Tag: China

What Happens to Space Force After Trump?

Article by Samantha Masunaga                                       December 15, 2020                                     (latimes.com)

• Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond says “proliferating technology” and “competitive interests” have changed space from a benign environment to “one in which we anticipate all aspects of human endeavor — including warfare.” The goals of Space Force include developing new capabilities, increasing cooperation and enabling a “lean and agile service.” Whether Space Force can achieve that mission is an open question. While Trump champions the initiative, he has done little to ensure it has the funding, staffing and authority to succeed. When he exits the White House next month, the Space Force’s trajectory remains unclear.

• Created last year as the first new armed service since 1947, Space Force has gained control of some space operations, but many others are still spread throughout the nation’s other military branches. Space Force is still technically part of the Air Force, just as the Marine Corps is part of the Navy. The Air Force’s Space Command is responsible for supporting and maintaining satellites for GPS, missile warning and nuclear command and control, as well as paying United Launch Alliance and SpaceX to launch national security satellites. “The whole point of this was to consolidate,” said Todd Harrison, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. The US Army, US Navy, and especially the US Air Force all conduct space operations.

• Consolidating these disparate programs into the Space Force has been slow. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base in Florida will change their names and become the first two Space Force installations. Eventually, all Air Force space missions are supposed to follow suit. But there has been no progress on integrating the Army‘s or Navy’s space missions.

• The Pentagon Space Force budget is lean. With about 2,100 personnel as of November 1st, Space Force commanded a budget of $40 million in 2020. Meanwhile, the Air Force has more than 325,000 active duty personnel and a budget of $168 billion for 2020. ($14B of that was designated to the Space Force.) The Space Force will probably always be the smallest military service, Harrison said. “Space is more dictated by capabilities than mass,” he said. Space Force “shouldn’t try to organize itself in the way of these much larger services because that’s not what it is. That’s not what it’s going to grow into.” For fiscal year 2021, the Space Force is requesting a budget transfer from the Air Force of $15.3 billion. Over time, as space programs from other services start consolidating into the Space Force, their budgets should follow.

• But David Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies think tank, says that Space Force’s 2020 resources aren’t enough to carry out its mission of organizing, training and equipping forces to deter or defeat threats in space. US intelligence officials have warned that China and Russia have discussed developing new electronic warfare capabilities, which could have implications for U.S. military satellite communications or GPS satellite interference. “The nation is facing some very significant threats in the space realm,” says Deptula.

• “Space Force really needed to be stood up to remain competitive with the very real threats coming from our nearest adversaries,” said James Marceau, managing director of aerospace and defense at consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal, who has also served as a senior advisor to the Pentagon on major strategies including the Space Force. “We can’t afford to neglect that domain.”

• As the strategic role of satellites came to the forefront in the early 1990s, congressional leaders and military officials, including former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, considered consolidating space operations. In 2016, Representatives Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) began advocating for a “space corps.” But there wasn’t enough support in the U.S. Senate for the proposal. Then, in March 2018, Trump seized upon the idea and suggested creating a ‘Space Force’ in a speech to Marines at Air Station Miramar in San Diego. (Cooper would later say Trump “tried to hijack” the idea of the space corps.) Five month later, Vice President Mike Pence announced the creation of Space Force. It was included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act and signed into law in December 2019.

• At this point, it’s “highly unlikely” that the Biden administration would try to eliminate the Space Force, Harrison said. It would require a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as the president’s signature, he said. “I have not heard anyone seriously contemplating the idea of disestablishing it,” Harrison said. “It hasn’t even gotten a chance to get started yet.”

• “You’ve already transferred thousands of individuals into the Space Force,” said Doug Loverro, former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for space policy. “Can you imagine pulling the rug out from under them?” General Raymond says that he met with the Biden transition team in early December, and the conversation “was good”. So it appears that Space Force will be sticking around.

