement

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Mae-Li Allison
  • Combined Force Space Component Command Public Affairs

The Combined Force Space Component Command commander Maj. Gen. John Shaw paid a visit to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Calif., Monday, to meet with faculty and students involved in space operations research programs. This was Shaw’s first visit to the campus since the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA)—the first of its kind between Vandenberg and any other academic institution—was signed with Cal Poly in Nov. 2019.

During the visit, Shaw toured Cal Poly’s CubeSat laboratory, talked with students and faculty about the challenging space environment and the Space Force mission, as well as learned about Cal Poly’s current projects with the base.

“I’m inspired by the high-caliber research going on at Cal Poly and the sheer enthusiasm they have here for space,” said Shaw, who is also the deputy commander of Space Operations Command, headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. “The research agreement we have with this university is an accelerant in developing a robust network of information sharing and innovation. We’re leveraging the close proximity of Vandenberg to the university campus, as well as our collective resources and technical expertise, to further partnership and teamwork in space operations.”

Although Space Operations Command (SpOC) recently moved its headquarters to Peterson Air Force Base, some elements of the SpOC, including those responsible for executing the CRADA with Cal Poly, will remain at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The SpOC’s Directorate of Strategic Plans, Programs and Requirements, is the base’s lead for the research agreement.

“This is the first CRADA our office has solidified with an academic institution, and I’m sure it won’t be the last,” said Lt. Col. Amanda Martin, Deputy Director, Strategic Plans, Programs and Requirements, SpOC. “Our directorate is proud to help enable the next generation of space pioneers to not only contribute to the safety and security of our nation but to our entire planet.”

A History of Collaboration

Vandenberg AFB and Cal Poly already have a nearly decade-long history of partnership and collaboration. Cal Poly invests significant resources in space educational research and operations and is extremely influential within the domestic as well as international space community, while the SpOC’s mission is to generate, present and sustains combat-ready intelligence, cyber, space and combat support forces, as well as to serve as the U.S. Space Force service component to U.S. Space Command.

Close cooperation between Vandenberg AFB and Cal Poly has already produced many benefits, including awareness of cutting-edge international and domestic space technologies, focused awareness of emerging needs and challenges facing the Department of Defense in protecting and defending space assets, and integrating academic and governmental technical approaches to common global space challenges.

Benefits of a CRADA

A CRADA is a unique no-cost collaboration that enables the transfer and exchange of technology and professional expertise and provides access to extensive government-funded research and development resources.

The CRADA between the SpOC and Cal Poly is leading to a closer, more normalized and sustained relationship that enables the advancement of knowledge sharing that spans the domains of space, air, terrestrial, cyber, maritime and the electromagnetic spectrum.

Focus on Technology Innovation

The language and objectives contained in the CRADA between the SpOC and Cal Poly have foundational roots emanating from the 2010 National Space Policy, which lists six goals for space programs. Two of these goals, strengthen stability in space and increase assurance and resilience of mission-essential functions, are advanced by the collaboration enabled through the CRADA mechanism.

The DoD’s 2014 3d Offset Strategy (leverage U.S. academic and industrial game changing technologies) and U.S. Strategic Command’s Deterrence and Assurance Academic Outreach Program were also foundational resources in shaping the content of the CRADA. More recent documents such as the National Space Strategy and Defense Space Strategy influenced the writing and focus of the CRADA workplans.

Elements of national level policies outline the need for focus on responsible operations in space, improved information sharing for object collision avoidance, and strengthening infrastructure to protect critical capabilities. The collective work between the SPOC and Cal Poly puts into practice the guidance and intent of national level policies at the local command and academic institution level.

Specific focus areas stated in the SpOC-Cal Poly CRADA include: 1) energize competitive domestic industries; 2) expand international cooperation; 3) strengthen stability in space; 4) increase assurance and resilience of mission-essential functions; 5) pursue human and robotic initiatives; and 6) improve space-based earth and solar observation.

“It’s great partnerships with academia and industry—like this one we have with Cal Poly—that will continue to make space a safe and responsible place to navigate and operate,” added Shaw. “We are so much more effective working closely together.”

How to Participate

This and future CRADAs are made possible by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Air Force Technology Transfer Program. Its purpose is to link technology, the Air Force mission, and the marketplace by ensuring that Air Force science and engineering activities are transferred or intentionally shared with state and local governments, academia and industry.

For additional information about the Technology Transfer Program or how to partner with the U.S. Air Force, please contact the Air Force Technology Transfer Program Office at, or visit their webpage at