COLORADO SPRINGS – The U.S. Space Force cannot continue to acquire satellites and deploy constellations the same way it has in the past given the complexities to the current space environment, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, said April 5 in a keynote address at the 37th Space Symposium.
The threat are here and now, Raymond noted. Russia in November targeted and blew up another Russian satellite creating a massive debris field in orbit. Russia reportedly has deployed nesting satellites equipped with offensive weapons. Space observers saw China operating a satellite with a robotic arm that can grab other satellites. China also is advancing its space capabilities between the moon and Earth, an area called cislunar space that has been characterized as the new high ground.
“We are living in the most complex strategic time in at least three generations,” said Raymond.
Space is critical to national security and also provides an economic engine that fuels the global economy, he added. “But this is only possible, if and only if, space remains accessible, stable and secure. And today that is not a given. We find ourselves in a period of great competition for space with nations that don’t share our view.”
Raymond noted that the president’s fiscal year 2023 budget request released March 28 “contains a substantial increase for the Space Force. The vast majority of that increase goes towards investment in the space capabilities we need for the future.”
This is going to require a “pivot” to new satellites and new ways of deploying constellations so they are less vulnerable, he said. “Our legacy space capabilities were designed for a benign domain, where we were focused on exquisite technical performance. We didn’t prioritize speed because we enjoyed a substantial lead in our science and technology.”
“We didn’t prioritize resiliency because there were fewer threats,” Raymond said. “Launch was expensive and only a few governments and large corporations could afford to field space capabilities. All of that has changed. We now operate in a contested space domain.”
Moving away from ‘monolithic’ systems
The challenge for the Space Force as it plans future acquisitions is how to balance cost and technical performance with resiliency against a multitude of threats.” Another challenge is to capture innovation from a space industry “that is fundamentally changing the way we access space and moving at the speed of the free market,” said Raymond. “In short, we must transform. We must pivot to a more resilient space architecture.”
Raymond pushed back on the perception that resilience is just a Pentagon buzzword. “Resilient space architectures can be protected, they can survive attack, they degrade gracefully when attacked, and can be rapidly reconstituted if lost,” he said.
Over the next year, he said, “we are embarking on a transformation to more resilient architectures, with diverse mixes of capabilities across multiple orbits.”
The future architecture is being mapped out by the Space Warfighting and Analysis Center, or SWAC, where analysts use models and simulations to design space systems and assess how survivable they might be against different threats.
“How many satellites, which payloads, in what orbits, with what ground infrastructure, to balance performance, cost, and resilience? SWAC helps us answer that question,” Raymond said.
“If we are going to migrate away from our large, monolithic systems to hybrid, diversified space architectures, we cannot continue to build expensive satellites with exquisite mission assurance,” he said.
Raymond called on the industry to help reduce the cost of space systems. “We need to focus on the reduction of cost as the key driver to build incredibly distributed architectures that are resilient in a fight. The government cannot afford a distributed, resilient force design unless industry changes with us.”