 

President Trump has a penchant for grandiose promises that go unfulfilled. So when he announced a

          Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond

plan to establish a Space Force, there was some skepticism.

Then-Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), ranking member on a Senate committee that deals with aviation and space, disliked the idea of consolidating space programs from the other military branches, saying at the time there were “too many important missions at stake” to “rip the Air Force apart.”

The idea of the new service became fodder for late-night comedians and a Netflix sitcom.
The Space Force, however, was not merely a presidential musing. Created last year as the first new armed service since 1947, it was established with the mission of protecting U.S. interests in space from potential adversaries, be they rival nations or gobs of space junk.

 Representative Jim Cooper

Whether it can achieve that mission is an open question. Though Trump champions the initiative, he has done little to ensure it has the funding, staffing and authority to succeed. When he exits the White House next month, the Space Force’s trajectory remains unclear.

            Todd Harrison

The Space Force has gained control of some space operations, but many others are still spread throughout the nation’s other military branches.

Within the Defense Department, the Air Force has the lion’s share of space programs and budget for space operations. It’s responsible for supporting and maintaining satellites for GPS, missile warning and nuclear command and control, as well as paying United Launch Alliance and SpaceX to launch national security satellites.

The Army and Navy also have their own space operations.

Consolidating these disparate programs into the Space Force has been slow. Some Air Force missions have transferred to Space Force control or are in the process of doing so — last week, Vice President Mike Pence announced that Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base in Florida would change their names and become the first two Space Force installations. Eventually, all Air Force space missions are supposed to follow suit. But there has been no progress on integrating the Army‘s or Navy’s space missions.

 Representative Mike Rogers

“The last thing you want … after all of this reorganization and creating a new military service is to continue to have the fragmentation of our space programs and space organizations across the military,” said Todd Harrison, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. “The whole point of this was to consolidate.”

           David Deptula

Compared with the budgets and personnel of the other branches of the U.S. military, the Space Force is lean. And technically it’s part of the Air Force, just as the Marine Corps is part of the Navy.

Consisting of about 2,100 people as of Nov. 1, the Space Force commanded a budget of $40 million for its operations and maintenance in fiscal year 2020.

Meanwhile, the Air Force has more than 325,000 active duty personnel and a budget of $168 billion for fiscal 2020. (The Air Force designated almost $14 billion of that for space capabilities. These projects have since become part of the Space Force.)

The Space Force will probably always be the smallest military service, Harrison said.

“Space is more dictated by capabilities than mass,” he said. The Space Force “shouldn’t try to organize itself in the way of these much larger services because that’s not what it is. That’s not what it’s going to grow into.”

          Doug Loverro

But the Space Force’s 2020 resources aren’t enough to carry out its mission of organizing, training and equipping forces to deter or defeat threats in space, said David Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies think tank.

For fiscal year 2021, the Space Force is requesting a budget transfer from the Air Force of $15.3 billion. And over time, as space programs from other services start consolidating into the Space Force, their budgets should follow.

“The nation is facing some very significant threats in the space realm,” Deptula said. “Let’s make sure that service is set up for success.”

U.S. intelligence officials have warned that China and Russia have discussed developing new electronic warfare capabilities, which could have implications for U.S. military satellite communications or GPS satellite interference. In 2007, China tested an anti-satellite weapon and destroyed one of its own inactive weather satellites.

“Space Force really needed to be stood up to remain competitive with the very real threats coming from our nearest adversaries,” said James Marceau, managing director of aerospace and defense at consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal, who has also served as a senior advisor to the Pentagon on major strategies including the Space Force. “We can’t afford to neglect that domain.”

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Thailand’s Space Program Drifts Away From China’s Orbit

Article by Hadrien T. Saperstein                                   December 12, 2020                                       (eastasiaforum.org)

• Traditionally, Thailand has maintained a ‘multi-directional diplomacy’ – working with many countries and each of the superpowers without bias. But since the 2014 military coup in Thailand, and the increasing tensions between the United States and China which began during the Obama administration and escalated under President Trump, the Thai military and private technology sector has advanced its cooperation with China, while its space agency has maintained a multi-directional approach.

