The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies sponsored this educational seminar, titled “The Value of Space to the Warfighter: Command and Control (C2) and Space Situational Awareness (SSA).” The seminar featured: General John Raymond, Commander, 14th Air Force Space Command; Colonel John Wagner, Commander of Joint Operations Space Center; and Colonel Erik Bowman, Deputy Commander of the Space Superiority Systems Directorate. Peter Huessy was the moderator.
MR. PETER HUESSY: Good morning. My name is Peter Huessy and on behalf of the Mitchell Institute and the affiliate sponsors, the Air Force Association, Reserve Officers Association and the National Defense Industrial Association, as well as our friends at the Marshall Institute that are giving us a video of this event, I want to thank you for being here at the third of our 10 series of seminars on Space Power and the Warfighter. I also want to acknowledge our friends from the Embassy of Austria who are here today.
I am very honored today to welcome three of our speakers. Our first speaker will be Lieutenant General John J. Raymond, who is the Commander of 14th Air Force Space Command, and Commander, and is the joint functional component for space. He leads more than 20,500 personnel at Vandenberg responsible for providing missile warning, space superiority, space situational awareness, satellite operations, space launch and range operations.
We’re also honored to have Colonel John Wagner, who is the Commander of the Joint Space Operations Center or JSPOC at Vandenberg. It is the central node for operational level command and control of the Department of Defense’s space assets.
We’re also honored to have Colonel Eric Bowman, who is the Deputy Commander of the Space Superiority Systems Directorate at the Space and Missile Center in Los Angeles. In this position he assists in directing and equipping U.S. forces with space control systems to gain, maintain and exploit space superiority.
Would you all welcome General Raymond?
GEN.JOHN RAYMOND: Good morning, it’s great to be here. It’s wonderful to be here. I’ll tell you, I think I’ve worked for about half the people in this room. You probably all came wondering how did that guy make it there?
It is my honor to be here this morning. Yesterday I had the opportunity to testify at the House Armed Services Committee. That was the first time I had the privilege of doing that and it also was a great event.
But I’ll tell you, there’s a lot going on in the space business. And I have been in the space business for a large portion of my career, almost all of my career, and we’ve all heard about how the environment has changed. And it really wasn’t until just a couple of months ago when I took command that it hit me just how much transformation has occurred in the space domain. And I’m going to kind of set the stage for this SSA conversation which I’ve been asked to have, and then a little bit about space C2 as well, with just what I have seen in the couple of months since I’ve been back.
Please pass along my regards to General Deptula. I had the privilege of working for him a few years ago and he’s an extremely bright, bright guy. I taught him everything he knows about space. Let him know that. There’s a funny story there, but I won’t go there this morning.
Let me begin by introducing our lineup today. With me this morning, as you heard, is John Wagner. He goes by Wags. He’s the director, the commander of the 614th AOC and the director of the JSPOC. He’s in charge of running the C2 facility, if you will, our ops center for all of space, from the JFCC Space Center.
Also joining us is Eric Bowman, who is the deputy director for the Space Superiority Directorate from Space and Missile Systems. And I know you all know – I’m speaking to a friendly crowd here – that’s Air Force Space Command’s acquisition arm.
And again, this morning I’m going to set the stage talking a little bit about space situational awareness. And then I’m going to turn it over to Colonel Wagner and he’s going to walk you through about three or four vignettes to bring my words to life and give you some examples of what we’ve been seeing over the last couple of months. Again, I have been completely amazed at the magnitude.
I’ve been in the space surveillance business before. I’ve commanded the 21st Space Wing, which is a space surveillance wing focused on space surveillance. I’ve commanded a space surveillance squadron earlier in my career in England.
And we have all heard of congested, contested and competitive linkage. I’m looking at Bob Butterworth. He’s a long time mentor and I appreciate you being here.
But we’ve all heard those words. I’ve used those words in speeches all the time. It’s kind of a standard thing. But I don’t think people in this room probably realize just what that means and what we’re seeing on a day-to-day basis. And that’s what I’ll try to do today.
So space situational awareness is the foundation for our mission success. I can’t do my job if I don’t have space situational awareness. Without it our units and operators can’t do their job. SSA is a really tough business and it’s getting tougher each day.
The number of objects in space are growing, are increasing. The size of the satellites are decreasing. The number of space-faring nations continues to grow and the capabilities of individual satellites increases as well.
All of this means that more groups are doing more things with more objects in space. It also means a potential adversary is more likely to develop capabilities to deny both our use of space and the operational and strategic advantage that our nation enjoys because of our space capabilities. The way that I think about space situational awareness is that to have true awareness of the domain you have to have an understanding of what’s coming into the domain, how it operates in the domain and then how it exits the domain. Using that as a framework, I thought I’d give you a feel for just how congested, contested and competitive this domain really is. It’s something, again, that was eye-opening to me.
So entering the domain – and I’m going to tell you these statistics are three days old. I left Vandenberg on Wednesday evening, so it was kind of noon on Wednesday when we put the final stamp on these. There have been some changes and those that I know I’ll highlight in my remarks. I’m probably one of two or three off on each one of these because that’s just how volatile the domain has been.
But since January 31, which is the day that I took command, we have detected 145 ballistic missile launches and provided warning of those launches to joint commanders all over the world, telling them where the launches were coming from, the type of missile launches and where they were going and assisting in determining whether those launches pose a threat to our forces, our allies or to the United States. We also detected, tracked and identified and documented 14 space launches. I have to up that number to 16 because yesterday there were two. Yesterday we had a successful DMSP launch out of Vandenberg, and then there was another launch. It wasn’t a U.S. launch, so we’re up to 16 as of yesterday afternoon and there may be more today.
