As I wrote in the May issue of SatMagazine, attending the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs is an event I truly enjoy. Yes, the location is delightfully scenic and The Broadmoor Hotel is a magnificent stage set against a majestic backdrop the Rockies. The real reason for SatNews attendance is the quality of the event, especially in regard to its military presence. These stalwart defenders of freedom and the commercial entities who support the warfighter come with proven product demos, new ideas for MILSATCOM, and an enthusiasm that is highly infectious, all in spite of a global financial environment thats rather recalcitrant, to say the least...
There is so much information imparted to attendees that ones synapses are firing on all neurons with new contacts, new technologies, and new solutions. The National Space Symposium is sponsored by the Space Foundation and that organizations CEO, Mr. Elliot Pulham, offers some thoughts regarding the current state of the space industry and its related business environs. He believes there may be lag before the full impact of the current economic doldrums are felt in our vital industry, with most business advancement to be experienced in the public sector. He definitely feels there will be an increase in collaborations of the international kind, as well as increased integration within the business sector. There is definitely available capacity, not necessarily with transponders, but for growth and advancement in this industry.
From a personal perspective, when economies are recalcitrant, forging forward with already committed projects, as well as activating aggressive marketing and public relations efforts, makes a great deal of sense. Due to any number of actors withdrawing from such activities, such is an opportunity for those with foresight to cement themselves into place as subject-matter experts. Their voices remain heard their messages are more easily recognized due to a lack of competitive voices, not a bad thing when attempting to promote your product or message.
As economies improve, those who have weathered the storm and remain in place have no need to start from scratch, and seem to have always been there, doing what is necessary to instill confidence with prospective customers, and assuring their well-established client base they are in the industry for the long term proving they can accomplish the job. This is also a good time for a new company to launch as more attention is paid to their announcements and products due to less clamor from an over-messaged industry.
I would wish to present excerpts specifically dealing with the military environs of our industry from the pages of the Space Foundations magnificently produced annual, The Space Report 2009: The Authoritative Guide to Global Space Activity. For those who are interested in obtaining this publication, the annual is available at this direct link.
Military Space Activity
The United States, Europe, and Japan all took steps in 2008 that will affect the direction and prominence of their military space activities in coming years. The increasing reliance of governments on space-based capabilities makes military space systems valuable national assets. Demonstrations of anti-satellite weapons by China in 2007 and the United States in 2008 underscored the vulnerability of satellites and the need to develop systems capable of evading attack and constellations that can be replenished if they do sustain damage. Concern about orbital debris created by the Chinese exercise raised awareness of the challenge of maintaining a safe space environment.
In February 2009, the collision of a commercial satellite owned by Iridium with a non-operational Russian satellite illustrated the difficulty of operating in an environment where the precise location, speed, and direction of other objects is not always available. While there have been several accidental collisions of objects in space before 2009, this was the first time two large satellites destroyed each other. The debris from the incident is a potential threat to other satellites in similar orbits. Space Situational Awareness (SSA) efforts will grow in prominence in the near future as a necessary step toward better understanding of threats in space, whether malicious or unintentional.
United States Military Space
U.S. military and intelligence satellite constellations are being upgraded and replenished, as debate continues as to the most efficient and effective way to proceed. U.S. forces around the globe have become dependent on space systems, relying on them at every stage of operations. By the end of 2008, the U.S. military had achieved a record of 59 consecutive successful national security launches over nine years. Military planners are focused on how to maintain and expand space capabilities while addressing demands to cut costs and re-evaluate new programs.
The global deployment of U.S. forces requires an immense satellite communications infrastructure. Older systems in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) military satellite communications network have reached their life expectancy and a transition is underway as new satellites come into service. During the next decade, the Defense Satellite Communications System and first-generation Global Broadcast System (GBS) will cease operations entirely. The Milstar and Ultra High Frequency Follow-On systems are expected to be limited to one or two spacecraft. These systems are being replaced by the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS), which includes new GBS capability, the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) and Mobile User Objective System constellations. Even with these new systems a shortfall will exist between DoD capacity and baseline DoD satellite communications requirements, as shown in the table above.
