When John Raymond left Air Force Space Command for a new assignment in 2010, he was a one-star general leaving behind a relatively stable strategic environment. Space capabilities at the time were focused on technologies that could support the warfighter on Earth. Space itself was not viewed as a potential battlefield in its own right.
On October 26, the day after earning his fourth star, Gen. Raymond returned to head a Space Command involved in a “crowded and contested environment,” with many new challenges.
“As we move into our 35th year as a Command, we can’t do business the way we have in the past. … We don’t have that luxury,” he wrote in his Initial Commander’s Guidance and Intent, according to a November 1 article in Space News. “Space and cyberspace are no longer benign environments.”
These two areas are only part of a multi-domain responsibility in which the Air Force must work with other services in conducting today’s warfare. Such a responsibility means Space Command needs help, Raymond wrote. It must work more closely with “the intelligence community and other government agencies, our allies and foreign partners, and the civil and commercial sectors. When we operated in benign environments, these partnerships were important; in contested domains, they are critical.”
Just how critical was a subject addressed at length in the “Space Enterprise Vision (SEV),” announced in April by Raymond’s predecessor at Space Command, Gen. John Hyten, who replaced Adm. Cecil Haney as the head of Strategic Command on Nov. 3. Raymond is expected to continue pursuing the goals of the SEV.
Since the April SEV announcement, Hyten and Space Command staff have had meetings – many of them classified — with about 700 industry officials, each side seeking to define their respective roles. While specifics remain unclear, a September 12 article in Space News indicated that part of SEV involves Space Command giving private industry such routine tasks as telemetry, tracking, command and control or space traffic management.
Doing so would “free up our airmen to do what we think they’re going to be called to do in the future, which is understand a thinking enemy and be able to react and defend our constellations,” said Maj. Gen. Nina Armagno, who oversees strategic plans and programs at Space Command. “These partnership opportunities are exciting because they offer the chance for cost sharing as well as expanding capabilities.”
Bringing industry into Space Command operations has been talked about for more than a year. The job becomes even more important with another SEV element: joining currently disparate control systems into one, called Enterprise Ground Services.
Other SEV elements include increasing satellite resilience, in part through disaggregation; cheaper rockets and more agile launch operations; and improved space situational awareness. Industry has potential roles in all of these areas.
At the Global MilSatCom conference in London this week, Deanna Ryals, chief of Air Force MilSatCom Systems Directorate’s international military satellite communication division, outlined a formula: Military plus commercial plus allies equals improved resilience.
Launch operations can be sped up. Integrating satellites with military launch vehicles takes from 60 to 90 days, Armagno said. The Air Force wants to trim that time to weeks to be ready to replace satellites damaged or destroyed in orbit.
In contrast, the Intelsat Epic 33e and Intelsat 36 satellites were integrated with their Arianespace launcher in about a week for their August launch.
Ahead for the SEV under Gen. Raymond’s watch is clarity on timing as well as specific tasks before industry can invest in the plan’s future. Satellite companies have asked to be involved at the front end of satellite system architecture, as well as gain greater insight into plans so as to plot a course to greater involvement and support.
It’s clear that Gen. Raymond has to look ahead, and that his view from the commander’s office is different than it was during his 2009-2010 stay at Space Command.
“Our adversaries have noticed [U.S. advantages in space and cyberspace], and we are now facing new challenges that could disrupt our warfighting capabilities and threaten our national interests,” he wrote. “How we respond to the growing challenges in these domains will shape our ability to protect vital national interests well into the future.”