U.S. Strategic Command

 

Speeches

Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies (AMOS) Conference

By Major General Clint Crosier | Maui, Hawaii | September 16, 2015

Maj. Gen. Crosier: “Aloha” fellow space professionals!  My name is Maj. Gen. Clint Crosier, the director of plans and policy for Headquarters, United States Strategic Command, otherwise known as USSTRATCOM.  It is my distinct honor and pleasure to be your keynote speaker for this important event, which coincides with my initial visits to my counterparts throughout United States Pacific Command.  It is also my distinct honor and pleasure to speak to you in a slot originally reserved for Lt. Gen. Jay Raymond – outgoing Commander of 14th Air Force and the Joint Functional Component Command for Space.  We wish him all the best as he transitions into his new duties as the Director of Air and Space Operations at Headquarters, U.S. Air Force, which by the way, marks the first time in the history of the Air Force that a space officer has been selected to lead the Air Force’s operations team, which is quite a tribute to the role space plays in today’s great Air Force. 

And in terms of understanding America’s commitment to space, and our commitment to ensuring our capabilities are robust, resilient, and fully operational at all times across the spectrum from peacetime to conflict, it’s truly extraordinary to note that even in a time where sequestration significantly constrains U.S. defense spending, President Obama’s budget submission to Congress for fiscal year 2016 calls for an increase – an increase – of more than five billion dollars of additional investments in the Department of Defense space enterprise.  As a result, improved and expanded SSA (space situational awareness) capabilities, as well as enhanced command and control capabilities, have been postured to benefit from this increased investment.  No less important, a great deal of these dollars will continue to make the current and planned U.S. space enterprise even more resilient and survivable against attacks, whether during peacetime, crisis, or conflict.  It is important to note that the President’s budget also identified increases to the Intelligence Community’s portion of the U.S. space enterprise, in an unmistakable and unwavering commitment to the continued, uninterrupted, and unmatched exploitation of space capabilities for the US, and its friends and allies. 

And it’s also my distinct honor and pleasure to be addressing this international audience today.  You, who represent spacefarers from across the globe.  You, a community that labors on a daily, if not hourly basis, to ensure a peaceful and effective space domain remains a reality, not only for this generation, but for many generations to come.

We are here this morning more than five years since President Barack Obama published the latest U.S. policy on space.  Right up front, President Obama states, “50 years after the creation of NASA, our goal is no longer just a destination to reach.  Our goal is the capacity for people to work and learn and operate and live safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time, ultimately in ways that are more sustainable and even indefinite.  And in fulfilling this task, we will not only extend humanity’s reach in space, we will strengthen America’s leadership here on Earth.”  And that’s one of the key missions of U.S. Strategic Command – strengthening America’s leadership in the space domain, and providing and ensuring space capabilities for people around the globe.  As many of you know, our service components, like the Air Force’s Air Fore Space Command, the Navy’s Fleet Cyber Command, and the Army’s Army Strategic Command, are responsible for the “organize, train, and equip” missions for space – in other words, procuring and acquiring our space systems, and training the people who operate them.  But when it comes time to actually employ those capabilities, actually operate our satellites and ground systems, whether its space situational awareness systems, SATCOM, missile warning or GPS, all U.S. military space capabilities are performed under the operational control of U.S. Strategic Command. 

The first U.S. policy on space dates all the way back to the President Dwight Eisenhower – when use of space was a nascent human activity – one that addressed only two principal space farers – the U.S. and the Soviet Union.  Today, of course, we are in a much different reality when it comes to human activity in space.  Unlike the late 1950s, there are more than 60 actors using space in some capacity.  They come from governments, intergovernmental organizations, commercial entities, and others.  It is no secret space is becoming more congested, contested and competitive, but together we must address the challenges in space to decrease instability and, in turn, ensure we fully exploit the amazing capabilities the space domain can offer, while ensuring that domain remains peaceful for all. 

Better space situational awareness, or SSA, is absolutely necessary to realizing that vision of space activities in the 21st century – SSA underpins everything we do.  The ability to observe, assess, and characterize activity is essential for operations in every domain, whether air, land, or sea, but given the vastness, remoteness, and unforgiving nature of the space domain, perhaps even more important in space.  And we are all key to making this vision a reality. 

