Space Force foresees need for fast response launch vehicles and in-space logistics
WASHINGTON — In future armed conflicts the United States will need capabilities to quickly inspect its satellites and deploy new ones on short notice, the U.S. Space Force says in the just-released “Spacepower” vision document.
“It’s essential that we invest in those capabilities and concepts now in anticipation of a more complex environment,” said Col. Casey Beard, one of the authors of the Spacepower doctrine. He is the commander of Space Delta 9, a U.S. Space Force unit based at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.
“Space mobility and logistics” are identified in the document as core competencies of the Space Force. They are defined as the “movement and support of military equipment and personnel into the space domain, from the space domain back to Earth, and through the space domain.”
Beard said the Space Force will need to develop concepts for responsive launch operations and logistics.
“The needs to rapidly deploy, reconstitute, recover and sustain space based capabilities will increase,” Beard said Aug. 12 in an interview with Bill Woolf, president of the Space Force Association. Also on the program were Lt. Gen. William Liquori, deputy chief of space operations, and Maj. Kenneth Grosselin, one of the authors of the vision document.
“The space domain will only become more complex and dynamic,” Beard said. “Our ability to continue to access the domain regardless of what threats or challenges we face is an imperative for national defense.”
Dozens of companies in the space industry are developing small launchers, orbital transport vehicles, on-orbit satellite servicing systems and other technologies in anticipation of government demand for these capabilities.
Woolf asked Beard if the Space Force is ready to start providing mobility and logistics services or if the concepts are only “aspirational.”
Beard said space mobility and logistics are “requisites” for future operations. “Are they aspirational? Maybe in the sense that we don’t have them,” he said. “But it’s a bit more focused than aspirational. This is what we need to pursue.”
The U.S. military’s space launch program already is a “tremendous success,” Beard said. The Spacepower document talks about new concepts involving multiple launch locations and platforms. “It’s setting the vision and the framework for what this force needs to have available.”
According to Spacepower: “During conflict, space launch must be dynamic and responsive, providing the ability to augment or reconstitute capability gaps from multiple locations.”
Already demonstrated in the commercial sector, “orbital sustainment will allow military space forces to replenish consumables and expendables on spacecraft that cannot be recovered back to Earth,” the document says. “Orbital sustainment will also enable spacecraft inspection, anomaly resolution, hardware maintenance, and technology upgrades.”