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The Space Council’s 4th annual Space Protection & Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Dinner was held in a packed room at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs during the National Space Symposium in April. The event attracted 70 attendees, including three distinguished government speakers.
Speakers for the evening were Gary E. Payton, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space Programs; Dr. Peter M. Wegner, Director of the Operationally Responsive Space Office; and Colonel Timothy R. Coffin, Director of Operations for the Joint Functional Component Command for Space.
Remarks centered on the threats to space systems due to an increasingly contested and congested space environment. With thousands of objects orbiting the earth, improved space situational awareness (SSA) and responsive space capability are more important than ever in order to protect our nation’s space capabilities.
While more work needs to be done, AIA is pleased that government is listening and ramping up its efforts. The Defense Department’s fiscal 2011 budget more than doubles SSA investments.
Increasing our nation’s capability to track objects and debris in space is particularly important in light of recent incidents. According to General Kevin P. Chilton, Commander of the United States Strategic Command, the growth of orbital debris continues to outpace our ability to track objects in space. Around 1980 there were about 4,600 objects in orbit compared to more than 21,000 today. Data from NASA shows that since the 2007 Chinese anti-satellite test and the 2009 collision between an Iridium and Cosmos satellite, the total number of cataloged fragmentation debris objects in orbit has more than doubled.
AIA has also been a strong advocate for increases in funding for ORS. Recently the initiative and the capabilities it provides have gained the attention of the White House and key officials at the Defense Department. Last year, the White House acknowledged the importance of ORS on its website: “To maintain our technological edge and protect assets in this domain, we will continue to invest in next-generation capabilities such as operationally responsive space and global positioning systems.” In addition, the recently released Quadrennial Defense Review states that, “Ongoing implementation of the 2008 Space Protection Strategy will reduce vulnerabilities of space systems, and fielding capabilities for rapid augmentation and reconstitution of space capabilities will enhance the overall resiliency of space architectures.”
Protecting our nation’s critical space capabilities is of utmost importance as the number of global space competitors increases and as the space environment becomes more congested. It will be important for our nation to make the right investments in modernizing its existing space infrastructure, increasing our SSA capabilities and investing in initiatives like ORS.
AIA Source: mike.conschafter[at]aia-aerospace.org
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