What is noteworthy, however, is the number of multiple payload launches that have taken place. As technology matures and satellites are becoming smaller and less expensive, the dynamic has changed. So I brought a couple show-and-tell things here. And I know a lot of you in this room know this, but some may not.
This is a cubesat, and I’ll pass this around. It’s making our mission of space situational awareness even more demanding. To emphasize this challenge, in all of 2012, the entire year, 72 new satellites were place into orbit. In just one seven day period in 2013 78 new satellites were placed into orbit on multiple payload launches. Cubesat size that makes it a little bit more difficult to track. We can track them, but they’re smaller and a little bit more difficult to track.
More recently, in February of this year, the International Space Station deployed 33 of these cube-sats, just a couple of weeks ago, from the International Space Station. This month, Space-X Falcon 9’s ISS cargo launch resupply mission is programmed to deploy five additional cubesats and 104 chipsats. For those that may not know what a chipsat is, that’s a chipsat, and we’ll pass that around. But that we can’t track, it’s too small. One hundred and four of those things in one launch, a university student from Cornell project is going to put that up on a Falcon 9. It’s an experiment just to make sure you can have connectivity with chipsats. Again, we’re not able to track those.
In orbit, we track about 23,000 objects in space. Eleven hundred of those objects are satellites, active satellites. About 75 percent of those 1,100 are maneuverable. Estimates are that there’s about half a million other objects that we can’t track. They’re too small to track, like chipsats or some other pieces of debris. Although small they can be deadly. If you take a small object, even that size, and make it fly at 17,500 miles an hour and it runs into something else going 17,500 miles an hour, it can be pretty destructive.
Since the 31st of January, again, we have processed 25.2 million observations, 420,000 a day of things in space. And we have issued 200,000 warning notifications of potential conjunctions in space – 200,000 since the 31st of January – to global spacecraft owners in 130 different countries. We’re doing this for the world.
We share our space surveillance data worldwide on www.spacetrack.org. Sign up for an account and you can get information for yourself. It contains almost all the space surveillance data that we have.
And we do that because it’s also in our best interest to extend that space flight safety, if you will, to the space domain because we have to operate there as well. And we have seen examples in the past, for example, where the Chinese ASAT in 2007 littered the orbit with debris. And now a lot of what I’m going to talk about here over the next couple of minutes on doing conjunctions and maneuvering to avoid conjunction is based on that event.
We’ve entered into 41 SSA sharing agreements, space situational awareness sharing agreement, with commercial companies and five sharing agreements with other nations to provide more routine services. So on www.spacetrack.org we put information out on the catalogue, if you will. If you sign an agreement with us we will give additional services like launch analysis to give you windows on when to launch and when not to launch based on (costs ?).
We give you a more routine conjunction estimate. If we ever determine that there’s a potential conjunction, whether we have an agreement or not, we’ll let everybody know – and on an emergency basis – again to protect the space domain for all to use. We’re also in – STRATCOM is doing this – but we’re also in coordination at least with a dozen other countries right now to sign additional space situational awareness agreements.
Since the 31st of January – I’ve got to up this number — it was 21. I know at least now it’s 22 satellites, have maneuvered. I talked about last week we maneuvered the International Space Station for just the 16th time. Yesterday we did it for the 17th time, so two times in the matter of a week.
Twenty-one satellites maneuvered to ensure we don’t have another catastrophic event like the one that occurred in 2009 when a defunct Russian satellite ran into an orbiting satellite. That event caused 2,500 pieces of debris. I talked about ISA moving for the 16th time. Yesterday was the 17th time. That’s noteworthy.
However what’s even more noteworthy is there’s another example two weeks ago where two satellites in low-Earth orbit where we had a potential conjunction, had an overall missed distance of less than a kilometer. Again, 17,500 miles an hour going each way, and neither one of them had the ability to maneuver, which is one of those you sit back and hold your breath.
We assessed, characterized and mitigated 23,000 Satcom interference events and restored communications. We have published 90 intelligence summaries that inform space operators about the threat because we are no longer operating a benign space environment. Today we are faced with a contested environment. The counter-space threat is increasing as our potential adversaries pursue disruptive and destructive capabilities; everything from jamming and reversible jamming all the way up through destructive air and satellite weapons.
Exiting the domain – in the military we’re not really big at hails and farewells. We’ve unfortunately done more hails than we’ve done farewells. Coming out of the domain we’ve processed two de-orbits and seven decayed re-entries. So we track all that as well and provide warning of those events.
Again, we provide SSA data not just to our friends and our allies but to all spacefaring nations and space companies because we are committed first and foremost to a safe and peaceful use of space by and for all. No other nation, no other organization except the Air Force and the Department of Defense, have the resources and skill to do this job for all objects throughout the space domain.
Admiral Haney, the commander of the United States Strategic Command, has provided me with three operational objectives. They are, one, provide timely and accurate warning and assessment; two, support national leaders and joint coalition forces; and three, protect and defend our space capabilities and prepare for contingency operations. As previously mentioned, maintaining space situational awareness is absolutely critical to meeting these objectives. I can’t do my job without it.
The other must have is the ability to command and control our space forces. Our current C2 system is called SPADOC, Space Defense Operations Center. It was built in the late ‘80s. It was designed for a different era. It wasn’t a contested or congested space domain. It’s at the edge of its capacity. It is reactive in nature. It does not support the fusing of information or collaborative operations or testing of hypotheses in order to fully develop response options.
