Military experts say space is likely to be the front line in any future conflicts – a battlefield that could extend to the private sector and impact civilians in real time. Look no further than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an example: Recall the unprecedented cyberattack on the European communications network of U.S. satellite operator Viasat just as Russian soldiers mobilized to cross sovereign boundaries.
Saltzman said the space-based tactics of adversaries like Russia and China run the gamut, from the communications jamming of the GPS constellation; to lasers and “dazzlers” that interfere with cameras on-orbit to prevent imagery collection; to anti-satellite missiles like the one Russia tested in late 2021.
“We’re seeing satellites that actually can grab another satellite, grapple with it and pull it out of its operational orbit. These are all capabilities they’re demonstrating on-orbit today, and so the mix of these weapons and the pace with which they’ve been developed are very concerning,” he said.
It speaks to why, despite a wave of fervent debate, the Space Force was briskly stood up in 2019 as the first new branch of the U.S. armed services in seven decades.
To respond to evolving threats and secure space assets more quickly, Saltzman is looking to further augment the service’s capabilities to make satellite constellations more resilient and acquire more launch services by tapping into a burgeoning cadre of commercial space players.
Case in point: the Space Force’s recently announced procurement strategy for more launch services. The new “dual-lane acquisition approach” is intended to create more opportunities for rocket startups to compete for national security launch contracts.