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A Dangerous Frontier

U.S. Space Command Adapts to Increasingly Complex Battleground


The space environment is more competitive and dangerous than ever before. Technological advances, changes in strategic guidance and new security challenges require United States Space Command (USSPACECOM) to adapt and innovate to ensure its space warfighters are prepared to accomplish missions in, from and to space.

Space affects almost every aspect of modern life, from commerce, travel and entertainment to communications and GPS. These activities and functions all rely on space capabilities. Global reliance on space is so extensive that any degradation in capability would significantly impact daily life. Societies around the world expect services provided by these capabilities to be ever present and persistent. 

Today, there are over 3,500 operational satellites in orbit. Lower costs and reduced barriers for launch and licensing have thrust the commercial space sector into one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Commercial firms are now participating in satellite construction, space launch and exploration and even human spaceflight. These firms not only supply products to governments, they also compete in the global economy. The synergy between the civilian sector and the U.S. government has provided for space superiority that enables the joint force to rapidly transition from competition to conflict and prevail in a global, multidomain fight.

The U.S., along with its allies and partners, faces rapidly growing threats to high-value assets and capabilities in space. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is ruled by a revisionist, communist party that intends to undermine international order and shape the Indo-Pacific region to its advantage. The PRC publicly supports peaceful and responsible uses of space while it simultaneously develops and deploys counterspace weapons designed to hold U.S. and allied space capabilities at risk. The PRC already has operational ground-based anti-satellite missiles, and it tested an orbital hypersonic weapon in July 2021, further increasing tensions in the region and beyond. The growth of adversary counterspace arsenals presents an immediate and serious threat to all peaceful space activities.

The third Space-Based Infrared Systems Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite takes off aboard an Atlas V rocket. The U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing supported United Launch Alliance’s successful liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida. UNITED LAUNCH ALLIANCE

USSPACECOM provides space combat power by fully integrating offensive and defensive operations with long-standing allies and partners. USSPACECOM integrates and synchronizes space capabilities and operations as part of the joint and combined force to deter and, if necessary, defeat adversary aggression. The command capitalizes on space domain awareness (SDA) agreements and joint exercises such as Pacific Fury, Pacific Sentry and Talisman Sabre 21 to enhance relationships and operational capability with allies and partners. USSPACECOM is dedicated to allies and partners — building a coalition to defend the space domain from threats — and will continue to participate in joint exercises and SDA agreements globally. Demonstrating its commitment to allies and partners while enhancing interoperability sends a strong deterrent signal to adversaries seeking to exploit vulnerabilities.

About 100 personnel from USSPACECOM, the Combined Force Space Component Command, Space Operations Command (SpOC), and Space and Missile Defense Command seamlessly integrated with the Australian Defence Force and Space Operations Center during Exercise Talisman Sabre 21. Objectives included the coordination and orchestration of command and control of space operations as well as control of defensive and offensive space domains. 

Exercises such as Talisman Sabre 21, which involved 17,000 personnel from Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the U.S., provide effective and practical training to ensure space warfighters and forces are capable, interoperable, deployable on short notice and combat ready. “In modern warfare, multidomain superiority is the lifeblood of effective combined force operations. In Talisman Sabre 21, we took critical steps to promote interoperability and demonstrate the flexibility, responsiveness and relevance of our space forces in the Indo-Pacific,” said Maj. Gen. David N. Miller Jr., USSPACECOM’s director of operations, training and force development. “I couldn’t be more excited for the future as U.S. Space Command cements our enduring relationship with Indo-Pacific Command and our regional partners to promote security and stability and ensure our combined and joint forces have the space-enabled combat edge they depend upon … all day, every day.”

U.S. Navy Lt. Nicole Breen, an intelligence officer, and U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kenneth Bangay, a cyber systems operator, are assigned to the National Space Defense Center at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. KATHRYN DAMON/U.S. SPACE FORCE

Talisman Sabre 21, which took place July 14-31, 2021, in Australia, marked the first exercise deployment since USSPACECOM and SpOC established the Counter Communications System, a space electronic warfare system that reversibly denies adversary satellite communication.

The U.S., along with its allies and partners, promotes the responsible use of space. The U.S., other spacefaring nations and the international community consider safe, unfettered access to and freedom to operate in space a vital interest. Should conflict arise, USSPACECOM is ready to support the joint force, while denying any foreign space-related aggression.  

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