Bethesda, MD (SPX) — Most people do not realize that the current US national security space (NSS) infrastructure is designed to support defensive and offensive operations. If war should break out among major spacefaring nations NSS assets will be attacked.
If an attack is successful, offensive capabilities would be greatly decreased because the current set of geostationary (GEO) NSS assets are extremely vulnerable to jamming and direct attack.
We must assume that the three major spacefaring nations have spy satellites watching other spy satellites, while several-billion-dollar "eyes in the sky" watch the Earth while collecting intelligence and communicating with warfighters.
The present set of assets are fine for conducting a "cold war" scenario in which they operate in a non-fighting environment. The current organization and management of the NSS community has evolved from the old cold war with the Soviet Union. However, the new cold war is one in which China, Russia and the US are involved.
Given the present state of highly vulnerable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) space assets and their importance for national defense, the last thing anyone would want is a shooting war between two major spacefaring nations.
The opening volley would include the elimination of space-based ISR assets. Military communications links that are based on GEO birds would be jammed.
In fact, most GEO-based security assets could be attacked over a period of a few hours. One can also assume the disabling of orbiting navigation systems such as GPS, which uses medium altitude orbits.
Yes, the US and its adversaries are aware of this situation. There are spy satellites designed to snoop on other satellites at GEO altitudes. In fact, the US Air Force Space Command operates the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) that uses special satellites operating in the near-GEO region to conduct surveillance operations such as collecting SSA data on man-made objects.
The advantage of using these satellites is that they have a clear, unobstructed viewing position for observing objects of interest. These birds can also perform rendezvous maneuvers for close-up looks at other satellites. The bad news is that potentially threatening objects are very difficult to disable in a timely manner.
Unfortunately, we must be
prepared for war in space. At
this point the US is not ready
for an in-space conflict
involving attacks on NSS assets
in GEO. Vulnerability is a major
problem and protection presents
a major challenge. Ultimately,
the solution may require a
complete paradigm shift in how
space is used for national