Friday a CNN video offered what it calls “an exclusive look into how Space Force is defending America.” CNN’s Jim Sciutto reported:
Inside Mission Control at Buckley Space Force Base in Aurora, Colorado, Space Force Guardians, as they’re known, fly the nation’s missile warning satellites. Using infrared sensors, these satellites, orbiting 22,000 miles above earth, scour the planet 24/7 for missile launches and nuclear detonations.
Lt. Col. Michael Mariner: “We never stop — always vigilant — and we never fail. Because that’s how important this mission is to our nation. We provide decision-quality data to tactical war fighters on the ground, to save their lives.”
This satellite dish is in touch with missile-warning satellites deployed in what’s known as geosynchronous orbit. If those warning satellites detect a launch anywhere on the surface of the planet, it beams that information back down to this ground station instantaneously, at the speed of light. And then Space Force sends that information, that warning, around the world to U.S. forces deployed aboard or here on the U.S. homeland. In January 2020, these satellites sprang into action, detecting multiple missiles from Iran targetting the Al Asad airbase in Iraq. Before those missiles rained down, within minutes Space Force had delivered a lifesaving warning to units on the ground. Space Force specialist Sally Stevens was on duty. “It is lightning fast.”
CNN: “Right. And quick enough to take action to protect themselves.”
Stevens: “Absolutely. Especially in the Al Asad night. Not very often do we get reminded of where our end data gets to, and that night was a shocking reality.”
Missile-warning satellites are just a fraction of the hundreds of U.S. government and commercial satellites monitored and defended by the Guardians of the Space Force today — defended because U.S. adversaries led by Russia and China have deployed weapons to disable or destroy them. Space Force is now an independent branch of the U.S. military due to this alarming new reality. Space, once relatively peaceful territory, is now considered a potential front in any modern war.
Colonel Matthew Holston: “Space is a war-fighting domain. It’s the reason that we set up the United States Space Force as a separate service. So each and every day, we’re training our operators to deter conflict, but if deterrence fails, to compete and win in space.”
The U.S. has far more satellites than any other nation, some 2,500, compared to 431 for China and 168 for Russia. And a whole range of U.S. military technologies depend on them… The danger for the U.S. is that greater dependence on space equals greater vulnerability to attacks in space.
Lt. Col. Michael Mariner: “When you’re at the top, the target’s on your back. Everybody’s shooting for you.”
China is launching kidnapper satellites with grappling arms capable of plucking satellites out of orbit. Russia is deploying kamikaze satellites, capable of ramming and destroying U.S. space assets. And Russia now has a new space weapon that Space Force dubs “the nesting doll.”
General John W. Raymond, Space Force Chief of Space Operations: “Back in 2017, Russia launched a satellite, and it opened up and another satellite came out, and then it open up and a projectile came out. That projectile is designed to kill U.S. satellites. So in 2019 they did the same thing, but this time they put it up next to one of our satellites. And then we started talking about it.”
CNN: “You warned them away?”
Raymond: “We described what is safe and professional behavior. And it’s important. Today there’s no rules in space. It’s the wild, wild west.”
Russia and China also have directed-energy weapons, which can damage or disable U.S. satellites from a distance. The age of lasers in space has already arrived. New satellites are being designed with greater maneuverability, shielding to block directed-energy weapons, and resiliency so that losing one or a few does not disable the entire system. Space Force commanders welcome the private sector’s entry into space, since it gives more and cheaper options to get into orbit…
Raymond: “I would bet on U.S. industry any day. It’s a huge advantage that we have.”
A CNN article summarizing the report adds that Ameria’s adversaries” have already attempted to use space weapons to temporarily disable US satellites, using lasers and directed-energy weapons to blind or ‘dazzle’ them.”
CNN’s report concludes that space war “is not science fiction, but a battle already underway today,” adding this quote from Space Force Chief of Space Operations, General John W. Raymond. “We would prefer the domain to remain free of conflict. But like in any other domain — like air, land, sea, and now space — we’ll be ready to protect and defend.”