DOD Outlines Space Strategy

Article by David Vergun                                   October 7, 2020                                (defense.gov)

• In June, the US Defense Department released its Space Strategy Summary document (see here) laying out the DoD’s four-pillar strategy for space activities within the next decade and beyond.

• The first line of effort, says Justin T. Johnson, the acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, is for the Space Force to build a comprehensive military advantage in space.

• The second effort is to integrate space in the joint force of the US Space Command and with allies and partners, to organizes military exercises and prepare for battle in space, should that become necessary.

• The third effort is to shape the strategic environment. This includes educating the public about off-planet threats, promoting responsible activities in space, and putting adversaries on notice that harmful meddling will be met with a deliberate response from the United States military.

• The fourth effort, said Johnson, is to work with allies, partners, industry and other US agencies such as NASA, the FAA and the Commerce Department, to help streamline regulations for the space industry, which the DoD relies upon. The Space Development Agency is the key strategist in this regard. Allies and partners are excited to work with the United States Defense Department. Already, 20 nations and 100 academic and industry partners are collaborating with the DoD.

• “China and Russia are aggressively developing counter-space capabilities specifically designed to hold US and allied space capabilities at risk,” said Johnson. “China and Russia have made space a warfighting domain” by deploying systems that could potentially knock out US satellites – satellites which are vital to the missile warning system; precision, navigation and timing; and weather forecasting.

• In addition to the military aspect of space, Johnson notes that space is vital to US and global commerce. “Our $20 trillion US economy runs on space.”

 

In June, the Defense Department released its Space Strategy document. That document lays out the department’s four-pillar strategy for work that

                 Justin T. Johnson

needs to be done in space within the next decade and beyond.

Justin T. Johnson, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, discussed that strategy at a virtual Heritage Foundation event today.
The first line of effort, he said, is for the U.S. Space Force to build a comprehensive military advantage in space.

The second effort is to integrate space in the joint force and with allies and partners. That mission is primarily the responsibility of U.S. Space Command, which organizes exercises and prepares for the fight in space, should that become necessary, he said.

The third effort, he said, is to shape the strategic environment. That includes such things as educating the public about threats, promoting responsible activities in space and putting adversaries on notice that harmful meddling will be met with a deliberate response from the department at the time and means of its choosing.

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DARPA Awards $14M to Develop Nuclear Rocket Engine for US Military

Article by Luke Dormehl                                    October 2, 2020                                (yahoo.com)

• The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Gryphon Technologies $14 million to develop a nuclear thermal propulsion system for the US military rockets (similar to the one pictured above). The High-Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) system will be used to enable the military to carry out missions in cislunar space, or the area between the Earth and the orbit of the Moon.

• “A successfully demonstrated NTP system will provide a leap ahead in space-propulsion capability, allowing agile and rapid transit over vast distances as compared to present propulsion approaches,” said Tabitha Dodson, Gryphon’s chief engineer. In an NTP system, a nuclear reactor heats a propellant, like hydrogen, to extreme temperatures. It then expels it via a nozzle to create thrust. This method could be significantly more efficient than current chemical rockets, with a ‘thrust-to-weight ratio’ reportedly 10,000 times greater than electric propulsion.

• The CEO of Gryphon, P.J. Braden, said in a statement. “We are proud to support DRACO and the development and demonstration of NTP, a significant technological advancement in efforts to achieve cislunar space awareness.” The NTP system development is part of DARPA’s Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program.

• Between this, the rise of Space Force, NASA commissioning private companies to retrieve space resources, and the continued work of companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin, space exploration is about as fast-moving and full of promise as it’s been in many years.

[Editor’s Note]  The Pentagon’s deep state infested Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency named its advanced propulsion development program “DRACO”? That is a bit on the nose, isn’t it?

 

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Gryphon Technologies $14 million to develop a nuclear thermal propulsion system for the U.S. military. Part of DARPA’s Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program, the High-Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) system will be used to enable the military to carry out missions in cislunar space, meaning the area between the Earth and the orbit of the moon.

“A successfully demonstrated NTP system will provide a leap ahead in space-propulsion capability, allowing agile and rapid transit over vast distances as compared to present propulsion approaches,” Tabitha Dodson, Gryphon’s chief engineer on the support team and a national expert in NTP systems, said in a statement.