We are currently transitioning to the Joint Space Operations Mission System, or JMS for short. JMS will significantly enhance our ability to understand the space domain, with an improved integrated, operating picture and increased ability to respond to a dynamic space environment. The JMS picture will allow us to aggregate and rapidly process data into actionable information for senior decision-makers.
JMS is being delivered incrementally. With each increment we enhance our ability to understand the space domain. Increment 1 is already up and running on the operations floor of the JSPOC and is already providing us significant operational (lists ?).
Let me couch it to you in this way. I talked about SPADOC being our C2 system. What Increment 1 does is put a visualization tool on SPADOC.
So when I went on the ops floor when I first got here I went to a young operator sitting at his SPADOC terminal and I asked – there was a multi-payload launch earlier, about a week before – and I asked him where are those satellites? And he went into SPADOC and types www.wherearethosesatellites. And the spread sheet comes out with a bunch of numbers. That’s great, but where are the satellites? He’s, sir, this and this and this. And I’m – not good enough.
Pull it up on JMS and there’s a real-time picture of where the satellites are orbiting around the globe. That’s where we need to get to because if we’re going to respond to the events that we may have to respond to in the future, you can’t do that – at least this guy can’t do that – looking at spreadsheets and numbers. You’ve got to have it much more – and that’s what Increment does. It’s already working well.
Increment 2 then replaces the search engine, gets us off of SPADOC. And we’ve already taken the first what we call service path delivery of Increment 2. We’re doing developmental testing of that as we speak. And we expect that to be done in 2016. And again, at that point we will have weaned ourselves off of SPADOC and have a more responsive, predictive system able to take in more data from a whole host of centers and be able to integrate it.
Increment 3 then, as I’ve been pushing on our team, GMS has got to be bigger than SSA. GMS has to be a C2 system that can do everything we need to do in space. And Increment 3 then provides us those aps, like on an i-Phone, that gets us to a true C2 space domain, really focusing on the warning and assessment mission and the protect and defend mission.
It isn’t all about systems, however. Much of our process is in tactics and are reflective of the limited systems capability that we have to work with. We are, in parallel, looking at how we can modify our procedures to better inform future deliveries of GMS and increase our proficiency in the capabilities that GMS promises to deliver.
Again, I really appreciate the opportunity to be here. It’s great to see a lot of old friends and familiar faces. I wouldn’t be here to today without the majority of the folks that are in this room. So I thank you very much for your service and I thank you for all that we have done together over the last group of years and I look forward to continuing to work with you in the future as we go forward.
We have a lot of important work to do. I’ll tell you, having been a space operator and used the words contested, congested and competitive, I didn’t get it until the last two months. And if you look at what Colonel Wagner and his team have to do each and every day to maintain space situational awareness, to maintain the sanctity, if you will, of our ability to operate and get those capabilities into operational and strategic-level benefits that we get from space, it’s a pretty heroic task.
So with that, what I’m going to do is turn it over to Colonel Wagner. And as I went through some of these statistics I (called out ?) a couple of events. Colonel Wagner is now going to give you that from kind of the JSPOC Ops 4 perspective. What do they actually do to process those events and give you a little bit better understanding of what they do each and every day?
After that, Colonel Bowman will come up and talk about his SSA portfolio and tell you where we’re going in the future. I’m very encouraged by the work that I’m seeing and the capabilities that we’re delivering to certain parts of the world, and focusing on certain orbital (receipts ?) to help fill some gaps that we have there as well. And also, obviously, I’m very encouraged by the work that’s being done on GMS.
So that’s the rest of the morning. After those two gentlemen talk we’ll open it up for questions and answer anything you may have to ask.
You should try carrying one of these things through an airport. That’s why you have an aide.
COL. JOHN WAGNER: Thank you, Sir. I had the pleasure of carrying that yesterday through the airport, so we’ll see if I have to carry it back. But thank you, Lt. Gen. Raymond, and thank you to the Marshall Institute for this opportunity to share my thoughts with you today from a JSpOC perspective.
I see a lot of familiar faces in here, too, that I have worked for in the past, so thank you for your mentorship and help in getting to where I am today. I’ve got the best job in the Air Force. I really do.
I work for General Raymond and provide him the ability to command and control 54 JFCC space units around the globe, whether it’s an Army JTAGs, a space company or a space warning squadron or a space operations squadron. We connect all these mission areas together from strategy to task. We perform Space Situational Awareness or SSA and SSA is job one. But there’s also the guidance that we draft for Lt. Gen. Raymond, along with the requisite strategy development, planning, tasking, executing, and when necessary re-planning, re-tasking and reassessing similar to how other AOCs around the world execute air operations.
One of the things that the Air Force does really well is operational command and control or C2. The entire world saw how we mastered air and space C2 during the first Desert Storm, and before that through the development of an operational construct we call Air Operation Centers. Maturing the AOC concept is really what the Air Force has done over the last 20 years. We’re leveraging that success and that experience in the JSPOC.
So as the 14th Air Force commander, Lt. Gen. Raymond has got a 614th AOC, similar to how the 9th Air Force commander has the 609th AOC. As the commander of the 614th AOC I provide that C2 construct to Lt. Gen. Raymond and I’m apportioned as the commander of 614th AOC, to STRATCOM comprising most of what we call the JSPOC. So you add some joint billets on top of the Air Force billets that the Air Force provides, and that composes – like the CAOC at Al Udied, for example – the Joint Space Operations Center. So the director of JSPOC is my operational duty title, if you will, providing command and control aspect for all space forces for General Raymond.
I’m going to walk through just a few events that General Raymond talked about. When you look at getting after Admiral Haney’s objectives, we look at everything entering the space environment. And it’s not just about the launch, right?
