by Alex Polimeni
Missile warning, GPS navigation, secured communications, and intelligence gathering; all of these share one commonality— they are essential to America’s national security.
The United States Space Force was formed late last year following increased hostility from other nations in space including China and Russia.
Space has become an increasingly contested environment. The United States relies on a plethora of defense satellites, spanning through multiple orbits. Orbits thought to be safe and out of reach. However, anti-satellite weapons have rapidly advanced, and pose an extreme danger to American assets.
According to an NPR report, countries including China, Russia, and India all have demonstrated anti-satellite capabilities through test launches.
Yet, as most Americans are not aware of these critical space-based assets, they could not even picture life without these unique capabilities. These satellites orbit overhead, in the shadow of the public eye. The satellites of the United States Space Force support every warfighting domain; including land, sea, air and space.
Daily life is intertwined around satellites owned by the Space Force. All GPS navigation satellites are controlled by the United States Space Force. If GPS satellites were to go offline, the financial system would crash, public navigation would be hindered, the power grid would be affected, military aircraft would have no sense of navigation, and more, according to an article from The Atlantic. Furthermore, GPS guided bombs and missiles would be rendered useless, according to a 60 Minutes interview with Bridger General Bill Cooley, the Commander at the Air Force Research Laboratory located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
In addition to the well-known GPS satellites, America relies on several other constellations, or groups of satellites, to monitor the globe for missile launches, provide secured communications, and more.
“Our Military Services have created the world’s best space capabilities,” said Mark Esper, secretary of defense, at a signing in the Pentagon. “Now is the time for the U.S. Space Force to lead our Nation in preparing for emerging threats in an evolving space environment.”
He added that this new service will help guarantee we are in a position to defend our national interests and outpace potential adversaries.
Before the United States Space Force, a command within the U.S. Air Force was responsible for the defense of military assets in space. Referred to as “the Air Force Space Command,” in the earliest days, there was no need to defend these satellites, they were safe, and out of reach in orbit.
As America continued to keep the pace, Russia and China increased aggression in space. The Russians have closely maneuvered military satellites near U.S. commercial satellites. Anti-satellite weapons are within range of nearly all Earth orbits. Space is now a warfighting domain.
“Let me be very clear, we do not want a conflict that extends into space, but one way to keep that from happening is to make sure that we’re prepared for it and [can] fight and win that conflict if it were to occur,” said John Raymond, general of the U.S. Space Force, to the House Armed Services Committee.
A drastic reorganization is underway in the United States space Force, as resources and airmen are moved from AFSPC.
Air Force bases that have had a large space mission will be transferred to the USSF, and be renamed accordingly. The Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is planned to be renamed to the “Cape Canaveral Space Force Station” sometime at the end of the month. The Vandenberg Air Force Base, America’s west-coast launch site, will also be renamed, according to an article by Spaceflight Now.
The USSF will still be under the supervision of the Department of the Air Force, but will be funded separately, and will have a Joint-Chief of Staff directly advising the President, significantly elevating the space mission.
Space is the next frontier – but also the next battlefield. With America’s reliance on space-based assets, it is paramount that we are ready and willing to counter aggression on orbit. Life would not be the same without these satellites. Without space, it would be akin to going back to pre-industrial warfare. These missions absolutely save lives, so we must be ready to protect our spacecraft at all costs. America’s military-might depends on space.