To fill this gap, DoD users may rely upon a combination of commercial satellite communications capacity and the development of the Transformational Satellite System (TSAT) which could provide up to 30 gigabits per second of capacity. Both Boeing and Lockheed Martin have development contracts for TSAT, and the $11 billion program continues to undergo changes, including the likely elimination of key networking capabilities using inter-satellite links. The first block of five spacecraft is not expected to be operational until 2019.
Replenishment of the Global Positioning System (GPS) constellation operated by the U.S. Air Force is under way, with new models of GPS satellites planned for deployment over the next decade. These new satellites increase military capabilities and are interoperable with foreign systems. Greater interoperability reduces the need for multiple types of receivers to access individual navigation systems, thus improving global coverage. GPS Block IIF satellites are the next generation of GPS satellites and will provide new capabilities and an extended lifespan. The first GPS Block IIF satellite is scheduled to launch in 2009, with GPS Block III to follow beginning in 2014. GPS IIIA will transmit a new civilian signal compatible with the European Galileo satellite navigation system and Japans Quasi-Zenith Satellite System. The first GPS IIIA satellites are projected to be available for launch in 2014 at a baseline cost of $4 billion.
The need to replace the aging U.S. satellites that perform the vital function of detecting and warning of missile launches in adversary states was underscored in November 2008 when a year-old Defense Support Program (DSP) satellite failed. The failure led some to warn of a potential gap in coverage beginning around 2014.The DSP satellite was the last of its constellation to launch. A new generation of missile warning satellites called the Space Based Infrared Satellite (SBIRS) system is to replace DSP. The Pentagon asked Congress for $117 million in funding in fiscal year 2009 to hedge against a potential gap in missile warning coverage. In November 2008, the SBIRS Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO-1) payload was accepted for operation after a period of in-orbit testing. The second SBIRS payload, HEO-2, will soon begin transfer from its development phase to U.S. Air Force operational control. The SBIRS system currently includes the two HEO payloads now in orbit along with two GEO satellites in development. The program is in early stages of planning for adding additional HEO payloads and at least two GEO spacecraft to the planned constellation. Estimates place the total cost of SBIRS at approximately $10.4 billion.
The new administration in Washington will be reviewing missile defense policy, deployment plans, and spending levels, but long-term financial support for U.S. missile defense spending appears likely to remain strong. The Center for Defense Information estimates an $8.8 billion investment in missile defense within the United States during fiscal year (FY) 2009. Missile defense spending is projected to increase annually to $9.7 billion by FY 2013. In February 2008, the U.S. military used a modified SM-3 missile interceptor and a modified Aegis Weapon System aboard the USS Lake Erie to shoot down a defunct U.S. satellite that was re-entering the Earths atmosphere. The military conducted the shoot down when the satellite was at a low altitude to ensure that the debris would burn up in the atmosphere instead of remaining in space as a hazard to other spacecraft. MDA is also developing the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) to enable worldwide acquisition and tracking of missile threats. The first two STSS satellites were scheduled to launch in 2009.
European Military Space
Until recently, European military space programs have been funded and operated primarily on a national level. In 2008, two key meetings resulted in the initiation of new programs for development of pan-European space systems with significant military applications. In October 2008, the European Commission, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Defence Agency (EDA) agreed to jointly develop critical space technologies in Europe for both civil and defense programs. The following month, ministers involved in space activities in ESAs 18 Member States and additional countries met to define the role of space in reaching Europes global objectives. The security and defense initiatives discussed include a Space Situational Awareness network and a European Data Relay System. The plans could lead to development of military applications for the Galileo satellite navigation system and the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security systems.
