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The Perils and Promise of LEO Constellations

Article by Sandra Erwin                                 July 4, 2020                              (spacenews.com)

• Mike Griffin, the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, says that the Pentagon must reduce its dependence on large, billion-dollar satellites in geosynchronous orbit that are vulnerable to anti-satellite weapons. As an alternative, the DoD’s Space Development Agency plans to deploy satellites in ‘proliferated low Earth orbit’ constellations, or ‘PLEO’, to put up a communications transport layer and a surveillance and tracking layer of satellites for hypersonic missile defense.

• The smaller satellites comprising the PLEO constellations provide a resilient space infrastructure that is cheaper and easier to replace than geostationary systems, should they be destroyed by anti-satellite weapons. A key question is whether satellites and launch vehicles can be made cheap enough to make the cost of taking down a LEO system not worth it. “Changing the “cost equation” for an enemy will be a key challenge for DoD and the U.S. Space Force,” said Michael Martindale, the Director of Space Education for Space Force.

• ‘Low Earth orbit’ (LEO) satellites are easier to hit from ground-based anti-satellite weapons. Sophisticated in-space weaponry is not required for LEO satellites, as it would be to take down satellites in geostationary orbit (GEO).

• A recent study by Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies shows that China and Russia, despite their rhetoric about wanting to ban weapons in space, are building arsenals of ground-based anti-satellite weaponry. This sends a message to other countries that ground-based anti-satellite weapons are fair game. Says Harrison, “With its 2019 ASAT test, India made clear that it believes kinetic Earth-to-space ASAT weapons are a legitimate means of self-defense by deterrence.”

• In their respective space-arms control proposals, China and Russia do not prohibit ground-based weapons. “Their behavior says they’re only interested in banning the capabilities that they don’t already have,” says Martindale. With more LEO systems about to be deployed by the DoD, which are vulnerable to the ground-based anti-satellite missiles, American space superiority is now being contested.

• Space Force can’t possibly protect every satellite in Earth’s orbit, so it must figure out ways to deter countries from even attempting to take one down. The United States has more to lose than anyone else if satellites become targets in a war. The key is to make it too costly for an enemy to mount an attack. “You have to reduce the value of each individual target.” Says Martindale, “[I]f there are hundreds of targets, and the enemy knows that the U.S. can replenish those assets quickly, the cost equation changes and using missiles is not as effective.”

• Such a deterrent strategy would require a ready supply of replacement satellites and rapid access to launch services so constellations can be replenished quickly and inexpensively. Right now, it generally takes years to get a DoD satellite off the ground. Space Force needs to bring this equation down to days or weeks to launch and replace a LEO positioned satellite.

 

                        Mike Griffin

The Pentagon has already created an acronym — PLEO — for its plans to deploy satellites in proliferated low Earth orbit constellations.

DoD’s Space Development Agency is leading the way as it prepares to put up a communications transport layer and a surveillance and tracking layer for hypersonic missile defense.

The Pentagon’s staunchest proponent of PLEO, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering Mike Griffin, has argued that the Pentagon must reduce its dependence on large, billion-dollar satellites in geosynchronous orbit that are vulnerable to anti-satellite weapons.

              Todd Harrison

The case for proliferated constellations in low Earth orbit is based on the idea that it provides a resilient space infrastructure. Smaller satellites would be cheaper and easier to replace than geostationary systems if they were destroyed by anti-satellite weapons. That approach should work in theory. A key question is whether satellites and launch vehicles can be made cheap enough to make the cost of taking down a LEO system not worth it.

Changing the “cost equation” for an enemy will be a key challenge for DoD and the U.S. Space Force, says Michael Martindale, a former U.S. Air Force space operator and currently the director of space education for the Space Force Association.

As much as DoD worries about GEO satellites becoming targets of China’s orbital weapons, LEO systems are much easier to hit — no sophisticated in-space weapons required. So-called direct-ascent weapon such as ordinary surface-to-air missiles and anti-ballistic missile interceptors are far more likely to be used against low-orbiting satellites than space-based weapons, Martindale says.

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Over 8,500 Airmen Volunteer to Join U.S. Space Force

Article by Sandra Erwin                           June 9, 2020                          (spacenews.com)

• On June 9th, The U.S. Space Force announced that more than 8,500 active-duty airmen applied to join the new military branch. Applicants include a mix of officers and enlisted personnel from 13 career fields. It was anticipated that only about 7,000 would give up their commission in the Air Force and transfer to the U.S. Space Force. The Space Force is reviewing transfer applications and expects that approximately 6,000 of the 8,500 will be selected for transfer.

• The response reflects the enthusiasm in the ranks about the opportunity to serve in the newest branch of the military. These men and women “made the bold decision to volunteer to join the U.S. Space Force and defend the ultimate high ground,” said chief of space operations General John “Jay” Raymond. Approximately 16,000 military and civilians from the former U.S. Air Force Space Command are now assigned to Space Force.

• Transfers to the Space Force will begin September 1st. For volunteers from other career fields, evaluation panels known as “transfer boards” will be scheduled between July and November, with transfers expected by February 2021.

 

WASHINGTON — More than 8,500 active-duty airmen applied to join the U.S. Space Force during the month of May, the service announced on June 9.
Applicants include a mix of officers and enlisted personnel from 13 career fields.

   President Trump and General Raymond

The number of applicants is larger than what the Space Force had projected. Officials said they were anticipating about 7,000 would volunteer to give up their commission in the Air Force and transfer to the U.S. Space Force.

The response reflects the enthusiasm in the ranks about the opportunity to serve in the newest branch of the military, said Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations of the U.S. Space Force. These men and women “made the bold decision to volunteer to join the U.S. Space Force and defend the ultimate high ground,” he said in a statement.

Approximately 16,000 military and civilians from the former U.S. Air Force Space Command are now assigned to the Space Force. The transfer process will officially commission or enlist military members into the Space Force.

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Space Force Releases Recruitment Video

May 6, 2020                           (fox5ny.com)

• The US Space Force is calling your name. On May 6th, the newly formed military branch posted a recruitment video to social media. The video starts off with a man gazing up towards a luminous night sky, as images of high-tech space hardware and rockets flash by.

• Established in December 2019, the US Space Force became the sixth branch of the armed services. Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond and US Air Force Secretary Barbara M. Barrett previewed the recruitment video during a webinar Wednesday.

• According to its website (see here), “the USSF is a military service that organizes, trains, and equips space forces in order to protect U.S. and allied interests in space and to provide space capabilities to the joint force.”

 

For those who dream of a future in the stars, the U.S. Space Force is calling your name.

On May 6, the newly formed military branch posted a recruitment video to social media. The video starts off with a man gazing up towards a luminous night sky, as images of high-tech space hardware and rockets flash by.

The recruitment video was previewed by Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond and U.S. Air Force Secretary Barbara M. Barrett during a Wednesday webinar, in which they also discussed the X-37B space plane.

Established in December 2019, the U.S. Space Force became the sixth branch of the armed services.

 

30-second Space Force recruitment video (‘Military Videos’ YouTube)

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FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. ExoNews.org distributes this material for the purpose of news reporting, educational research, comment and criticism, constituting Fair Use under 17 U.S.C § 107. Please contact the Editor at ExoNews with any copyright issue.

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