WASHINGTON — The United States could use more allies in space, not only to help deter common enemies but also to share the financial burden of developing and launching systems into orbit, Air Force Gen. John Hyten told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Hyten is commander of U.S. Strategic Command, responsible for strategic deterrence, nuclear operations, space operations and missile defense. He testified alongside Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood at a hearing of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.

Trying to fight alone in space would be a mistake, said Hyten, a longtime advocate of multinational efforts to secure space. The United States needs teammates that will share capabilities and information, he said. “Cost-sharing agreements, hosting U.S. national security payloads on foreign systems, and data-sharing arrangements to bolster shared space situation awareness are just a few of the opportunities that are our allies and partners provide.”

The United States already does space operations with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. France and Germany were recently invited to join the club.

Despite a notorious culture of secrecy in the space community, Hyten managed to open up the Joint Space Operations Center to allies. The renamed Combined Space Operations Center will be in business by the end of 2018, Hyten said in prepared testimony to the subcommittee. The CSpOC will be a “centralized hub for operational planning and tasking.”

The United States’ newest space ally, Japan, was recently asked to participate in the highly secret Schriever Wargame, joining France, Germany, and the Five Eye partners.

Global Sentinel, a space situational awareness experiment, expanded its international participation in 2017 and now includes Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the Republic of Korea.

Hyten would like to see more partnerships in satellite communications systems. “SATCOM systems are key to our continued strategic posture in space,” he said. “We must expand international SATCOM partnerships.”

A network should include allies and commercial firms to “integrate, synchronize, and share global SATCOM resources,” said Hyten. Through multilateral agreements Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and New Zealand provided funding for the U.S. Wideband Global SATCOM-9 satellite that launched in March 2017. The international partners receive a proportional share of the bandwidth provided by the WGS constellation based on their financial contribution.

Brian Weeden, director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, said Hyten’s efforts to bring more allies into space operations have been an uphill battle.

The idea of a Combined Space Operations Center started during the 2010 Schriever Wargame. Officials saw the benefits not only of bringing the military and the intelligence community together but also foreign allies and commercial partners. “The idea was that in a future conflict involving space, the U.S. military would need to be able to coordinate with its allies and commercial partners because they provided essential capabilities,” Weeden said.

Despite strong support for the idea, Weeden said it has been a bumpy road to get it in place. It was an awkward situation for a while in part because allies have historically not been politically supportive of some of the more aggressive U.S. space programs, and also because the national security space community doesn’t have the same history of working with allies as the intelligence community does. Weeden said many allies also lacked the national level policies, doctrines or even personnel to be able to integrate their space activities with the United States.

“Hyten is finally bringing the CSpOC concept that was exercised in 2010 to reality,” Weeden said, although not entirely as first envisioned. Air Force Space Command created the National Space Defense Center to take over space threat assessment and battle management duties, and other subordinate commands picked up the space situational awareness mission. The CSpOC today mainly focuses on space support to the war fighter. That means coordinating how space services — GPS, imagery, satellite communications — are provided to combat theaters where the United States military increasingly works with allies.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...