The U.S. Space Command plans to expand its Commercial Integration Cell (CIC) at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., beyond the 10 companies in the CIC–an expansion that may aid DoD in the protection of commercial satellites.
The 10 CIC member companies are SpaceX, Maxar Technologies, Eutelsat Communications S.A.‘s Eutelsat America Corp., EchoStar Corp.‘s [SATS] Hughes Network Systems, Viasat Inc. [VSAT] and Viasat-owned Inmarsat, Intelsat Ltd.’s Intelsat General Communications, Iridium Communications Inc. [IRDM], SES Space & Defense, and XTAR LLC.
“We’re gonna increase that number fairly significantly in the near term,” Lt. Gen. John Shaw, the deputy head of U.S. Space Command, told the Secure World Foundation’s Summit for Space Sustainability on June 14 in New York City. “That cell is not a contractual arrangement. It’s a cooperative agreement. We have representatives from the companies there [at Vandenberg] that are cleared to be on the ops floor, in the ops center. They have real-time awareness of what we’re seeing to inform what they need to do to keep their services provided continually to their customers, and then we can see what they see. Satcom companies are really good at detecting sources of electromagnetic interference–intentional or unintentional.”
“Geolocating that, we can see what they see,” Shaw said. “Together, that’s a much bigger awareness than any of us can do by ourselves, and that’s just one step about how do we get shared awareness. Then, from that, there will have to be steps about how do we protect and defend capabilities against threats. That’s an evolving process, but we’ll do it together.”
Vandenberg has the Space Command’s Combined Space Operations Center, which is responsible for providing space data to military forces on the ground.
Last October, Konstantin Vorontsov, the deputy head of Russia’s United Nations delegation, suggested that commercial satellite networks, such as SpaceX’s Starlink communications satellites and commercial imaging satellites, are legitimate Russian targets as Ukrainian forces are using them.
“We would like to specifically stress an extremely dangerous trend that goes beyond the harmless use of outer space technologies and has become apparent during the latest developments in Ukraine, namely, the use by the United States and its allies of civilian, including commercial, infrastructure elements in outer space for military purposes,” Vorontsov said in his prepared remarks. “Apparently, these states do not realize that such actions in fact constitute indirect participation in military conflicts. Quasi-civilian infrastructure may become a legitimate target for retaliation.”
Ukrainian forces have taken advantage of commercial electro-optical data from BlackSky Technology [BKSY] and Planet Labs PBC [PL] satellites. In addition, Maxar Technologies has received contracts under the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) Global Enhanced GEOINT Delivery (G-EGD) program to integrate synthetic aperture radar data from Capella Space, ICEYE, and Umbra. NGA has provided unclassified access of the integrated SAR data to aid the Ukrainian effort to repel the Russian assault, which began on Feb. 24 last year.