This morning, I will highlight how U.S. Strategic Command is doing its part to maintain a peaceful, safe, and secure space environment, not only for today, but also for future generations, and is committed to ensuring our resilience.  In partnership with its U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force components, U.S. Strategic Command’s capability to detect, identify, and characterize the continually evolving space domain is increasing every day.  At the same time, U.S. Strategic Command is implementing a new and evolving strategy for sharing SSA with its allies, security partners, and the public in general – in the most transparent manner possible.  First, I would like to address some of the technological improvements already achieved or currently underway, promoting the safe and responsible use of space: improved sensors and network centric capabilities, experiments conducted to advance next generation operating concepts, and tactics, techniques, and procedures.  Then, I would like to discuss the new and evolving strategy for sharing SSA data using these improved capabilities.  And finally, I would like to address what the U.S. is doing to address the growing trend of space threats, including the recent announcement of a brand new experimentation construct and integrated command and control node – the Joint Integrated Combined Space Operations Center, known as the JICSpOC.  So let me dig in.

There are two crucial elements contributing to space situational awareness: knowing what is occurring in real time, and being able to process the real time data in order to act responsibly.  With over 60 nations operating in space today, alongside hundreds of thousands of objects creating a final frontier that is much more complex then when we first started tracking a few hundred orbiting objects, space debris and spacecraft orbit deconfliction now pose an ever increasing threat to space.  With the serious risk of collision, we all need to understand what is in orbit and be able to predict the orbital path of these objects to the best extent possible, which is made all the more challenging as more and more satellites conduct more and more routine and station keeping maneuvers on nearly a daily basis.

The Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), which is owned and operated by U.S. Strategic Command's Joint Functional Component Command for Space (JFCC Space), is the crown jewel of our SSA and space command and control capabilities—and we are fortunate to have with us this morning, participating in the very first panel, Col. John Giles, who is the commander of the JSpOC.  The JSpOC maintains a catalog of all artificial Earth-orbiting objects, charts positions for orbital flight safety, and predicts objects reentering the Earth's atmosphere.  Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, well over 40,000 man-made objects have been cataloged, many of which have since re-entered the atmosphere or left orbit altogether. 

Currently, the JSpOC tracks more than 16,500 objects orbiting the Earth.  And that includes almost 2,400 pieces of debris from the 2009 accidental collision between the Iridium 33 communications satellite and the dead Cosmos 2251 satellite, of which just over 60% are still in orbit.  That also includes over 3,400 pieces of debris from the Fengyun 1C satellite, which were created by a purposeful 2007 anti-satellite weapon system test, with a full 82%, over 2,800 pieces of debris, still on orbit threatening the peaceful use of space on a daily basis. 

To confront these kinds of challenges, and the certain growth in space objects in the future, the U.S. is upgrading or replacing existing sensors and fielding altogether new sensors with higher sensitivities and better range resolutions.  Doing so enables the U.S. to detect, track, identify and characterize much smaller objects in a more timely and efficient manner while, at the same time, enhancing the ability to rapidly detect maneuvers, breakups, and collisions, and more importantly, then rapidly respond.

The first technological advancement I want to address this morning is the replacement of the Air Force Space Surveillance System, or VHF Fence, which has been in operation since the early 1960s.  The Space Surveillance System has been a key system used to predict potential collisions and there is a dire need to modernize and improve this capability.  The location of a new space fence will be about 2,100 nautical miles from Honolulu in the Kwajalein Atoll.  The Space Fence is a series of S-band ground-based radars that provide the U.S Air Force with uncued detection, tracking, and accurate measurement of space objects, primarily in low-earth orbit, far beyond what we have today.

The Space Fence site location in the Kwajalein Atoll gives a favorable geographic separation that enhances higher wave frequencies to detect and track much smaller microsatellites and debris.  Ensuring the construction and full integration of the Space Fence into the broader U.S. space surveillance network of sensors already operated by the U.S. Air Force on behalf of United States Strategic Command will greatly improve timeliness with which operators can detect space events, which could present potential threats to satellites or the International Space Station.

