Preventing War in Space

Space faring nations must agree to “international norms” that “deter bad behavior” in space before the domain is forever ruined, said Gen. John Hyten, commander of US Strategic Command, during a speech at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. Hyten said every facet of the US military utilizes space, and the US Air Force has been working to protect the domain since the first Gulf War. However, other countries, such as China and Russia, are bolstering capabilities that put US space assets at risk. China, said Hyten, continues to test its low Earth orbit capability and, “In the not-too-distant future, they will be able to use that capability to threaten every spacecraft we have in space,” he cautioned. Russia has had an anti-satellite capability since the 1980s, but it has been working to grow that capability in recent years. In the process, China also has created thousands of pieces of space debris, which Hyten said will never go away and pose a significant threat to US and other space-nation assets. “The best way to prevent war is to be prepared for war. So the United States is going to do that,” and it’s going to make sure everyone knows it, said Hyten. That’s why USAF unclassified the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP). The “neighborhood watch” satellites are equipped with electro-optical sensors that provide better situational awareness in space and help prevent space collisions, officials have said. In October 2015, STRATCOM launched the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, or JICSpOC, in partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office, Air Force Space Command, the Air Force Research Laboratory, “the intelligence community and commercial data providers.” The JICSpOC enables the necessary agencies to war game space.