AFWERX Launches Space Innovation Hub

Kayla White/U.S. Air Force via AP

Air Force officials announced the creation of SpaceWERX, a team to help Space Force tap into cutting-edge technologies.

The U.S. Space Force is getting a dedicated team for integrating new technologies, Air Force officials announced Monday. 

“I am excited to announce the standup of SpaceWERX, a Space Force-affiliated arm of our AFWERX team,” Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics said. SpaceWERX will be located at the Los Angeles Air Force Base. 

Roper and Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett announced the creation of SpaceWERX during the inaugural AFWERX Accelerate event, a weeklong virtual symposium highlighting AFWERX’s innovation efforts. The SpaceWERX announcement comes just under a year after the U.S. Space Force was introduced as a new branch of the armed forces within the Air Force on Dec. 20, 2019. 

Lt. Gen. John Thompson, commanding officer at the Los Angeles Air Force Base’s Space and Missile Systems Center, said he’s counting on SpaceWERX to help ensure Space Force can tap into cutting-edge space technologies. 

“The goal is to expand the space industrial base by guiding additional partners, leveraging commercial investment, and rapidly pursuing new space technologies that could be game-changers for our space warfighters,” Thompson said. 

Though still a relatively new entity—AFWERX was established in 2017—the Air Force’s innovation arm has already been elevated within the service. In June, Roper announced Col. Nathan Diller would report directly to him under the “AFWERX 2.0” revamp of the organization. And Diller announced Monday AFWERX is moving from “startup to scale up” as the program becomes a part of the Air Force Research Lab under Air Force Material Command. 

“As we scale up, we want to bring the best of what we’ve been, with new things that we’ll become to have an impact at a size that our nation and particularly our Air Force and our Space Force need,” Roper said. 

On Tuesday, Air Force and Space Force officials reviewed 2020 activities and discussed new business opportunities for 2021. Steve Lauver, managing partner of AFVentures, the Air Force’s commercial investment arm, shared data showing what types of technologies received the most AFVentures investment dollars in 2020. 

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning and information technology scored the largest percentage of AFVenture’s investment dollars in 2020. AI and ML technologies received $136 million in funding, or 19.59% of the total portfolio, and IT received $126 million, or 18.7%. The next largest investment category in 2020 was robotics, autonomous systems and drones, which accounted for 10.26% of investment dollars totaling $71 million.