So I have a position on the floor called the Space Operations Mission Commander. And I talk to him every morning. And when he says, Sir, we just had a launch, I say two words. So what?
Where is the payload? What’s at risk? What’s it doing? What’s it looking at and what’s the mission? If it is a domestic mission, obviously we want to maintain custody. If it’s non-domestic we need to know where it is and if it poses any risks to our assets.
And so launches are the most visible. Yesterday, we had a launch out of Vandenberg and there’s a great video on YouTube. It was an Atlas 5 DMSP launch, a beautiful morning trip to orbit.
We’re currently tracking the spacecraft, the rocket body and two pieces of debris. That’s just one launch and we’re tracking four objects. So as General Raymond mentioned, it’s not just about the launches anymore, it’s about the number of objects associated with each launch, which are significantly increasing.
Another example, on February 27th we cooperated with Japan on the Tanagashima launch. That carried the $3.2 billion GPM, the Global Precipitation Measurement satellite and it also carried seven other smaller payloads. This is a great example about how we are expanding our SSA partnerships and our sharing agreements such as this agreement with Japan.
So this is the trend that we’re seeing. We have a primary spacecraft along with a number of smaller payloads on nearly each launch. And as General Raymond showed you with the small cubesat – I don’t know where that is right now but it’s being passed around – those smaller payloads are the wave of the future.
We call it gaining custody of objects on orbit. In November of 2013 there was a series of launches with a significant number of payloads. Some of you may have worked on the one from Wallops Island with 28 payloads on that one mission.
Those are cooperative launches, and we talked about the Tanagashima launch. We talked about the Wallops launch. There’s also the non-cooperative launches, and it’s important for us that we need to distinguish missile launches from space launches and provide the distinctions of missile warning from space launch risk. It’s all about quickly and accurately characterizing risk. We’ve got to characterize risk as fast as possible and to indicate that risk to leadership and our units to make sure that they can react.
I talked about the AOC in the Air Force. One of the things we learned back from Colonel Boyd is how to quickly observe, orient, decide and act. Or, as General Jumper said, it’s how quickly we can find, fix, target, track, engage, assess. We try to do that as fast as possible.
So command and control, for you engineers in the room, is a “Delta T problem.” I want to shrink Delta T, or the time it takes to react to a stimulus, as much as possible. I must shrink the time to observe, orient and decide so our units can act. So if we need to execute the order to maneuver a satellite, frustrate an adversary’s targeting solution, or execute other means of protection, we must be able to protect our multi-billion dollar assets and the capabilities the provide.
It’s not just about the money and it’s not just about the asset in orbit. It’s about what those spacecraft provide joint forces around the world, many of whom are in harm’s way. That’s why I wear the uniform, it’s about the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines that are fighting our nation’s wars, and ensuring the potential life-saving capabilities are provided to troops in contact. And it’s further about supporting the president, supporting the State Department, all those that need access to space systems worldwide. It’s making sure they have connectivity to the capabilities they are relying on.
Once the objects enter the domain, we need to be best in the world in SSA – SSA, as General Shelton said here in February, is our Job 1. And it involves planning, tasking, optimizing 27 sensors on the ground around the world that we balance between operations and maintenance. So we need to weaponeer each mission, if you will, so we can make sure we can optimize sensors to detect and track not only the launch but all the smaller objects that are coming off as well.
And then we’re in the era of trying to integrate non-traditional sensors, as well. So our sensors – and I know Colonel Bowman is going to talk about sensors here when he talks in a little bit – our sensors are Cold War-based CONUS sensors, largely missile warning radars that are dual-purpose. To get the most of what we have we’re developing TTPs, or tactics, techniques and procedures, to try to squeeze as much out of those as possible for detecting the object that General Raymond highlighted to you.
But more is needed. Better sensors and better computing power is where we’re headed in the future, and we’re trying to make sure that we give the requirements to the acquisition community to go and do that.
General Raymond mentioned the International Space Station. Two weeks ago the ISS maneuvered for the 16th time. Just yesterday the ISS maneuvered for the 17th time, as he mentioned. And the ironic thing, it was due to a large piece of debris, or a rocket body part from the Ariane V. It was a payload adapter used to place many other smaller spacecraft on orbit. This was a 16-meter component that’s used to put small payloads in orbit or a additional payload ring. And it was for this piece of debris that ISS maneuvered. It was a 388 meter miss distance, putting the probability of collision to the Space Station at four in 1,000. So it was pretty close. And we provided that data.
Now in addition to the operators I have on my floor, there are also NASA Johnson and NASA Goddard contractors on the floor as well. We have a very close partnership with NASA for space situational awareness, particularly when it comes to protecting humans on orbit. So it’s a very good, very tight partnership.
And now let’s talk about what comes out of the domain. You’re all familiar with the Soyuz. The Shuttle, obviously, is now in museums. We’ve got one here out at Dulles.
But the Soyuz, the last time it came in was 11 March with humans on board. It came back 11 February, so about every month or so they’re de-orbiting something from the station. It’s important that we, obviously, track where these things are and where they’re going. And those are just the things that make the news.
What doesn’t make the news is about two de-orbits a week, not de-orbits but re-entries a week. The difference is, de-orbits are obviously purposeful. It’s the energy required to bring the astronauts and cosmonauts back.
But there’s stuff that comes out of orbit every week. So two or three times per week we’re tracking those things and trying to get resolution on where it’s coming in and when. So again, that risk detection and prevention.