Additionally, member governments are being asked to provide 400 million (US$564 million) for technology development that would reduce the dependence on U.S. space exports, which are controlled by the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Additional funding being sought would finance technologies for long-duration deep space missions. These efforts could have profound implications for European military space policy if they result in a shift towards pan-European military funding, development, and operations.
Evolving National Space Policies
The activities of spacefaring nations increased in 2008, and the policies of those and other countries continue to evolve. These policy changes often reflect the need to fund or authorize activities in response to steps taken by other national space programs, particularly when matters of national defense are involved. For example, it is likely that the increased space activity of China has been a factor in major space policy initiatives that have emerged in several neighboring countries such as Japan, Australia, and India.
On May 21, 2008, Japans Basic Law of Outer Space was passed, for the first time allowing the country to use space assets for defensive military purposes. The bill modified the Japanese interpretation of using space for peaceful purposes only. The new interpretation conforms with policies of other spacefaring nations and will allow Japans government to develop military satellites for defensive purposes. In addition, the new law will place all space related projects into a unified program for better coordination.
The law encourages the government to spend more on space programs and thus increase Japanese competitiveness in the space industry.As this change could also allow Japan to export space-related military technology, Japan may use this flexibility to forge new international space defense ties. Japan may consider reducing joint defense system development efforts with the U.S. in order to develop its own systems.
Australia is considering the establishment of a specific space agency. The Australian Senate Standing Committee on Economics issued a report in November 2008 noting that Australia is the only member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development without a national space agency. The Senate committee called for the establishment of a Space Industry Advisory Council from industry, civil and defense agencies, and academia.
The focus of the council will be on development of more commercial programs such as Earth observation, satellite communications, and navigation. Longer-term priorities include defense as well as more civil and commercial programs addressing the environment, land management, disaster prevention and management, e-commerce, and telemedicine. With respect to international collaboration, the report recommends that any Australian Space Agency reassess the case for Australia becoming more closely linked to an international space agency in light of the benefits that often come from such linkages.
India acted in 2008 to develop integrated and cooperative programs both internally and with other countries. Internally, India has established an Integrated Space Cell jointly operated by the three armed forces and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to protect Indias satellites and enhance their capability for both military and civilian use.
On the international level, in addition to the collaboration on Chandrayaan-1, India signed agreements in 2008 for space based disaster management with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and for space exploration in cooperation with NASA.
All of these appear to support the development of the Indian space program across civil and defense fronts, and also to send strong signals to China that India intends to use space to promote government as well as commercial interests.
Other nations issued policy directives in 2008 outlining enhanced space programs, some military and others commercial. A French white paper on defense and national security, while noting that reliance on European cooperation will enable a range of budget cuts, stresses the importance of key space programs for intelligence gathering, and calls for the creation of a Joint Space Command.
The United Kingdom also issued a space policy document focused on civil and commercial programs as the key to asserting a leading role for the U.K. in space. These actions indicate that governments are expanding space activities and encouraging commercial investment in programs for both government and commercial space ventures.
Thanks to the Space Foundations Elliot Pulham and Janet Stevens as well as the editors and writers of the publication: Marty Hauser, Micah Walter-Range and Mariel John, with contributions from: Andrea Maléter, the Technical Director at Futron; Christopher Novak, Partner, Content First, LLC.; Charles Liu, Ph.D., of the City University of New York; Anita Antenucci, the Managing Director of Houlihan Lokey; and Kevin W. Leclaire, Managing Partner of ISDR Consulting, LLC. The Editor of the report is John M. Diamond and to brandt ronat + co for the superb design of the report.
All have managed an exceptional job in presenting this annual. Believe me, theres so much more deep information and analysis within these pages that anyone involved in our various industries owe themselves a copy of The Space Report 2009. For further information, select the following graphic for the reports website. All images used in this article are located in the Space Foundations book
Hartley G. Lesser, Editorial Director