Space Vice Chief of U.S. Space Force Predicts More Than 10,000 Satellites on Orbit in Near Term SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Feb. 4 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla. (Space X Photo) Share: By Frank Wolfe | 2 months ago | 02/09/2021 Also In This Issue:Rapid Innovation, Increased Partnerships Will Color Defense Industry In Future, Warden SaysSenate Confirms Kathleen Hicks As Deputy Defense SecretaryDHS Issues RFI To Understand Future Satellite Communications CapabilitiesNavy Plans To Field Initial Project Overmatch Network on Roosevelt Carrier Group In 2023BAE Systems Offering AI Tools, Data Labeling Service On AWS’ MarketplaceAFRL Looking At Flexible Effects for JDAM, Laser JDAMVice Chief of U.S. Space Force Predicts More Than 10,000 Satellites on Orbit in Near TermSAIC Receives $830 Million Deal From Army To Continue Aviations Systems Engineering WorkOshkosh Defense Produces 10,000th JLTV, Confident In Competing For Follow-On Production Deal The U.S. Space Force views space situational awareness as a key priority going forward and with good reason, apparently, as Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David D. Thompson said on Feb. 9 that he expects more than 10,000 satellites on orbit in the near term. “For years we’ve been using the tagline that space is ‘congested, contested and competitive, and I would say that probably more so than at any time in the past, that tagline applies,” he told a Space Symposium 365 virtual forum sponsored by the Space Foundation. “If you think about the congested part of space, in 2020 alone, there were over 110 space launches, nearly 1,000 new satellites deployed. We’re now talking about rapidly approaching 3,000 active satellites in orbit. If you look at plans of companies and nations, we’re very quickly going to go over probably into the 10s of 1,000s of satellites in the near future.” SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Feb. 4 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla. (Space X Photo) “All of that is good in terms of economic activity and the potential benefits it would provide to nations and individuals and economic activity, but it also presents a challenge in terms of managing that activity physically in terms of the fear of collision, managing the services and the spectrum and the rights,” Thompson said. A number of wealthy entrepreneurs, including Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson, have founded space technology firms that are becoming significant players in the market. Musk owns SpaceX, while Bezos owns Blue Origin, and Branson owns Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit. SpaceX’s broadband Starlink communications satellite network for military and commercial users has 1,021 satellites on orbit, and the company has federal approval for 12,000 such satellites and plans to build 30,000 more. On February 4, SpaceX launched its latest tranche of Starlink–60 satellites–aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. A report last August by a panel of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) advised the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Space Commerce (OSC) in the Department of Commerce to ramp up efforts to ensure unimpeded satellite orbits (Defense Daily, Aug. 24, 2020) The panel’s chairman, Michael Dominguez, a former senior official with DoD and the director of the Strategy, Forces and Resources division at the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), said that “the risk of orbital collisions has grown astronomically” and that space traffic management (STM) “has become an urgent concern — one that the government must address in order to ensure orbital safety, as well as enhance U.S. commercial and research advances in this critical domain.” Thompson said that Space Force partnerships with civil agencies, space companies, and nations are increasingly important for U.S. national security and for boosting economic activity. Space Force has collaborated with NASA on launches and data relay, the Federal Aviation Administration on commercial launches, and the Department of Commerce on the STM mission, which Space Force is “not suited or chartered to perform,” Thompson said. “The greatest concern for us on the national security side is the contested aspect of the [space] domain,” he said. “Just this last year Russia tested a new offensive space capability in orbit. They launched it into an orbit that was threatening to one of our space systems. They’ve conducted a weapons test. Others are building space capabilities, offensive weapons. China continues on that path.” In January last year, Michael Thompson, a noted space tracker, tweeted that the space surveillance/inspection bird, Cosmos 2542, launched on Nov. 25, 2019 had synchronized its orbit with USA 245–launched in 2013 and one of four multi-billion dollar, classified Lockheed Martin [LMT] KH-11 electro-optical spy satellites under the National Reconnaissance Office’s (NRO) Keyhole/CRYSTAL program (Defense Daily, Nov. 17, 2020). On July 22 last year, U.S. Space Command said that Cosmos 2543 had “injected a new object into orbit” as part of an anti-satellite capability “inconsistent with the system’s stated mission as an inspector satellite.” Russia also tested a direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile last April 15, per U.S. Space Command. That DA-ASAT was likely the Nudol, a ballistic missile designed to intercept satellites in LEO, according to Brian Weeden, the director of program planning for the Secure World Foundation and a former Air Force officer who specialized in space situational awareness.