ADM. Cecil Haney, Commander, U. S. Strategic Command, speaks as hundreds attend the 2016 Space and Missile Defense Symposium at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Ala. Credit: Eric Schultz […]

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The head of U.S. Strategic Command said Aug. 16 that two high-profile space programs could deter potential adversaries from taking actions against U.S. national security satellites.

In a keynote address at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium, Navy Adm. Cecil Haney said a new space operations center at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado and a space surveillance satellite constellation are key deterrents at a time when threats in space are quickly evolving.

For years, senior Defense Department leaders have described space as congested, competitive and contested, and Haney said in the coming years he expects an “increase in the number of nations who may wish to deny the peaceful use of space” hoping to disrupt what they see as the United States’ “perceived space vulnerabilities.”

To force enemies to think harder about any potential attack, Haney pointed to two programs. The first is the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, or JICSpOC, which is a joint space operations center with the Defense Department and the intelligence community. Haney visited the center last week as part of a training forum.

Since October, the center has been running five rounds of experiments, including some of which involve moving active satellites. Those experiments play out how the Defense Department would respond to hostile actions in space. The goal of the program is to “meet and out pace emerging advanced space threats,” Haney said.

But the center also will “serve to enhance the nation’s deterrent posture by demonstrating the United States is prepared when our space capabilities are threatened,” he said.

Space is often viewed as the United States’ “soft rib,” Chris Crawford, an executive at Lockheed Martin, said during a panel discussion here on space resilience.

Haney also noted the deterrent value of the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program, or GSSAP, which is a four-satellite constellation that is commonly described as a “neighborhood watch” for space. Two satellites, built by Orbital ATK, launched in 2014 and are on orbit. The next two satellites are scheduled to launch Friday.

Those satellites, he said, contribute “to the global safety of space flight and peaceful access to space.”

Last year, Gen. John Hyten, the commander of Air Force Space Command, said the Air Force declassified the GSSAP program “to make sure we send a message to the world that says: Anything you do in the geosynchronous orbit we will know about. Anything.”

Mike Gruss covers military space issues, including the U.S. Air Force and Missile Defense Agency, for SpaceNews. He is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.