But we are also improving the SSA mission from space.  For some time now, the Automated Navigation and Guidance Experiment for Local Space (ANGELS) program has been examining techniques to provide a clearer picture of the space environment from space.  ANGELS experiments have been designed to demonstrate that satellites can perform safe automated spacecraft operations above the geosynchronous Earth orbit region, while helping us gain a better real-time understanding of activity taking place in space.  We recently completed a full series of ANGELS experiments that provided extraordinary insight into better techniques for tracking objects of high interest, and identifying, assessing, and responding to potential threats to our satellite systems.  The experiments will form the foundation for future capability upgrades and, as I said, were deemed extraordinarily successful.

Additionally, data derived from the space based Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) satellites currently undergoing checkout will contribute a space-based view from near-geosynchronous orbit.  These satellites are designed to track and characterize orbiting objects without the interruption of weather or the atmospheric distortion that can limit ground-based systems.  These satellites are also capable of maneuvering near an object of interest in order to support anomaly resolution and enhanced characterization, while at the same time operating safely.  This amplifying data will contribute to timely and accurate orbital predictions, enhancing our knowledge of the geosynchronous orbit environment, and further enabling space flight safety to include satellite collision avoidance.

Sensors and technology support provided by Combined Space Operations partners, such as Canada and Australia, further contribute to the SSA effort from both ground-based and space-based SSA sensors.  Canada’s Sapphire space-based space surveillance satellite solidly contributes to efforts to maintain custody of high interest satellites.  Australia has agreed to host a C-band radar relocated from Antigua and the DARPA’s Space Surveillance Telescope, on the Northwest Cape of Exmouth.  Australia is also providing science and technology support from its Defence Science and Technology Organization, laser tracking from its Electro Optic System (EOS) located on Mount Stromlo, and classical orbit determination algorithm development by the Royal Melbourne Institute in support of EOS.  These are prime examples of the growing global network providing vital data to space farers around the world to support warning of potential collisions between space objects, thereby helping to mitigate dangers posed by space debris and would-be bad actors.  I’ll talk a bit more on Combined Space Operations later on in my remarks.

In order to harness all of the available sensor data and other non-traditional data sources USSTRATCOM is incrementally building and integrating its Non-Traditional Data Pre-Processor (NDPP) developed under its Global Sensor Integration on Networks (GSIN) project.  Integration of non-traditional sensor networks establishes a unified national architecture and nets together all sensors, from tactical to strategic.

In order to transition the JSpOC from a catalog, maintenance focused “traffic cop for space” into a more search-and-discover driven, real-time command and control organization, the Air Force is currently replacing its legacy mission systems at the JSpOC with the JSpOC Mission System (JMS).  JMS is enhancing U.S. capability to not only maintain a catalog, but also to characterize activities in the electromagnetic spectrum, such as interference and jamming.  JMS is also modernizing support to launches and reentries.  JMS is currently being executed in two increments, which are already improving SSA.  In more specific terms, the first increment upgrades infrastructure and tools to support a common operating picture for gathering, processing, and disseminating SSA to multiple customers.  The second increment takes on the more monumental challenge of directly tasking sensors, ingesting sensor data, producing and sustaining a high-accuracy space catalog, increasing orbit determination and prediction accuracy, and improving capacity to support conjunction assessment, threat modeling, and operational decision making.  Through these two incremental updates, USSTRATCOM is starting to use JMS to enable the coordination, planning, synchronization, and execution of continuous, integrated space operations.

The JSpOC also has a six-month pilot program underway, that started back in June, to explore the technical aspects of a partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense and commercial space industry to leverage mutual capabilities to enhance SSA, while at the same time improving JFCC Space’s command and control capabilities.  Six partners from JFCC Space’s semi-annual commercial operator talks are participating in this pilot program with a goal of pursuing greater cooperation and synergy by integrating liaisons from the commercial sector into the JSpOC.  Ms. Kay Sears, who will participate in the panel discussion following my remarks, has been, and continues to be, absolutely instrumental in this pilot program to establish a commercial integration cell in the JSpOC.

But the ability to fully leverage all of these capabilities across allies and partners, and to ensure a safe and peaceful global domain, depends on our ability to share data.  

