U.S. Space Force General B. Chance Saltzman testifies on the Fiscal Year 2024 budget request during a Senate Military Strategy Forces hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, March 14, 2023. (Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP) (Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
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When General Chance Saltzman delivered the keynote speech at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo., this week, his message was simple: The United States is in a new era of space activity.
“The threat to our on-orbit capabilities from our strategic competitors has increased dramatically,” Salzman, the second-ever chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force, told CNBC in an interview after his speech. “The congestion we’re seeing in space with the number of tracked objects and satellite payloads, as well as launches themselves, has grown exponentially.”
“I want to make sure we think about our processes and procedures differently,” he said in an interview on CNBC’s “Manifest Space” podcast, his first since becoming the service’s most senior military official last November. radio interview.
The message comes at a critical time as the rapid commercialization of space and an intensifying geopolitical backdrop increasingly sees threats extending from Earth to areas where the rules of engagement remain unclear.
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Space is likely to be the front line of any future conflict — a battlefield that could reach out to the private sector and affect civilians in real time, military experts say.Take Russia’s Ukraine invasion: Recall the unprecedented cyber attack on the European communications network of US satellite operator ViaSun Just as Russian soldiers mobilized to cross sovereign borders.
The space-based tactics of adversaries such as Russia and China are all-encompassing, Saltzman said, including communication jamming of GPS constellations; lasers and “dazzlers” to jam cameras in orbit to prevent image collection; anti-satellite missiles such as Russia’s in late 2021 Tested missiles.
“We’re seeing satellites that can actually grab another satellite, wrestle with it and pull it out of orbit. Those are capabilities that they’re demonstrating in orbit today, so the combination of those weapons and the speed at which they’re developing is very exciting. People are worried,” he said.
It explains why, despite a wave of heated debate, the Space Force was quickly created in 2019 as the first new branch of the U.S. Armed Forces in seven years.
To respond more quickly to evolving threats and protect assets in space, Saltzman hopes to further enhance the service’s capabilities, make satellite constellations more resilient, and gain access to additional launch services by leveraging the burgeoning corps of commercial space players.
Case in point: The Space Force recently announced an acquisition strategy for more launch services. The new “dual-channel procurement approach” is intended to create more opportunities for rocket startups to compete for national security launch contracts.
With business awards next year, National Security Space Launch Phase III is estimated to be in the billions and is expected to attract bids from rocket lab, Relativity Space, and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, among others.The Phase 2 award went to SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance, a SpaceX joint venture lockheed martin and Boeing.
Expanding the budget also helps. While still a small fraction of the nation’s overall defense budget, the Space Force’s $30 billion request for fiscal year 2024 represents a 15 percent increase from levels enacted this year.
“It’s a team sport, none of us are going to do it alone,” Salzman said.
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