The Space Force wants to move from “monolithic systems to hybrid, diversified space architectures”.
COLORADO SPRINGS — The U.S. Space Force cannot continue to acquire satellites and deploy constellations as it has in the past given the complexity of the current space environment, Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations, said in an April 5 Keynote lecture at the 37th Space Symposium.
The threat is here and now, Raymond observed. Russia in November targeted and blew up another Russian satellite, creating a huge debris field in orbit. Russia has reportedly deployed nesting satellites equipped with offensive weapons. Space observers saw China operate a satellite with a robotic arm that can grab other satellites. China is also expanding its space capabilities between the Moon and Earth, an area known as cislunar space, dubbed New High.
“We live in the most strategically complex time in at least three generations,” Raymond said.
Space is vital to national security and also represents an economic engine driving the global economy, he added. “But this is only possible if space remains accessible, stable and safe. And that is not a matter of course today. We are in a time of great competition for space with nations that do not share our view.”
Raymond noted that the President’s fiscal year 2023 budget proposal, released March 28, “includes a significant increase for the Space Force. The vast majority of this increase will go towards investing in the space capabilities we need for the future.”
This will require a “pivot” to new satellites and new ways of deploying constellations to make them less vulnerable, he said. “Our legacy space capabilities were developed into a benign area where we focused on excellence in engineering. We didn’t prioritize speed because we had a significant lead in our science and technology.”
“We didn’t prioritize resiliency because there were fewer threats,” Raymond said. “Launch was expensive and few governments and large corporations could afford to deploy space capabilities. All of that has changed. We are now operating in a contested area of space.”
Moving away from “monolithic” systems
The challenge for the Space Force in planning future acquisitions is balancing cost and technical performance with resilience against a variety of threats.” Another challenge is capturing innovation from a space industry “that’s changing the way fundamentally changed how we access space, moving at the speed of the free market,” Raymond said. “In short, we have to change. We need to move to a more resilient space architecture.”
Raymond has dismissed the perception that resilience is just a Pentagon buzzword. “Resilient space architectures can be protected, they can survive attacks, they gracefully degrade under attack, and can quickly recover if lost,” he said.
Over the next year, he said, “we embark on a transformation towards more resilient architectures with diverse mixes of capabilities across multiple orbits.”
Future architecture is being designed by the Space Warfighting and Analysis Center (SWAC), where analysts use models and simulations to design space systems and assess how survivable they might be against various threats.
“How many satellites, what payloads, in what orbits, with what ground infrastructure to balance performance, cost and resilience? SWAC is helping us answer that question,” said Raymond.
“If we migrate from our large, monolithic systems to hybrid, diversified space architectures, we cannot continue to build expensive satellites with exquisite mission security,” he said.
Raymond called on industry to help reduce the cost of space systems. “We must focus on reducing cost as a key factor in building incredibly distributed architectures that are resilient in combat. Government cannot afford a distributed, resilient force design unless industry changes with us.”