Air Force personnel and expertise as well as its space-monitoring assets contributed much to the US military’s successful intercept of a doomed American intelligence satellite on Feb. 20, USAF’s top space general said Thursday (see above). “Air Force Space Command and our space surveillance network and our space situational awareness and our ability to understand the space environment were all critical and significant players in that activity,” Gen. Robert Kehler, commander of Air Force Space Command told an audience at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando. Speaking after his presentation to reporters, Kehler elaborated, saying AFSPC’s space-surveillance assets were in use for weeks prior to the shootdown mission to help plan it and will continue to monitor the remains of the satellite for weeks to come. “Maintenance of the catalog [of on-orbit objects], doing collision avoidance and then the analytical capability that we could bring from various parts of Air Force Space Command were all used here in a substantial way,” he said. “Air Force ground- and space-based sensors presented to US Strategic Command were part of the sensor network and played a big role, both in tracking the target ahead of time, giving precise target location ahead of time, and then in monitoring both the launch and the impact and then the post-[shot] debris assessment.”
Reports of production troubles on the SpaceX rocket that could contend for military cargo deliveries happened to coincide with a different company’s concept receiving an early nod—one that might not require a rocket at all.