The U.S. needs an innovative, resilient and economical way to assure space access, particularly for military and government launch programs. America’s Global Positioning System, secure communications and surveillance satellites are lynchpins of the country’s armed forces. Beyond these government assets, the U.S. military already relies heavily on the private sector’s space-based capabilities. According to a 2013 Defense Business Board report, the U.S. spends about $640 million on commercial satellite services for 40% of its communications.
All of these satellites make easy targets, representing a potential and growing vulnerability.
For an adversary who seeks to rob U.S. forces of their ability to precisely target in an urban area, know the location of friendly forces or disrupt sharing of up-to-the minute intelligence gleaned during an ongoing operation, there is no better weak link than space assets.
The latest in ASP’s series of papers examining the national security implications of the United States’ current approach to space will outline the following:
• The U.S. needs to overhaul its military space-launch capabilities in order to be able to rapidly respond if satellites are destroyed or damaged during a crisis.
• Military and intelligence satellites are vulnerable to attack and disruption, be it declared or deniable.
• Air Force efforts to improve competition in military space launch need to be sped up by leveraging commercial-sector suppliers and business models.
• The Defense Department should encourage entrepreneurship within the military and commercial segments of the space launch market to give the Defense Department innovative and cost-effective space access.
• The U.S. must set a national security strategy for space that prioritizes resilience, including the ability to rapidly and affordably replace damaged or destroyed military and relevant civilian space assets.