Countering Counterspace

Orlando, Fla. As counter space programs proliferate among near peer space actors, Air Force Space Command boss Gen. William Shelton said his No. 1 priority is defending critical assets on orbit through improved space situational awareness tools. Speaking at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium here on Friday, Shelton said the US has a “critical dependence” on space capabilities in military operations. “If we are going to be a global power, we want global coverage, we want global access, and we want it at a time or place of our choosing,” he said. This is especially important in geosynchronous orbit, where the Advanced Extremely High Frequency military communications and Space Based Infrared System early warning satellites reside. AFSPC introduced new SSA tools with the 2010 launch of the Space Based Space Surveillance satellite, which is now supplemented by a new effort called the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program, or GSSAP. It will deliver its first two satellites with electro-optical sensors into GEO orbit later this year aboard a Delta IV rocket, said Shelton. GSSAP will bolster USAF’s ability to discern when adversaries attempt to avoid detection, floating just below or above geosynchronous orbit, where it will discover capabilities that could harm critical assets, he added. As other nations invest in programs that could harm US satellites, efforts like GSSAP will protect spacecraft and enable “decisive responses” to render counter space threats ineffective, Shelton said.