Obviously the notifications have to happen as well, because we don’t want anybody to interpret that as a hostile act, if you see a re-entry. We want to make sure that our notification passes to the NMCC, Department of State, NASA, FEMA, STRATCOM of course. And I know that they pass that data to the Russians as well as part of the agreement I think in 1971 for nuclear weapons. So we want to make sure that the world has that situational awareness.
So it’s what goes into the domain, what’s in the domain, and what’s coming out of the domain. But it’s also, as General Raymond talked about, EMI reports. It’s about the signals that come back and forth to make sure that these, particularly our payloads, aren’t just space junk. Because if you get a $3 billion vehicle out in orbit, it’s about the mission of what it provides to our joint forces worldwide.
So if there is EMI we try to mitigate the electromagnetic interference. I’ve got space weather folks on the floor. That’s why they’re on the floor, to say if it’s a natural environment.
Is it a solar flare? Is it a proton flux that may be causing the EMI? Or, is it man-made? And if it’s man-made, is it intentional or is it unintentional? And how can we resolve it to make sure we can maintain the viability of the mission?
And all of that together leads to our joint force support. So it is support to combatant commanders worldwide, as well as to the commander of STRATCOM in the space Joint Operating Area. So my point here is it’s not just about space, it’s about what space provides worldwide, and some delicate integration, typically simultaneously, to combatant commanders worldwide.
That happens traditionally through the space coordinating authorities and the staff officer called the director of space forces. We coordinate – that’s the great thing about the AOC — we coordinate directly with other AOCs worldwide from an intel and an operations perspective. So there’s a good synergy and synchronization that’s happening, with reach-back from other AOCs to our space AOC, and then pushing data out forward.
It’s like following a carrier strike group through the Strait of Hormuz, for one example, and looking at the EMI, or what have you around the world. The space support requests come in, probably two a week, and we’re busy answering those, whether it’s optimizing GPS or whether it’s minimizing electromagnetic interference, whether it’s detecting missiles, and any special requests that come in from combatant commands around the world.
The point is, we’ve got to make sure space continues to enhance our joint and coalition forces worldwide. Our work never stops and we never sleep. We’re up 24/7/365.
So as I talked about the AOCs, typically a lot of them are in caretaker status until a conflict erupts and then they stand up and then go full force. We’re up all the time to provide reach-back and other capabilities. It doesn’t stop.
So, as General Raymond mentioned, it’s getting busier. It’s an exciting time. And I am just fortunate that, again, I’ve got the best job in the Air Force.
I’m going to turn it over to Eric Bowman who will talk a little bit more about programs. But from tracking, planning, procedures, intelligence, detection and warning, we’re trying to get better and faster because we all depend on these assets. We can’t wait until we can have better equipment and sensors to do that. So I’ll turn it over to Eric Bowman.
COL. ERIK BOWMAN: For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Colonel Eric Bowman. I am the Deputy Director at the Space Superiority Systems Directorate. Many of you might know Colonel Baird. He really wishes he could be here today, but he sent me, as the heckle term would be, the BRU, the bare replacement unit. So hopefully I’ll be able to do justice while we’re here today.
At the Space Superiority Systems Directorate our job is to build and deliver systems to General Raymond, to Colonel Wagner and the rest of JSPOC that helps them do their job better. One of the themes you’ve heard right now is that we want to move from a more reactive, passive catalogue maintenance concept of operations to something that supports more of a battle management command and control communications capability, something that’s more predictive, more tactical and more intelligence driven that lets us respond better to what’s going on in space. In other words, we want to build a system that not just reports what’s happening up in space, but predicts it in time to allow us to develop a course of action to respond to those to protect our space assets.
Now one of the things that Colonel Wagner talked about was part of his job is he needs to have quick and accurate risk assessments. So really if I’m looking at what the primary shift from catalogue maintenance to battle management command and control and communications is, it comes down to two parameters: accuracy and timeliness. What we’re trying to do with most of the things at the Space Superiority Systems Directorate is we’re trying to build systems that really focus on that accuracy and timeliness. But before I talk about the specifics I want to give you a little more context as to why those are so important.
First I’ll talk about accuracy. Accuracy is more than knowing exactly where the spot is in space, although that’s a huge piece of it. Accuracy also means knowing with high confidence that you know exactly what’s going on up in space. If you’re going to want to respond to an event in space, you don’t want to be responding to false alarms. And so let me give you some examples for this.
Let’s look at the conjunctions assessment for collision analysis. If you think the satellite is here, and you think this could be in your way and you go to maneuver, if it’s a false alarm the satellite can actually be here and you could actually maneuver into the satellite instead of away from it if you have the wrong information. From an environmental standpoint, if something happens and your spacecraft stops communicating with the ground, there could be a variety of reasons for that. If you mistakenly assume the spacecraft is under attack, as opposed to it’s just a natural malfunction of the spacecraft or a solar flare hit it or something like that, obviously if you acted on the wrong information it could have serious national consequences. So we want to make sure we get the information right.
Timeliness – on a similar note – timeliness is more than just doing things faster. It’s getting the information to the decision-makers in time for them to accurately assess the situation. It’s giving them time to develop potential responses for it, and it’s getting them that information in time to actually execute those responses. It’s a much longer timeline than you might think.
So again, a look at where timeliness comes into play. Even if I know a collision is occurring, if I don’t get that information in time to actually move the spacecraft, it’s no good to anyone. If I get warning of a solar flare coming, it does no good to anyone if I get that after – if I don’t give enough time to actually save the spacecraft, to prepare it for that particular action.
So when we look at what we’re doing, I’ll start first with how can we make things faster? One of the things is just to do what we do today only faster, and that’s where GMS Increment 2 comes into play. One of the things we talked about was the collision assessment.