The militarization of space, this time largely involving the United States and China, has been in the news in recent years in a way that it hasn’t since the decades-old Space Race between the U.S. and the Soviets. The idea of using Nuclear Thermal Propulsion to power spacecraft is that a nuclear reactor utilized to heat a propellant like hydrogen to extreme temperatures, prior to expelling it via a nozzle in order to create thrust, could be significantly more efficient than current chemical rockets. It would also have a thrust-to-weight ratio that is reportedly 10,000 times greater than electric propulsion.

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Space Force Doesn’t Want to Send a Human to Do a Robot’s Job

Article by Nathan Strout                                 September 29, 2020                                 (c4isrnet.com)

• While Space Force officials have tried to keep the focus on what their personnel will do on the ground to support the nation’s space assets, this hasn’t dampened public speculation as to when Space Force will they send humans into orbit. A recent recruiting ad seemingly implied its members would literally be going to space.

• But for anyone joining the Space Force to be an astronaut, Maj. Gen. John Shaw has some bad news. “I think it will happen,” Shaw said on September 29th, “But I think it’s a long way off.” Shaw serves as both commander of Space Force’s Space Operations Command and for the U.S. Space Command’s Combined Force Space Component Command. Shaw sees two big reasons why it’s not likely to happen soon: “First, space isn’t really all that habitable for humans.” “And the second is, we’re getting darned good at this robotics thing in space.”

• “You know, the best robots that humans have ever created are probably satellites — either ones that explore other planets or operated within our own Earth/moon system,” said Shaw. “GPS satellites might be among those …and we’re only getting better with machine learning and artificial intelligence. We’re going to have an awful lot of automated and autonomous systems operating in Earth and lunar orbit and solar orbit in the days and years to come doing national security space activity.”

• The Space Force and the US Air Force are investing in robotic capabilities that preclude the need for humans in space. Most notable is the Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Spacecraft (RSGS) program being run by DARPA (illustrated above). With RSGS, DARPA wants to develop a robotic arm that can be placed on a free flying spacecraft which can navigate up to satellites to conduct repairs, orbital adjustments, or even install new payloads. DARPA hopes to launch a robotically enhanced vehicle into orbit in late 2022, where SpaceLogistics will provide the spacecraft and DARPA will provide the robotic arm.

• The Air Force Research Laboratory is building ROBOpilot, a robot that can fly planes, completely replacing the need for human pilots. It can press pedals to activate brakes, pull on the yoke to steer, adjust the throttle, and even read the dashboard instruments to see where it is and where it’s going.

• The secretive X-37b space plane is an unmanned vehicle is currently able to take off, carry host experiments into orbit, deploy satellites, and return to earth without humans on board.

• But Shaw believes that it’s inevitable. “At some point, yes, we will be putting humans into space,” said Shaw. “They may be operating command centers somewhere in the lunar environment or someplace else that are continuing to operate an architecture that is largely perhaps autonomous.”

• In July, the Sierra Nevada Corporation announced it had received a study contract for such autonomous orbital outposts in low Earth orbit. Missions will include hosting payloads, supporting space assembly and manufacturing, microgravity experimentation, logistics, training, testing and evaluations. SpaceNews confirmed that two other companies – Nanoracks and Arkisys – have also received study contracts.

• While these orbital outposts will be unmanned for now, a Defense Innovation Unit spokesperson said that it would be interested in securing a “human rating” for future outposts. So even if humans on orbit are not part of the military’s immediate plans, it remains a tantalizing possibility. “At some point that will happen. I just don’t know when,” said Shaw. “And it’s anybody’s guess to pick the year when that happens.”

 

                  Maj. Gen. John Shaw

Since it was established in Dec. 2019 — and probably even before that — one question has plagued the U.S. Space Force: when will they send humans into orbit?

While Space Force officials have tried to keep the focus on what their personnel will do on the ground to support the nation’s space assets, they’ve done little to dampen speculation. The Space Force probably didn’t help itself when it released a recruiting ad earlier this year that seemingly implied its members would literally be going to space.

But for anyone joining the Space Force to be an astronaut, Maj. Gen. John Shaw has some potentially bad news.

“I think it will happen,” said Shaw during the AFWERX Engage Space event Sept. 29. “But I think it’s a long way off.”

Shaw would know. He’s been a key member of the lean staff standing up both the Space Force and U.S. Space Command, serving simultaneously as commander of the former’s Space Operations Command and the latter’s Combined Force Space Component Command. While Shaw sees humans in orbit as part of the military’s plans somewhere down the line, there are two big reasons why it’s not likely to happen soon:
“First, space isn’t really all that habitable for humans. We’ve learned that since our early space days,” he explained. “And the second is, we’re getting darned good at this robotics thing in space.”

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