Mitchell Institute: USSF Must Take Lead Role in JADC2
By Chris Gordon
The Space Force must be given leadership over disparate elements of the U.S. military’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) effort, according to a new policy paper from AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. JADC2 seeks to increase sharing of command and control and targeting data across the services, but the individual services are each developing their own JADC2 concepts.
The Chief of Space Operations should have “the primary responsibility for overseeing the integration of the entire JADC2 system,” said Tim Ryan, senior fellow for Spacepower Studies at Mitchell. Without better coordination among the services’ efforts, JADC2 programs risk being neither joint nor all-domain, he said.
Space Force satellites will be part of the JADC2 “transport layer” that will underpin future operations, Ryan said. The Space Force therefore needs more precise strategic guidance about its mission, along with more responsibility, training, and funding to support its role, Ryan added. The goal would be to empower the Space Force to help make JADC2 a reality, as well as to ensure it has the means to protect its assets.
“This sounds very expensive,” Ryan said during a roundtable with reporters to preview the paper. “It sounds very complex. I understand that. And I agree that it is.”
China’s People’s Liberation Army’s Strategic Support Force wants to be able to disrupt an enemy’s command and control networks in space. Ryan argues building the architecture now with an empowered Space Force will make later decisions and choices easier.
“It is much, much cheaper to do it right the first time because, quite frankly, I don’t think we’re going to get a second chance on this,” said Ryan. “The second chance is we lose.”
U.S. military leaders, inside and outside of the Space Force, fear fundamental capabilities like GPS navigation and global communications for command and control could be disrupted by an attack. The Biden administration wants to establish global norms in space, such as an international ban on satellite weapons testing and stricter rules on how nations should de-orbit defunct satellites. But China and Russia have histories of ignoring such agreements, especially nonbinding ones.
Ryan’s paper argues that DOD needs to invest in the means to defend space assets critical to JADC2. With space increasingly contested, senior Space Force leaders have begun to float the concept of “space superiority.”
“What that really means is the ability to take a punch and to continue to fight,” said Lt. Gen. Nina M. Armagno, the director of staff of the Space Force, at AFA’s Air, Space, & Cyber Conference in September.
Missing from that statement is an explicit ability for America to fight back directly when it is attacked in space, as it does in other domains.
Ryan, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who served in a variety of space roles and also worked as a civilian on the Space Force staff at the Pentagon, recommends the Space Force receive authorization and funding to “develop space-based weapons systems that are specifically designed to defend the JADC2 space transport layer against kinetic and nonkinetic acts of aggression.”
“Any current increase in the current Space Force budget [has] been primarily done through stand-up actions and being able to integrate the other services’ capabilities into the Space Force,” Ryan said. “At the end of the day, quite frankly, the money has not been equal to the demands that are being placed on the Space Force and the increased demands that it will have with JADC2.”
Improved Space Situational Awareness Needed
By Amanda Miller
The effects of Russia’s 2021 anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon test on just one commercial satellite constellation illustrate the urgency of just one aspect of space safety.
On Oct. 19, the Aerospace Corp.’s Space Safety Institute released its 44-page book, “2022 Space Safety Compendium,”—the first of its kind—which examines not only how the ASAT test’s resulting debris brought about problematic orbital conjunctions in the thousands but also how future constellations, planned in droves over the coming decade, are likely to affect the space environment.
A “dominating commercial space market” is expanding the scope of space missions to include the likes of commercial human spaceflight and even industrial activities such as mining. But all that new activity is also shining a light on the limitations of “current safety measures and norms,” according to the report.
Its authors make 35 recommendations on themes including space situational awareness—in part to try to model the effects of debris. “Some recommendations are broad outlooks for the future,” according to the report, while “others are concrete next steps that the space sector can take. The variety of scope and scale … reflects the diverse set of space safety challenges.”
Debris from Russia’s 2021 ASAT weapon test, which struck a nonworking Soviet satellite with a ground-launched missile, forced SpaceX’s Starlink to maneuver 1,700 times “in the first months” afterward, and on a single day this August, about a third of the constellation passed closely to one or more pieces of debris several thousand times in what’s been termed a “squall.”
Aerospace Corp.’s Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies has worked on software tools to analyze “potential collision and explosion scenarios,” but the report concludes that more such tools “should encompass a vast array of space operations,” such as simulating the breakup of debris and predicting the subsequent risk to spacecraft.
Since SpaceX’s Starlink constellation has proven itself effective for the Ukrainian military, Russian officials have said commercial satellites could become military targets.
More recommendations in the report include:
Space situational awareness: A “holistic” approach with enhanced data handling; and reducing the uncertainties in tracking so satellite operators don’t have to be notified as often about close calls.
Space operations: Actively removing debris from orbit while creating regulatory processes and ways for stakeholders to collaborate.
Launch and re-entry: A “comprehensive national airspace system” and taking disposal into consideration when designing a spacecraft.
Cyber and spectrum: Getting “cyber intrusion detection and prevention applications” onboard spacecraft—something the Space Force has said the service’s existing satellites are lacking.
Human spaceflight safety: Addressing “the in-space rescue capabilities gap” with rescue plans included in launch plans.