Today we do conjunction assessments for the 1,100 active satellites against the 23,000 objects out there 72 hours in advance, and we do it about once a day. And the reason why is because we’ve given the JSPOC the latest in 1980s aero-technology. Again, stuff just isn’t quite as fast as we might like to have. We’re making it work, though. We are making it work. But we want to do a little better than that.
So it’s very computation intensive and that’s why it’s slow today. And once a day works well if you’re in a benign environment up in space. But as you move to more contested, congested and competitive environment, this becomes more of an issue.
If you have a launch that’s coming off the ground, 24 hours advance might not be sufficient. You might only have an hour to get out of the way for a spacecraft maneuver. And you might not have 24 hours, you want to do it faster. And that’s where GMS Increment 2 comes into play.
We’re upgrading the computing architecture with GMS Increment 2 to a more high performance, scaled computing system and we should be able to get conjunction assessments in near-real time once GMS Increment 2 comes online. This means that we will be able to get those responses hopefully in time to do that. We’re taking what we do today, exactly the same processes, we’re only trying to shrink that OODA loop that Colonel Wagner described, down to a much smaller timeframe to enable us to respond.
Now another thing we have to do for both accuracy and timeliness, besides making things faster, is sensor coverage, or getting more data sources. The more sensors that are looking or the more things that are observing the same thing at the same time, the more accurate it can be. Like a newspaper reporter, they’ll get an initial report and they’ll need another source to confirm it to make sure it’s accurate. That’s kind of the same thing we want to do with sensors.
And that means putting them in different places. Right now, most of them are in the continental United States. Now we want to spread them across the globe to do things a little more. Another thing we want sensors to do is – the more (views per unit ?), the sooner you can detect something. If they’re all around the globe it doesn’t take a whole orbit to detect something. You can detect it in a much sooner timeframe.
So we’re putting a couple of things out there. One is the Space Fence, you might have heard of. That’s going to be hitting initial operational capability in 2019. We’re putting that out at the Kwajalein Atoll in the western Pacific. And what the Space Fence is going to do is it’s going to let us see smaller objects. It’s going to let us track them more accurately. It’s going to see more objects. And because of its location, it’s going to see things in the eastern hemisphere much more quickly than we’re able to see today.
We’re also moving the Sea-band radar from Antigua where it used to support space launches out of the eastern range, and we’re taking that radar and moving it to Australia. In fact, it’s actually disassembled right now. We’ve been taking it apart. It hasn’t been shipped to Australia yet, but it’s already in the process of being taken apart. We expect that to be operational in the 2016 timeframe. It’s our pathfinder for working with Australia to get additional data. So we’ve started work with more international partnerships as well
In addition, another Australian project is the space surveillance telescope. It’s an expendable telescope sitting in New Mexico right now. We’re going to take that and move it to Australia as well in the 2017 timeframe, and that’s going to be looking up into the deep space realm, in the geostationary orbit where all the communication satellites are. That should give us a dramatically improved search capability up in space, as well as, again, far more sensitivity.
Another system that was just recently announced was the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program. This is going to be another system that is space-based and provides a unique vantage point from its home in geostationary orbit to look at things, to augment what we currently have right now, which is a space-based space surveillance telescope in low-Earth orbit looking up. In addition, in the 2016 timeframe, we’re going to begin the work on the SBSS follow-on program to keep that particular capability alive.
And what the space-based systems do that the ground-based systems don’t, is they give you 24/7 all-weather coverage to let you really track stuff up there. Beyond that, a recent change has been Air Force Space Command has recently given responsibility from Air Force Materiel Command and moved over to us under SY (ph) involving existing legacy ground-based radars and optic systems, the dedicated ones, with the intent of letting us start to operate space situational awareness as an enterprise so we can move from building each sensor individually to building an integrated network that can greater enhance space situational awareness.
Now all these new sensors are going to give us better accuracy and better timeliness, but they really still don’t do the job unless you can actually get the data to the folks at JSPOC in a form they can use. SPADOC cannot ingest this data right now, but GMS can. And when we get the GMS Increment 3 – combined with a program called the Net-Centric Services and Data Sources Program – we’re going to really start to see a shift from catalogue maintenance to a true battle management type of perspective. Whether the threat is going to be collisions up in space, launches, EMI events, electromagnetic interference events, or kinetic attacks, we’re going to be trying to grab additional sources to bring it in.
So we’re not going to be just simply the radars and telescopes, we’re going to bring in non-traditional data sources. We’re going to start grabbing some things from the intel community that can help give us indications and warnings. So besides trying to shrink the timelines that it takes to process things, we want to try and get things before they happen, get those indications and warnings to tell us this thing is coming up. Maybe you want to move your sensors and look at them ahead of time as opposed to merely responding.
So those types of things will be there. Additional processing algorithms as well to give us tipoffs as to things that might be going on. We’re going to be bringing in the electromagnetic interference as well as the space track information into this user-defined operational picture, that 3-D view that General Raymond discussed, that lets him visualize everything. We’re going to start bringing that into the same interface so JSPOC operations can see that more intuitively. We’re going to start bringing in things like overhead persistent infrared data from systems like the Defense Support Program and the Space-Based Infrared System or SBIRS to again, get indications more quickly into the system.
And last but not least, we’re going to have modeling simulation tools that will allow JSPOC to do some what if analysis, what kind of course of action they can develop to do it. And to the industry folks in the crowd, I’ll also mention that when GMS Increment 3 comes online we’re also going to have something we’re calling the arcade. It’s actually an acronym and don’t ask me what it stands for because I can’t remember exactly what it is, but the idea is it’s going to be an environment where industry can come and kind of play with the system and see what tools you might be able to develop that can help us to do things better to support the warfighter in his environment.
