DOD Space Program Broadens Industry, Foreign Partnerships

WASHINGTON, July 19, 2011 — The Defense Depart­ment is expand­ing part­ner­ships with space­far­ing com­pa­nies and nations to main­tain the strate­gic advan­tage it gains in space, the deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for space pol­i­cy said today.

Speak­ing with reporters from the Defense Writ­ers Group here, Ambas­sador Gre­go­ry L. Schulte said NASA’s final space shut­tle flight this week rep­re­sents “a time of tran­si­tion” for the civ­il and mil­i­tary space pro­grams.

“Space,” Schulte said, “is increas­ing­ly con­gest­ed, con­test­ed and com­pet­i­tive.”

The Oma­ha, Neb.-based U.S. Strate­gic Com­mand, whose mis­sion now includes warn­ing com­pa­nies and coun­tries when space debris threat­ens their satel­lites, is track­ing more than 22,000 objects in space, he said.

A range of coun­tries are devel­op­ing counter-space capa­bil­i­ties, includ­ing satel­lite-dam­ag­ing jam­mers and lasers, he added, and 11 coun­tries now oper­ate 22 launch sites.

“The Unit­ed States is not the only play­er in space,” Schulte said, “and space is cer­tain­ly not our pri­vate domain.”

Space is ubiq­ui­tous in the defense estab­lish­ment and in the con­duct of mil­i­tary oper­a­tions, he added, “and we’re act­ing to main­tain our strate­gic advan­tage in space.”

Space is crit­i­cal to ground nav­i­ga­tion, smart bomb pre­ci­sion, and to relay unmanned aer­i­al vehi­cle feeds to troops, Schulte said. Space also is nec­es­sary for ear­ly warn­ings of mis­sile launch­es and for keep­ing the pres­i­dent con­nect­ed to U.S. nuclear forces, he said.

Space is a force mul­ti­pli­er, Schulte added. “With­out space capa­bil­i­ties, we’d need a lot more bombs to put on a par­tic­u­lar tar­get and there would be a lot more casu­al­ties and col­lat­er­al dam­age,” he said. “With­out space assets, we’d need a lot more troops on the ground doing coun­terin­sur­gency oper­a­tions.”

To main­tain the advan­tage, Schulte said, “we just launched [the] sec­ond in a series of GPS satel­lites that’s going to give us more jam resis­tance and bet­ter civ­il capac­i­ty.”

The Defense Depart­ment recent­ly launched a new space-based infrared satel­lite, the first in geo­syn­chro­nous orbit, that will offer much bet­ter tac­ti­cal intel­li­gence for mis­sile launch­es, Schulte said.

DOD also is putting into orbit the first of four advanced extreme­ly high fre­quen­cy, or EHF, com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lites, he said, and a new space-based sur­veil­lance satel­lite that will boost the abil­i­ty to track objects in space.

“Our mil­i­tary space pro­gram is going to have to pro­vide us that strate­gic advan­tage in a tight bud­get envi­ron­ment,” he added, “and the [DOD Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Space Strat­e­gy] shows a way to do that.”

The strat­e­gy, issued by then-Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates in Jan­u­ary and affirmed by Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta, “seeks to address … new chal­lenges by pro­mot­ing norms of respon­si­ble behav­ior in space and shar­ing data to help pro­mote space­flight safe­ty,” Schulte said.

The doc­u­ment also calls for part­ner­ships with the com­mer­cial sec­tor and with for­eign part­ners to aug­ment U.S. capa­bil­i­ties, he said, and to increase the resilience of U.S. satel­lite con­stel­la­tions against attack or dis­rup­tion.

Inter­na­tion­al part­ner­ships that show the way to the future, the ambas­sador said, involve the advanced EHF satel­lite, in which three oth­er coun­tries par­tic­i­pate, and a satel­lite called the Wide­band Glob­al SATCOM Sys­tem, in which Aus­tralia par­tic­i­pates.

Such col­lab­o­ra­tion, Schulte said, “shares the bur­den, gives us enhanced cov­er­age and helps pro­vide some deter­rence” to those who might con­sid­er using counter-space tech­nolo­gies against space assets.

“Anoth­er illus­tra­tion of the way for­ward,” Schulte said, “is a pro­gram that our Defense Infor­ma­tion Sys­tems Agency, DISA, has pro­posed to Con­gress.”

The pro­gram is called ASSIST, for Assured SATCOM Ser­vices in a Sin­gle The­ater, which is the U.S. Cen­tral Command’s area of oper­a­tions.

DISA is propos­ing to com­mer­cial­ly pro­cure satel­lite ser­vices to sup­port the warfight­er, rather than just leas­ing the ser­vices year to year,” the ambas­sador said.

“In doing so,” he added, “we can save sig­nif­i­cant­ly on annu­al leas­ing costs and we can also get access to satel­lites that have three times the capac­i­ty of the clos­est U.S. gov­ern­ment-owned satel­lite.”

The Defense Depart­ment also is begin­ning to work with com­mer­cial space com­pa­nies to reduce the department’s costs and to help ener­gize the indus­tri­al base.

“We’re going to see space increas­ing­ly com­mer­cial­ized,” the ambas­sador said. “The cost of entry into space is going to go down, and that has all sorts of impli­ca­tions for the Depart­ment of Defense, along with oppor­tu­ni­ties.”

Next month, for exam­ple, the Air Force will use the com­mer­cial space com­pa­ny Orbital to launch the CHIRP sen­sor — the Com­mer­cial­ly Host­ed Infrared Pay­load, Schulte said.

“This is a sen­sor the Air Force pur­chased and will be launched on a com­mer­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lite to demon­strate an advanced infrared imag­ing capa­bil­i­ty,” he said, at con­sid­er­able sav­ings.

CHIRP is cost­ing us some­thing like $65 mil­lion and we get 80 per­cent of the require­ments,” Schulte said. “If we had launched it as a free-fly­ing satel­lite, it would have cost more like $500 mil­lion.”

Com­mer­cial space is part of the future, he added, “and we want to be part of that future.”

The Defense Depart­ment is work­ing with NASA, the White House and oth­ers to devel­op a new space trans­porta­tion pol­i­cy to update the 2004 pres­i­den­tial pol­i­cy, he said.

“The new pol­i­cy will reflect the end of the shut­tle pro­gram but also that there are poten­tial new entrants into space launch, and that our ranges are not only used for nation­al secu­ri­ty mis­sions, but also increas­ing­ly for com­mer­cial mis­sions,” Schulte said.

SpaceX is anoth­er space trans­porta­tion com­pa­ny that works rou­tine­ly with the Air Force range at Patrick Air Force Base at Cape Canaver­al, Fla., he added.

“Indus­try has read this strat­e­gy and has come to us with all sorts of ideas about inno­v­a­tive approach­es to tak­ing advan­tage of com­mer­cial capa­bil­i­ties and think­ing dif­fer­ent­ly about space,” Schulte said. “And we wel­come that.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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