HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — A U.S. Army brigade deploys with more than 3,000 pieces of equipment that depend on satellites for communications, positioning, timing, navigation and targeting. That growing reliance on space means the military has to learn how to operate in “degraded environments,” said Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, commander of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command.

Speaking Aug. 10 to a large audience at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium at the Von Braun Convention Center, Karbler said adversaries are developing electronic and cyber tools to deny the U.S. military access to satellites in orbit.  

The Army Space and Missile Defense Command based at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, provides satellite communication and other space support services to U.S. Space Command and has crews deployed around the world. SMDC’s primary space units are the Army’s 1st Space Brigade and the Army’s Satellite Operations Brigade. One way these units support U.S. commanders is by figuring out backup strategies so forces can operate when GPS or communications signals are jammed or disrupted.

Karbler said the Army has growing requirements for more satellites to provide intelligence, communications and targeting capabilities and that having additional systems provides resilience against attacks. 

“We are developing requirements,” he said. It is still to be decided whether new space systems will be acquired directly by the Army or by the U.S. Space Force. The military also is considering buying commercial services from the space industry. Karbler said capabilities are needed and it doesn’t matter who provides them.

Karbler suggested that government buyers of space technologies should not rush to acquire solutions from contractors before they ask important questions such as how new systems interoperate with existing ones and how they fit in the larger DoD command-and-control network known as Joint All-Domain Command and Control. Under the JADC2 concept, space sensors have to be integrated with ground, air and maritime networks.

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...