• The Royal Thai Armed Forces has advanced its defense cooperation with China through military-naval exercises and procurements. The Thai private sector has accepted bids on 5G wireless network services development from two Chinese companies — ZTE and Huawei — and accepted Chinese investment projects in Thailand such as the China-ASEAN Beidou Technological City.

• Yet Sino-Thai cooperation does not presently extend to the same degree in the development of space technology. The Royal Thai Air Force, Space Operations Center, and its space agency, ‘Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency’ – responsible for satellite technology development – show a preference for non-Chinese technology and launch service providers. The Thai Air Force procured its CubeSat platforms and first two military satellites from a Dutch company. The first satellite was launched from a French rocket in French Guiana, and the latter is scheduled for launch through the Soyuz rocket in Russia. The Thai space agency is also working with the European aerospace company ‘Airbus’ to replace a low Earth orbit observation satellite system.

• Officials working on the latest draft of Thailand’s National Space Act say it will focus on a ‘NewSpace agenda’, focusing on domestic space technology and sustainable economic development. They say that there is little chance that the Chinese space industry’s technology will receive any competitive advantage. If anything, both the Thai Air Force and Space Program tend to reject Chinese technology in favor of Western technology. The Thai Air Force has laid the groundwork for a long-term relationship with the US by signing a space agreement with the United States Strategic Command.

• Thailand’s Space Agency is promoting an annual ‘Astronaut’s Scholarship Program’ in which three Thai students are selected to study at NASA in America. NASA is also working with the Royal Thai Government Pollution Control Department to create a web application to help mitigate the impact of air pollution in Thailand.

• Recent legislation has given foreign satellite operators permission to provide domestic services in Thailand. There are concerns that the Thai Space Program’s newly appointed Executive Director, Pakorn Apaphant, will shift towards a newfound acceptance of Chinese satellite technology and launch service providers. Colonel Setthapong Mali Suwan, Vice-Chairman of Telecommunications for Thailand’s Ministry of the Digital Economy and Society, publicly expressed this concern several weeks ago when he stated that Thailand should maintain its traditional balancing role in competition over space affairs between great powers or else it will be required to follow policies dictated by other states. Colonel Setthapong said that there is ‘a need to urgently promote the development of the country’s own space technology’ to prevent a loss of bargaining power.

 

Col Setthapong Mali Suwan

Since the 2014 military coup in Thailand, the Royal Thai Armed Forces has ‘advanced by leaps and bounds’ in its defence

   Pakorn Apaphant

cooperation with China through tri-service bilateral exercises and military-naval procurements. This characterisation also applies beyond defence. In the private sector, Advanced Info Service has been accepting bids on 5G development from two Chinese companies — ZTE and Huawei — and Chinese investment projects in Thailand like the China-ASEAN Beidou Technological City.

The lasting economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the intensifying pro-democracy protest movement will reaffirm the contemporary trendline in Sino-Thai defence cooperation. This cooperation will occur for the short-to-medium risk horizon and for the medium-to-long risk horizon.

Yet Sino-Thai defence cooperation does not presently extend to the same degree in the development of space technology. This is indicated by the latest developments from the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) Space Operation Center in partnership with the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA) — a Thai space agency responsible for remote sensing and satellite technology development.

These organisations’ space procurements increasingly show a preference for non-Chinese technology and launch service providers. The RTAF procured its NAPA-1 and NAPA-2 U6 CubeSat platforms — Thailand’s first and second military satellites — from Innovative Solutions in Space of the

Thai-NASA “Space Camp” Astronaut Scholarship Program

Netherlands. While the first satellite was launched through the French Arianespace Vega rocket at the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana, the latter is scheduled for launch through the Soyuz rocket at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia. GISTDA also signed a contract with Airbus for the THEOS-2 satellite, a second generation low Earth orbit (LEO) observation system that will replace the THEOS-1 satellite.

