Senate defense appropriators take issue with agencies that buy launch services directly from providers

WASHINGTON — The Senate Appropriations Committee in a report Nov. 10 criticized the practice by some agencies of procuring launch services directly from commercial providers, bypassing the National Security Space Launch program run by the U.S. Space Force.

Appropriators expressed these concerns in an “explanatory statement” accompanying the $696 billion markup of the Defense Department spending bill for Fiscal Year 2021 released on Tuesday

The committee questioned “recent moves by some agencies to procure launches outside of the space launch enterprise through direct commercial contracts or delivery on orbit contracts,” the report said.


The Space Force Is Now in Charge of the Secret X-37B Space Plane

The U.S. Space Force has created a unit dedicated solely to orbital warfare — and it includes the secret experimental X-37B space plane.

Space Force members overseeing the unmanned spacecraft are part of the newly established mission delta unit known as Delta 9, according to the service. The Drive was first to point out that the X-37B, previously under the purview of the Air Force, has found a new home.

Delta 9’s Detachment 1 “oversees operations of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, an experimental program designed to demonstrate technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the U.S. Space Force,” according to the unit’s fact sheet.


You Can’t Escape Your Past … Even in Space: What Space Force Can Learn From The Air Corps Tactical School

“If we get this right, we will be the envy of the other services because we are not tied to the past.” This statement from Gen. Jay Raymond, the Space Force’s chief of space operations, was referring to how the service intended to establish a new culture unhindered by the legacy of its origins within the Air Force. It’s understandable why the Space Force would want to do this. After all, new institutions often seek to reinforce their independence and unique identity.

However, such an ambition is unlikely to succeed completely. First, culture is a powerful force that is virtually impossible to discard, no matter how earnestly desired. It can be difficult to break free from past institutional associations. As Bleddyn Bowen notes, the Air Force’s “embedded cultural writing remain[ed] largely intact” after independence from the Army in 1947. This tendency can be seen in a recent ceremony for the Space Force’s first enlistees, in which Gen. David Thompson jokingly told the audience that it was “pretty much the same” as the Air Force “but cooler.” Second, and more concerning, the Space Force’s future cultural development will be torn between two paths. One path centers on the quiet example of the space professionals who have spent their careers earnestly providing support for the other services. The other draws on the more outspoken but equally earnest advocates of “independent” options, as Raymond recently mentioned.


Space Force establishes the first of three field commands

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force officially has its first field command, after the service redesignated Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado as the new headquarters of Space Operations Command during an Oct. 21 ceremony.

“The establishment of Space Operations Command adds powerful depth to our collective space combat capability,” said Gen. James Dickinson, head of U.S. Space Command “Make no mistake, we are the best in the world in space. With the stand up of Space Operations Command today, we are even better aligned to deliver combat power more effectively.”

Space Operations Command (SpOC) is one of three field commands — alongside Space Systems Command and the Space Training and Readiness Command — the Space Force is establishing. Space Systems Command will be in charge of developing, acquiring and sustaining systems for the service, while Space Training and Readiness Command will provide training and education to the service’s space professionals.


Space Force to Embark on First Basic Training Experiment

When the Space Force’s first seven enlisted recruits head to Basic Military Training next month, they will become the guinea pigs in one of many experiments underway in the new service aimed at building a better armed force.

The service is embarking on a series of what Chief Master Sgt. Roger A. Towberman, the service’s senior enlisted adviser, calls “small-batch solutions.” Those allow the Space Force to float trial balloons on issues from workout uniforms to training in focus groups of a few dozen people, without quickly committing to one solution.


Space Force: Too early to say if military will need super heavy launch vehicles

WASHINGTON — The launch vehicles the U.S. Space Force selected last month to fly its satellites — United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur, and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy — meet the national security needs for the foreseeable future, said Brig. Gen. D. Jason Cothern, who oversees launch services procurement for the U.S. Space Force.

“We are super excited about the future of space launch,” Cothern, the vice commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, said Sept. 8 during a virtual forum hosted by the RAND Corp.

Cothern however would not speculate on whether the Space Force might one day have a need for the super heavy reusable launchers like SpaceX’s Starship or Blue Origin’s New Glenn.


US Space Force tests new anti-jamming capability

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force has tested a new anti-jamming capability that will make the military’s main satellite communications constellation more resilient than ever, the Space and Missile Systems Center announced Aug. 26.

On June 18, SMC successfully tested the Mitigation and Anti-Jam Enhancement, or MAJE, capability for Wideband Global SATCOM. WGS provides global satellite communications to American forces. MAJE includes both software and hardware upgrades to the Army’s Global SATCOM Configuration Control Element, the ground system the detects, identifies, locates and mitigates interference with WGS satellites.


Spacepower Is ‘Catastrophically Decisive’ In War: New Space Force Doctrine

WASHINGTON: The Space Force’s long-awaited capstone doctrine sets out the new service’s raison d’etre, which includes providing decision-makers with potentially war-winning “spacepower” options for attacking enemy satellites in future conflicts.

The Space Capstone Publication: Spacepower “represents our Service’s first articulation of an independent theory of spacepower. This publication answers why spacepower is vital for our Nation, how military spacepower is employed, who military space forces are, and what military space forces value,” says Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond in the forward, released today.


Why giving the Space Force naval ranks might widen the schism with the Air Force

Should the U.S. Space Force have naval rank?

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) has offered up an amendment, which is now part of the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act, stating “the “Space Force shall use a system of ranks and grades that is identical to the system of ranks and grades used by the Navy.”

But the measure will probably face resistance in the Senate, which will need to agree in order for it to become law. And in the Space Force too.


Op-ed | The U.S. Space Force must be independent but not insular

Our armed forces stand on the brink of historic change ? the standup of a United States Space Force. The inception of a new armed service will be followed by an extensive discussion and debate on the missions, functions and resources that will be needed. Without question, setting the new service up for success will require a balancing act ? a thoughtful balance between integration with the other services and domains, and independence to address the unique challenges of space.

Now is the time, at the inception of the Space Force, to get this harmony right, especially as potential adversaries are rapidly developing their own space capabilities to deny America and allies the use of space in crisis or war.