Updated May 23rd, 2024 at 22:38 IST

U.S. Space Force Plans Annual Rapid Response Space Missions to Counter Real-Time Threats

Since 2021, the Space Force has executed two such missions, with a third planned for 2025.

Reported by: Yuvraj Tyagi
US Space Force | Image:US Space Force
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Pentagon: The U.S. Space Force has announced plans to establish an annual cadence of Tactically Responsive Space missions to enhance its ability to rapidly respond to real-time threats. Since 2021, the service has executed two such missions and is preparing for a third in 2025. A demonstration last September, called Victus Nox, showcased the capability of the Space Force to collaborate with satellite and launch companies to deploy a spacecraft within months and launch it with just 27 hours' notice.  

The Space Force aims to commence operational missions by 2026. Lt. Gen. Phillip Garrant, head of the Space Force’s acquisition arm Space Systems Command, emphasized that the service will continue with the Victus series demonstrations to maintain agility and speed. “Adversaries are continuing to exhibit poor behaviour. Victus gives us an opportunity to have a rapid response and show resolve and commitment to the world that we can address those types of threats,” Garrant stated at a virtual Mitchell Institute event on May 21.  

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Agility and Speed Central to Space Force's Strategy 

The Space Force defines tactically responsive space as the capacity to swiftly address threats in an increasingly congested and adversarial space environment. This could involve launching satellites on short notice, manoeuvring pre-positioned spacecraft to support a degraded system, or acquiring data from commercial partners during a crisis. The upcoming 2025 demonstration, Victus Haze, will focus on threat response, requiring satellites to manoeuvre from a space-based threat.

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US Congress has strongly supported these efforts, urging the Space Force to rapidly develop a Tactically Responsive Space posture. The House Armed Services Committee's fiscal 2025 defence policy legislation advocates for more options for fielding on-orbit spares and pre-positioned spacecraft as backup capabilities. Lawmakers highlighted that adversaries like Russia and China are developing on-orbit threats to U.S. national security satellites, stressing that the U.S. currently lacks adequate defence against these threats.  

Space Force's Strategic Objectives Outlined in Spacepower Doctrine 

The draft bill directs the Space Force to conduct a market survey of traditional defence companies and smaller firms to assess their capabilities and timelines. This survey will also explore the potential for an “orbital testbed facility” to test, refine, and demonstrate satellite utilities. The Space Force's capstone doctrine, Spacepower: Doctrine for Space Forces, released on August 10, 2020, outlines the service's mission and duties, emphasizing the importance of spacepower to U.S. prosperity and security.

The doctrine articulates three cornerstone responsibilities of military space forces: preserving freedom of action, enabling joint lethality and effectiveness, and providing independent options. It underscores the necessity of unfettered access to and freedom to operate in space as a vital national interest. Military space forces are tasked with protecting, defending, and preserving this freedom of action to support all components of national power—diplomatic, informational, military, and economic.   

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The Victus series demonstrations play a critical role in refining the Space Force's rapid response capabilities. These exercises test the integration of existing sensors, computers, and effectors to create kinetic and non-kinetic anti-drone technology. The assumption is that the technology integration will be successful, prompting the Space Force to concurrently develop training, tactics, and sustainment strategies to support the quick fielding of new capabilities. 

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Published May 23rd, 2024 at 22:36 IST