by Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
1/8/2014 - WASHINGTON -- Space
is fundamental to the economy, the military and the way of life in the
United States and officials must continue to guard against challenges in
the domain from adversaries, the commander of Air Force Space Command
Gen. William Shelton shared with students at George Washington University here some of his worries and concerns.
In the past 60 years, space has grown from a domain with a lone
satellite beeping across the heavens to a $300 billion economic engine.
"The advent of space systems has allowed citizens and governments to
engage routinely in the world around them, communicate at the speed of
light and to tap sources of information previously unavailable to them,"
Satellites are now essential parts of the 21st century way of life for
all nations. Weather forecasting, precise navigation, instant
communications and many other capabilities tie space to Earth.
These are incredibly important during crises. The death tolls from
Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Japanese tsunami in 2011 would have
been even higher had not satellite surveillance and communications been
available, he said.
Space has also changed the military. "In all of recorded history, when
armies met on the battle field, they fought for the coveted high ground
because of the obvious advantage it gave them over the adversary,"
Shelton said. "Later, balloons performed that function and even later,
airplanes were used as observation platforms."
Space is the ultimate high ground, he said.
Shelton's command has a global mission with global responsibilities
reaching all corners of the planet and up to 23,000 miles in space and
geosynchronous orbit. "We get space-derived information to all sorts of
users, including the military operators of our nation's Army, Air Force,
Navy and Marines -- those who rely on timely and accurate data," he
Intelligence, logistics and other operationally relevant data flow
seamlessly to the front lines in Afghanistan as well as to other parts
of the world where U.S. forces are operating.
"I can't think of a single military operation across the full spectrum
from humanitarian relief operations all the way to major combat
operations that doesn't somehow depend on space for mission success,"
Shelton said. "But frankly, this dependence on space has also become
quite a bit of a double-edged sword. Our potential adversaries have been
going to school on us during these many years of combat operations."
Adversaries are mimicking American procedures and looking for chinks in
American armor, the general said. "More concerning, as they've watched
us, we've watched them develop systems to challenge our advantages in
space," he said.
"Because space launch is so expensive, we loaded as much as we could
onto our satellites -- multiple missions, multiple payloads, " Shelton
said. "After all, we were operating in a relatively peaceful sanctuary
Not today. "As I look at the next 20 years in space, we have a
difficult, up-hill climb ahead of us," he said. "I equate this to the
difficulty of turning the Queen Mary. You send the rudder command and
the delayed response tries your patience."
To sustain space services, the United States must consider architectural
alternatives for future satellite constellations. "These alternatives
must balance required capability, affordability and resilience," he
said. "There are many options that we're actively studying right now.
The notion of disaggregation is one. And what we mean by this is moving
away from the multiple payload, big satellite construct into a less
complex satellite architecture with multiple components."
Distributing space payloads across multiple satellite platforms,
increases U.S. resiliency. "At a minimum, it complicates our
adversaries' targeting calculus," he said.