U.S. Air Force Space Command’s Space Warfare Center is broadening its mission by adapting some of the technology it develops for the military to the needs of civil agencies, particularly those involved in homeland security and disaster relief. To reflect that change, the center also is getting a new name.
One recent example of dual use for a product developed at the center, now known as the Space Innovation and Development Center (SIDC), is software called Web Warn, Col. Larry Chodzko, SIDC’s commander, said during an April 3 interview at Schriever Air Force Base here.
Web Warn is used to share information between troops watching for incoming enemy missiles, Chodzko said. The software uses data from missile-warning sensors to overlay a map with shading that represents the most likely areas of impact, he said.
The same software also could be useful for homeland security officials responding to a crisis, Chodzko said. As officials prepare to respond to a situation like a severe storm, the software could help generate a more accurate map of areas that need to be evacuated than what is available today, he said.
The ability to make more narrow projections of areas that need to be evacuated could result in significant savings on the expense of evacuating threatened areas, Chodzko said. It also could help save lives, as people who are forced to evacuate their homes multiple times due to false alarms are often reluctant to continue doing so, he said.
The SIDC began working on a version of the Web Warn software that could be shared with first responders several months ago, and plans to use it during Space Command’s next large-scale space war game, Chodzko said. Schriever 4, which is scheduled to take place in March 2007, will be the first time that Space Command focuses on homeland security in the exercise, which was conducted for the first time in January 2001.
The Schriever war games have included participation from organizations outside the Defense Department in the past, but this will be the heaviest such participation by outside organizations to date as the exercise helps examine the ways that the military works with civil agencies to respond to crises inside the United States, Chodzko said.
The first two Schriever war games focused on the use of space systems by senior-level strategic decisions-makers. Schriever 3, which was conducted in February 2005, focused on tactical level users. Schriever 4’s scenario takes place in 2025, five years after that of Schriever 3, and might involve a variety of crises including forest fires and severe weather.
Another possibility is dealing with a large meteorite striking Earth, Chodzko said. While Air Force Space Command tracks objects in space, it needs to address what might happen if it picks up an incoming meteor shortly before it impacts the Earth, and how it would notify local officials, including firefighters, who would respond, he said.
In addition to the name change, the SIDC has made some organizational changes as well.
The 527th Space Aggressor Squadron will remain physically located at Schriever, but will now report to Air Combat Command, according to a Space Command news release dated March 10.
The space aggressor squadron plays the role of an enemy seeking to disrupt U.S. satellite usage during military exercises.
This move has raised concern among some Air Force sources who said removing the space aggressors from under Space Command will result in a lower priority for their work.
Chodzko said that the move could result in some “growing pains,” but added that it will help the Air Force better coordinate the work performed by those who simulate enemies during U.S. military exercises. Coordination will be improved by placing the space aggressor under the same official who oversees the air and information warfare teams.
Another change within the SIDC includes the establishment of the 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron, which will develop operational concepts for space systems, according to a Space Command news release issued March 10.
This group will take lessons learned from the use of satellites in current operations and incorporate them into formal tactics, techniques and procedures, Chodzko said. The group also may seek to develop ground systems that can operate several satellite constellations at once, he said.