G David Bock
Lynden WA USA
Posts: 480
Joined: 2020
U.S. Space Force
12/2/2020 8:24:56 PM
Given the structure of sub-forums and threads here, this seems the best place for now.

There has been a bit of controversy and discussion on this newest branch of the USA military. Some think it redundant to unnecessary, others consider it a long over due acknowledgement of science, technology, and strategic events and developments having the potential to get ahead of national interests and planning, especially if not seen and dealt with.

The recent issue of the Smithsonian's Air&Space magazine has a great article, so-far available online. We'll start with it and some select excerpts;
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The Space Force Turns One
The newest branch of the U.S. armed services pitches its tent on a vast battlefield.
December 2020
Of the more than 2,000 active satellites currently in low Earth orbit, Kosmos 2543 may be the most notorious.

Russia launched the spacecraft on November 25, 2019, as a small “inspector” satellite designed to check on the country’s own satellites in orbit. But within a couple weeks of launch, it separated from its mothership, and in January, civilian space watchers alerted the world that both spacecraft had sidled up into roughly the same orbit as USA 245, an American reconnaissance satellite.

Michael Thompson, an astrodynamics graduate student at Purdue University, was one of the first civilians to spot the maneuver in orbital data posted online. “Something to potentially watch,” he tweeted on January 30. “This is all circumstantial evidence, but there are a hell of a lot of circumstances that make it look like a known Russian inspection satellite is currently inspecting a known U.S. spy satellite.”

Sky watchers monitored the satellite chase overhead as Kosmos 2543 closed the distance and then, days later, backed away. The State Department officially complained, although the U.S. government never disclosed the identity of its own satellite.

On July 15 the now infamous Kosmos 2543 performed its next trick by deploying an object that appeared to jet away from it, then pass within a few kilometers of another Russian satellite it was observing. Or was it targeting it?

“There was no noticeable change of the parent satellite’s orbit,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist and sky watcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, via Twitter. “I suspect the object carried its own rocket motor, so ejected gently then fired motor.”

It was a noiseless shot, but it was heard around the world. A week later the U.S. government officially called the new object an “anti-satellite weapon” and protested in stern public statements.

The test wouldn’t have needed to strike anything to be a technical success. Data on targeting, deployment, and engine performance would have been enough to advance the technology. In fact, a non-destructive test is preferable, as it produces no debris and provides straight-faced deniability that Kosmos 2543 was in fact designed as a weapon.

It could also have been intended as a diplomatic message. “It may have been a coincidence, but [Russia] performed that test just before they sat down in Vienna for direct U.S. and Russian talks about space security,” says Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think tank in Washington. “It very well could have been, ‘Hey, we’re letting you know, before we sit down to talk, that we’ve got a gun cocked and loaded at your head.’ ”

This sort of threat is exactly what the United States Space Force, marking its first anniversary in December, was created to address. “One of the best arguments for the creation of the Space Force…has been the compelling case our competitors have created for us,” the service’s top officer, Chief of Space Operations General John “Jay” Raymond, says. Before taking this new job, Raymond headed the U.S. Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. Long before that, back in the mid-2000s, he was director of space forces for the war in Afghanistan.

Like its chief, most people in the new service come from other parts of the military, although many were already working in the space arena.

“To be completely honest, I had no idea what space even was when I came into the Air Force,” says Major Danielle Ryan, chief of weapons and tactics for the 527th Space Aggressor Squadron, one of about two dozen Air Force units absorbed into the newest branch of the armed forces over the past year. “I went to the Air Force Academy, and I was more interested in engineering. But I’d put down Cape Canaveral on my dream sheet, and from there I got into space launch. My recruiter told me that it’s kind of like winning the lottery, in a sense,” Ryan says. “I’d be stupid not to take it.”
In the southwest corner of Schriever is a tin-roof, two-story operations warehouse known as “The Barn,” where the Aggressors go about their business of mimicking threats in the opaque, ever-changing battlefield of space. The mission is not entirely new. The 527th has roots in the electronic warfare battles of Vietnam, and it stood up in 2000 as the first dedicated space aggressor unit. But it has taken on a fresh importance under a new command. When the Space Force took over the 527th and other squadrons last July, “garrisons” and “deltas” replaced “wings.” For the time being, the Aggressors belong to the Space Training and Readiness (STAR) Delta, but eventually the Space Training and Readiness Command (yes, STARCOM) is scheduled to activate, and they will make their home there.

STARCOM will be one of three field commands. Space Operations Command, built on the bones of Air Force Space Command at Peterson, handles the day-to-day work of monitoring, operating, and protecting U.S. spacecraft. Space Systems Command will design and acquire satellites and other new hardware, including vehicles. Don’t expect a Space Force astronaut corps in the immediate future, however. Although one Space Force higher-up, Major General John Shaw, was quoted recently saying, “At some point, yes, we will be putting humans into space,” the service’s vice chief of space operations, General David Thompson, threw cold water on any notions of sci-fi Star Troopers. “When do we expect to have boots on the moon? No idea. Certainly not in my career,” he said at a recent conference.

The first year of the Space Force’s existence was spent defending its existence against ridicule (including an unflattering Netflix sitcom) and working out the organization chart. Next year will be spent herding most, but not all, of the remaining military space programs into their stable and broadening their reach. “Year Two is all about flexing our muscles as an independent service,” says Raymond.
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