Air Force Tracks Final Frontier
“There’s three strategic trends that I see in space.”
General Jay Raymond, Commander of Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs. He recently visited Scientific American to talk about Space Command, which is responsible for space and cyber for the Air Force.
“One is space is congested…we track 23,000 objects in space. We provide the conjunction assessment warning, if you will, so for every object in space we do the analysis on every other object in space to see if there’s a potential collision. And if there’s a potential collision we make the warning for satellite operators around the world to maneuver their satellites to keep that collision from happening…
“I see the trends of that growing. If you look at the numbers of launches that are occurring, the numbers of launches are up largely because the cost of launch has gone down. So the access to space has gotten easier…not just are the numbers of launches going up, but the numbers of satellites on each launch are also increasing…and so I see that congestion just growing in the future, and that’s something that we are obviously working to help mitigate that growing strain.
“The other thing that’s happening in space is that we are becoming more contested. I think it’s clear that space is a war-fighting domain just like air, land and sea. And we are seeing threats across the spectrum, everything from low-end reversible jamming of GPS satellites all the way up to high-end kinetic destruction, which we saw in 2007 when China shot down their weather satellite.
“And then the last thing, and I wouldn’t say it’s concerning by any means, is the increased competitive nature of space. I think that’s a good thing. I think there’s some huge opportunities here to leverage a growing commercial space market…I think as costs of launch go down and as technology allows for smaller satellites I think we’ll be able to leverage those for a wide variety of missions.”