Status Quo Equals Failure

The status quo in USAF’s space capabilities—“fragile” satellites launched on a just-in-time schedule—won’t work going forward, given the number of adversaries who openly threaten them, Air Force Space Command chief Gen. William Shelton said Friday. Speaking at AFA’s Global Warfare Symposium in Los Angeles, Shelton said the US is too dependent on its space constellations not to invest more in increasing their numbers and making them more “resilient” against attacks. “We just don’t invest for failures,” Shelton said, noting that while USAF has enjoyed a very long string of space launch successes, “we know a failure is inevitable.” The hole in capability that would be created by losing a satellite on a failed booster is “unacceptable” he said. “We must adapt, we must adjust” to a “neighborhood that is no longer pristine” in space, he said. He likes the idea of making satellites smaller by “disaggregating” them into tactically oriented and strategically oriented platforms, thus giving enemies more targets. Smaller satellites also can be built in larger numbers and potentially at lower overall cost. He’s also a fan of “hosted payloads” on commercial satellites that would, again, spread out the number of targets an enemy would have to destroy to undermine US space dominance.