U.S. Space Force (USSF) officials have suggested that future conflicts could begin in space, but U.S. military forces would benefit from industry development of protections for commercial satellites, says a senior U.S. Space Force official.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting, the head of USSF’s Space Operations Command, on Oct. 14 told a Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual audience that electromagnetic interference, the jamming of GPS signals, and directed energy dazzling of U.S. satellites”are all threats that we now face, and it’s not just the Space Force, or U.S. Space Command, that faces those threats, and so when commercial industry accounts for the fact that their satellites–their space-related systems–may face those kind of threats and starts to build in hardening and ways to operate through those kinds of threats, that only accrues to our benefit because, as we go to commercial industry to potentially contract for those services or buy those capabilities, much of the things that we’re going to be interested in are now being accounted for by commercial industry.”
“And I think recent history has shown that those companies who are working down those lines are able to continue to operate in the face of those threats, and so we think that’s only goodness, as industry is becoming more aware of the threats and the environment that they have to operate in and are accounting for that at the very design level of their systems,” he said.
Russian saber rattling after its Feb. 24 assault on Ukraine has been on a variety of fronts. On Sept. 12, Konstantin Vorontsov, the head of Russia’s U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs, said that U.S. commercial satellites used by Ukrainian forces “could be a legitimate target for a retaliatory strike” by Russia.
One prominent example of U.S. commercial capability provided to Ukraine is SpaceX‘s Starlink satellite constellation, which has helped provide communications for Ukrainian forces (Defense Daily, Oct. 11).
Whiting said that “just as in other domains, if a commercial asset that the United States government had contracted with to provide capability was held at risk, that becomes of interest to the United States government, and I think we will see that same dynamic play out in space, and there are processes for how we go about working with companies and working with our own capabilities to defend that, and I think we would see very similar processes followed in the space domain.”
To aid in the protection of satellites and to build awareness of space threats, Space Force said that it is collaborating with 10 companies in its Commercial Integration Cell, formed in 2015 (Defense Daily, Oct. 20, 2020). The 10 companies include Inmarsat, Iridium Communications [IRDM], MAXAR Technologies [MAXR], and Viasat, Inc. [VSAT].