So the combination of all these things coming together, the focus is improving accuracy and improving timeliness. And if we can get those done with the future upgrades of GMS and the rest of the sensor programs, hopefully we’ll move to that battle management command and control and communications system to really protect our assets in space. And with that, that concludes my part and I think – General Raymond, did you have any comments or just open up for questions?
MR. HUESSY: Those of you who are going to ask questions, if you would be courteous and not give speeches. Please identify yourself as a courtesy to the speakers. General Raymond, I’ll have you call on people.
MR. ERIC THOMAS : My name is Eric Thomas with Lockheed Martin. Thank you, gentleman, really excellent comments. We do appreciate it. We don’t get enough of this kind of insight here in Washington, so it’s very, very valuable. That’s my speech. The question is, to what extent are you going to be able to ingest data from sensors that the Missile Defense Agency or other agencies, I’m thinking Aegis or THAAD radars or things like that, that are obviously deployed globally or will be more extensively deployed globally in the future?
GEN. RAYMOND: That’s a great question. Everywhere I go – in fact just today at breakfast – we’ve got all these sensors. We’ve got to be able to take all those sensors, the traditional space surveillance sensors and non-traditional space sensors, take that information and fuse them together to get a better understanding. So the GMS system will allow us to do that, to take those sensors, input it, fuse the data together, and then spit out a solution at the end. And, it being an architect in a way, we can also take foreign sensors and get them into it as well. It’s a great question.
MR. GREG ORNDORFF (ph): Greg Orndorff, STT. I’ll hitchhike and say thanks for being here and for the insight. For this mission area, how’s the budget outlook? Are you guys going to be able to grow or is it going to stay low?
GEN. RAYMOND: You know, budgets are tight. The way I would answer that question is I think there’s a realization that SSA is a foundational business. If you don’t have SSA you really can’t do anything. So as I would look to prioritize resources, I would think this would prioritize pretty high in the resources that we have.
MS. ERIN NEAL (sp): I’m Erin Neal of ATK. It has been reported in the media that the Air Force Executive Committee recently made a decision that the next RS mission will be SSA focused. Can you speak about what capabilities you hope that will bring?
COL. BOWMAN: Actually if you’re talking about O4/S5, yes it will be an SSA mission. And actually, it’s going to be a risk reduction effort for the SBSS follow-on program. Right now we’re still in the development of that particular mission and they’re still working towards it. But the intent is to risk reduce some of the technologies and concept of operations we’re going to have for that program and hopefully get something up a little bit sooner to do that before the actual program of record starts in the 2016 timeframe.
MR. HUESSY: A question to General Raymond. We often find in Washington the ability of Congress to understand key public policy issues determines in part what budgets they support. What do you think the biggest challenges are with respect to getting Congress to understand your mission and your role with respect to what you need in the budget?
GEN. RAYMOND: I think events like this help us tell our story. I think sometimes maybe we don’t do as good a job telling what it is that we do. And when we do tell our story I think we get a lot of folks that come up afterwards and say, I didn’t realize that.
So I think we need to be able to tell our story. I’m proud of what we do. I’m very proud of the work that our operators do. I have been – throughout my career, I have been deployed as the (DRS Space Four ?). Now Colonel Endicott was deployed with me and I’ll tell you I relied very heavily on the JSPOC in that role to provide information and space capabilities forward to the fight. And the JSPOC delivered every time I needed something.
I have been stationed in Japan. And I was stationed there during the third of March of 2011 when the great earthquake occurred, and reach-back for capabilities (were delivered ?) every time. So I think we have to tell our story.
I think it’s an important story. I’ve been remiss at this as well. I use the three “C” and I think we need to bring that alive a little bit more and say here’s really what this means and talk about it.
MR. DOUG YOUNG: Good morning, Doug Young with Northrop. I’ve just got a question that we hear a lot about in the broader warfighter community about the concept of a day without space. What’s the policy or viewpoint on that comment when it comes up?
GEN. RAYMOND: It’d be a bad day. It’d be a really bad day. In fact, I got to speak at another event with Bob Butterworth a few years ago. And I know there’s been other folks in the room here that have deployed to theater. And when I came back from that deployment a lot of people asked me, what was the one thing that you got out of that experience? What’s the one thing the warfighter really needs? Is it GPS?
I said, that’s not what I walked away from when I came back out. GPS is important. Comm is important. Space weather is important. It was just how space capabilities were infused into everything that we do as a military.
And I’ll tell you, on the nation side of that as well, it’s infused in everything that we do in our way of life. A day without space would be a bad day. It would be a really bad day.
MR. JEAN DEAN : Jean Dean with Williams Engineering and Integration. Somebody mentioned ORS earlier and you talked about the Wallops launch with 28 or 30 payloads or whatever. It seems to me that – I call that the modernization of space. It seems to me like shorter development times, many more payloads, a lot more of them possibly going up. How does that change your operational philosophy and add to your overall needs to bring technology into this? Have you guys spent a lot of time planning for how ORS might change the stakes, so to speak?
COL. BOWMAN: Obviously what we want is to reduce the cycle times. And ORS is a separate program office from the Space Program Directorate. But ORS has some unique things, unique capabilities that they have that allow them to respond in a much more rapid fashion. We would like to leverage some of the authorities they have to execute things faster if possible. But obviously we still have to adhere to the DOD-5000.
