How Microsoft is helping the Space Force become a Digital Service

Steve Kitay

Space is increasingly becoming a contested environment as nation-states compete to control this latest frontier. The U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC) is taking significant steps to modernize systems and capabilities in order to ensure service members have the best tools to protect and defend our interests in space.

SSC recently renewed its partnership with Microsoft to develop the Integrated, Immersive, Intelligent Environment (I3E), a production follow-on to the Immersive Digital Facility (IDF) prototype successfully developed in 2023. I3E establishes an immersive environment to train, prepare, and enhance the mission of Guardians for current and future space-based scenarios.

I3E is part of Microsoft’s effort to help the U.S. Space Force’s goal of transforming into a fully digital service through the development of a mature digital ecosystem capable of delivering cutting-edge cloud-enabled solutions to enhance the Space Force’s mission with modernized data operations and automation, enabling speed to decision-making.

Microsoft will bring its full suite of technologies, including industry leading solutions in cloud computing, simulations, and augmented reality along with global networking, enterprise data management, advanced analytics and modern collaboration tools, to support the Space Systems Command’s modernization efforts for I3E and beyond. Leveraging cloud computing technologies is a key aspect of the solution as it creates a dynamic, secure environment able to quickly support the integration of new technologies, connectivity across multiple environments/locations, and scalable compute as more and more Guardians utilize these resources.

I3E will be built on Microsoft Azure and will be hosted in Microsoft’s commercial and governments clouds. I3E will leverage the capabilities provided by Azure Government for unclassified requirements and Azure Government Top Secret for classified requirements to address sensitive mission needs. I3E will allow the Space Force Guardians to collaborate and communicate with other stakeholders more efficiently and process digital information with greater speed, robustness, and accuracy.

The project will also make use of Microsoft’s mixed reality capabilities, including the HoloLens 2 hardware and suite of mixed reality software to create realistic and dynamic simulations of the space environment. While I3E includes a physical location at a USSF facility in Los Angeles, the capability will be accessible to all Guardians everywhere through an Azure Virtual Desktop solution that enables secure access to remote apps and capabilities anywhere in the world.

The Microsoft solution will also integrate with a broader industry partner ecosystem to further enable and support virtual mission scenarios and provide a framework solution including mixed reality experiences, visualizations, analysis, and a multi-user environment. By partnering with Microsoft to continue the I3E effort, the Space Force is advancing its vision of being an interconnected, innovative, and digitally dominant force that can address the challenges and opportunities of the space domain. “The threat is real; therefore, we need to expound upon every opportunity, and partner with industry, to allow our members to stay ahead in this rapidly evolving environment,” said Col. Richard Kniseley, II, senior materiel leader for the Commercial Space Office at SSC.

At Microsoft, we are honored and excited to work with the Space Force and empower them to achieve their goals of digital transformation, innovation, and excellence. We believe that by harnessing the power of cloud and innovative technology, we can enhance the Space Force’s ability to defend and protect our nation’s interests in space.

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