To that end, recognizing the need to address an evolving and diverse space environment, USSTRATCOM is implementing an updated sharing approach to provide higher-quality information, in even greater quantities.  Fundamentally, this approach expands information already provided to the public and focuses on sharing the right information with specific users, for specific purposes, in exchange for similar information.  The primary goal of the change is to foster responsible use of space by promoting transparency, enhancing spaceflight safety, and enabling exchange-focused relationships between the U.S. and its allies, security partners, and other spacefarers across the globe.  This sharing paradigm places an increased focus on the needs of partners by providing enhanced SSA information to SSA sharing agreement holders, and U.S. national security partners.  On behalf of the U.S. Government and Department of Defense, U.S. Strategic Command has concluded 49 SSA data-sharing agreements with commercial entities, nine with other governments, and two with intergovernmental organizations.  Two more commercial agreements are in negotiations with commercial entities and three others are in negotiation with other governments.  USSTRATCOM continues to seek, and values, additional SSA data-sharing agreements, with like-minded countries and organizations whose goal is to ensure the safe and responsible use of space for the global good.  

Further, in order to better manage congestion caused by space debris through greater transparency, as well as to enhance spaceflight safety, U.S. Strategic Command is now publishing even greater amounts of data, on an even larger number of objects, to the open public via Space-Track.org.  Free-of-charge U.S. resources like Space-Track.org remains available and provides some expanded information to the public, however, a signed SSA data-sharing agreement with the U.S. provides partners access to the highest quality information possible, on more objects, ultimately to help address the challenges of operating in an ever more challenging space environment.

The area of SSA has been a catalyst for establishing combined space operations with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.  It has also been the focus of establishing and enhancing partnerships with other nations.  Every day, United States Strategic Command is exploring ways to partner with non-owner/operators to utilize their information via an exchange-focused relationship to advance spaceflight safety.

But while we are encouraged by the increasing global cooperation in space, such as represented by many of the initiatives I just cited, we are also mindful of the rapidly growing threats.

It’s an unfortunate reality that some spacefaring nations are pursuing other-than-peaceful objectives, and developing capabilities that threaten the free and unfettered use of space. 

So in response to those threats, and the ever-increasingly congested space environment, the U.S. just last week officially announced the creation of a new integrated operations construct called the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, or JICSpOC. 

The JICSpOC is designed to create unity of effort and information in space operations among the U.S. Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community, as well as eventually, allied and commercial space entities—promising a degree of integration and collaboration beyond anything before in history.  Fusing the operation of our space systems and intelligence capabilities in real-time will enhance our ability to track, monitor, analyze and predict irresponsible and dangerous activity in space, and ensure the U.S., its allies and partners remain free to use space for civil, commercial and national security purposes despite the threats from others.

The JICSpOC is a fundamental step forward to ensure the U.S. space enterprise meets and out-paces emerging and advanced space threats and continues to provide vital information, capabilities and effects for national leadership, allies and partners, and the Joint Force.  Simultaneously, the JICSpOC will serve to enhance the nation’s deterrent posture by demonstrating the United States is prepared should an adversary threaten our space capabilities.  The JICSpOC will also provide the U.S. Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community with a robust test and experimentation environment to better integrate our space operations in response to threats and afford unity of effort between diverse space communities.  Although no final decisions have been made, after development is complete, the JICSpOC is anticipated to be a backup capability to the JSpOC for command and control of U.S. space forces, further demonstrating our commitment to resiliency and the assured ability to operate throughout crisis and contingency. 

As I alluded to earlier in my remarks, the U.S. remains committed to the free and peaceful use of space, but the U.S. is also fully committed to protecting our space capabilities from growing space threats.  Would-be bad actors in space must clearly understand the use of threatening, hostile and destructive capabilities against the U.S. and its partners would constitute a wholly unacceptable threat to the U.S., would be met with a resolute response, and ultimately they would not achieve the goals or reap the benefits they seek.  Rather, they need to understand, without a doubt, that the U.S., in concert with its allies and other security partners, are postured to convince them that restraint is always the better option.

In closing, I cannot think of a more exciting time to be part of the international space faring community.  Yes – the challenges are, in fact, challenging; but, they are working to bring the best out of all of us – especially those who are committed to the responsible use of space in support of a peaceful, safe, secure, and sustainable space domain – for not only us, but for many generations to come.  I hope that my remarks will assist you as you move on today and for the remainder of this conference.  Thank you for your time and attention this morning, thank you for honoring me with the opportunity to talk to you this morning, and most importantly, thank you for what you do.  Continue to do it ever better; and please do it responsibly.

“Aloha” and “Mahalo.”