All I can say is, if you look at commonalities in space, and this gets back to the whole thing with GMS, what we’d like to do, there’s a lot of stuff that’s out there that we’d like to leverage, whether it’s in the commercial world or whether it’s with what other countries are doing. And we have to work through some of the data sharing arrangements to make that work, and we’re working through some of this right now, but it will probably take some time for us to do that. But there are a lot of things, both satellites in space and also sensors on the ground, that are out there.
There’s some examples that I’ll just make you aware of that are going on. The Air Force Academy is running a bunch of telescopes at our universities. We’d like to be able to maybe potentially leverage that if we can assess that it’s working really well.
There’s a concept of operations that probably General Raymond or Colonel Wagner can talk more about, but this Combined Space Operations Center concept, the CSPOC, that looks to bring in data from other countries and how we can get different arrangements there. And I don’t know if I’m really answering your question, but as far as – there’s just a lot of information out there that we currently are not using. And we are going to try and grab it and do as much as we can.
But like the gentleman here who asked the question about what it takes to integrate it, there’s two pieces of it. One is on the JSPOC side. We have to be able to ingest the data in a form that’s useable to us. But there’s a second piece, and it is that we have to modify the system producing the data in a form that we can use as well, and that takes money.
And we have a budget – the program I talked about, the Net-Centric Services and Data Sources Program, that’s one of the programs where we’re trying to take individual sensors and be able to export the data in a form that can be ingested. But we have a limited pot of money and we have to prioritize it. But basically, commoditization of space, yes. We want to use everything out there. It’s just a matter of priorities and what funding we have available to go do it. If I didn’t answer your question, I apologize.
MR. CARL SIMS: Carl Sims from Titan Aerospace. I’m wondering what kind of impact does Microsoft’s 100,000 balloons, high altitude balloons, and separate Zuckerburg’s proposal for 11,000 high altitude drones might impact on what you guys do?
COL. WAGNER: Finally an ops question, thank you. If you look at about 225 kilometers, about 100 kilometers and above, that’s kind of what we’re tracking. Lower Earth, below 100,000 feet, I don’t think will have a huge impact on what we’re doing. But we look at these chipsats, as a matter of fact, where the chipsats are, if you look at the analysis on those even at 225 kilometers, where these things are going to come in, they’re only going to be up there, we predict and NASA predicts as well, for about five days. So this is not going to be a huge factor. I mean, I’m more concerned about what’s 225 and higher, if that helps.
MS. KAY SEARS : Kay Sears with IntelSat. My question, as another space operator who is increasingly reliant upon JSPOC for information, back to the discussion about accuracy and timing, is there any part of your mission now or in the future that you believe should be shared with the industry, with commercial operators or foreign operators?
GEN. RAYMOND: That’s a very good question. My view is there is room for sharing. And I think there’s a couple different places – and we’ve talked, as you know, in the past and it’s great to see you again.
I do think there is some potential sharing opportunities in the space situational awareness business. I think there’s a lot of great capabilities that are out there that we can partner and leverage together. I also think, we talked about the EMI business. I do think that there’s some benefits to partnership for both of us on that as well.
It’s more of now figuring out how to do it, and I think we’ll get there. I really do. But those are two that I would say right off the top of my head are areas where I think they’re ripe for some partnerships.
MR. HUESSY: Last question.
MR. DARREN LOVITT : Wing Commander Darren Lovitt, I work out of EA Exchange (ph) out of Australia. Sir, I agree. You guys are doing a fantastic mission and it’s important. But I notice that the countries that are helping to contribute to the network are paying and helping support with individual systems, like hardware in these countries. So the issue here is being raised is money. Have you thought about unburdening some of these issues that are bringing in partners from outside to help fund integration the integration of those assets?
GEN. RAYMOND: I missed the first part of your question.
MR. LOVITT: Have you thought about money?
GEN. RAYMOND: That helps.
MR. LOVITT: Other countries are building stuff and helping to bring in stuff. But it’s really a system issue, right, the integration, the software?
GEN. RAYMOND: Right.
MR. LOVITT: So can we bring in money to help you do that.
GEN. RAYMOND: Let me have your card, when we’re done.
If your uniform has a button I’d button your back pocket to make sure your wallet is still there when you leave. That’s our goal with GMS. Again, it’s being built with an open architecture framework. If we would – as we talked about integration of multiple sensors, what we’d like to do is say here’s the standard by which you get into GMS. Here’s the test-bed. Go do it. Figure it out and then tell us when you’re ready and bring it in, and let that integration piece. So when I say we’re designing the system to integrate in an easier manner and then look to develop partnerships and share some of that burden of integration with others.
COL. BOWMAN: Just as a thought, I’ve had the pleasure of learning some of the vagaries of the Australian budgeting system as well as we’ve been going through the Sea-band radar. We absolutely appreciate the support from those types of things. I’ll just say one challenge, though, is learning different budget cycles.
As inflexible as we think our budget cycles are, some other countries have some other difficulties. We have a difficult time figuring out what we actually need in a timeframe. I know for Australia, for example, you have to have everything nailed down to the smallest, minutest detail. And we sometimes have difficulty doing that. So as we want to get some of that, we have to work harder to make sure we really get our requirements down so we can have other countries contribute those budgets to it as well.
GEN. RAYMOND: I’ll tell you, I greatly appreciate the partnership that we have with Australia. And I thank you for being here this morning and for what you do. I think it’s going to be very valuable to both of our countries going forward. Thank you.
MR. HUESSY: Thank you, General Raymond. Thank you, Colonel Wagner. Thank you Colonel Bowman.
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Peter Huessy is the President of Geostrategic Analysis located in Potomac, Maryland outside of Washington, D.C. For additional information on The Friday Space Group Seminar series contact Peter Huessy at [email protected].