Relevant officials in the latest round of draft revision on the forthcoming National Space Act for the National Space Policy Committee have said off the record that there is little indication that either China’s space industry or a domestic lobby will receive a comprehensive edge. It seems that the drafters sought to uphold Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon’s ‘NewSpace’ agenda to focus on domestic space technology and sustainable economic development.

Despite also confirming that the RTAF sent representatives to participate in the latest round, its influence amid the process remains unclear. The RTAF’s most explicit articulation of the space domain is found in the White Paper 2020. The document’s ‘10-Year Requirement Plan [2020-2030]’ section conveys its intent to invest in space capabilities and space situational awareness. But it does not show any signs of a shift towards procuring Chinese technology.

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China vs the US and the Risks of a Space Rivalry

Article by Sarah Zheng                                    November 29, 2020                                (scmp.com)

• The recent voyage of China’s Chang’e 5 lunar spacecraft to bring Moon samples back to Earth was more than a signal of China’s ambitions to US military officials. To Space Force General John Raymond it represented a threat that China and Russia pose to American access to space. “The two countries seek to stop US access to space, Raymond posted on the DoD website. “[T]hey are developing capabilities that would negate the US advantage.” Raymond is calling for the US to work more closely with its allies, to “stay ahead of the growing threat.”

• Raymond’s approach would continue to deny China access to American technology and ensure a clear separation between the US and Chinese space programs. But Matthew Daniels, a senior fellow at Georgetown University, notes that the division between the US and Chinese space programs is due to US barriers, resulting in almost no direct links between the two countries in space technology research, development and operations. The US is ahead in technologies such as reusable launch systems and satellite manufacturing, but China is narrowing the gap. So cutting the US off from Chinese advancements in technology could come at a cost for the United States and miss an opportunity to reduce the risk of political conflict. So should the US cooperate with China in some areas or continue to freeze it out?

• Further limits on the transfer of space technologies to China could be carried out with still more barriers to US commercial space technology transfers, extra limits on US civil space engagement and coordination, diplomatic pressure on third parties working with both the US and China, and visa restrictions on Chinese aerospace researchers. In the long term, however, it could encourage China to establish a stronger space technology ecosystem of its own. China would then have more of a chance to build alternative international coalitions, including by drawing in Europe and Russia.

• “The current separation will probably continue to slow China in the near term,” says Daniels. “[T]his effect will diminish, however, and it may help grow indigenous supply chains and markets in China.” The US could thereby lose its international leadership in space, while missing a chance to obtain strategic information about China’s space activities and reducing the opportunity to manage crises and conflict.”

 

              Gen. John “Jay” Raymond

When the Chang’e 5 lunar spacecraft lifted off from a launch pad in southern China this week it was not just a signal of China’s ambitions to bring moon samples back to Earth. Half a world away in the United States, the launch was a sign to US Space Force General John Raymond of the threat that China – together with Russia – poses in blocking American access to space.

                      Matthew Daniels

“The two countries seek to stop US access to space, and they are developing capabilities that would negate the US advantage,” he said in an interview published on the US Department of Defence website.

Raymond called for the US to work more closely with allies, to “stay ahead of the growing threat” from China.

It is an approach that would continue to deny China access to American technology and ensure a clear separation between the US and Chinese space programmes.

But some observers say that this could come at a cost for the United States and miss an opportunity to reduce the risk of conflict.
The two space programmes are already “substantially separated”, according to Matthew Daniels, a senior expert for the Office of the US Secretary of Defence and a senior fellow at Georgetown University.

In a report published in October published by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Daniels said the division was due mostly to US barriers, resulting in almost no direct links between the two countries in space technology research, development and operations.

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