January 3rd that the website of Defense News published an article entitled “Six Military Space Events in 2020” on December 31, 2020, written by Nathan Straut. The full text is excerpted as follows:
The first full year of the U.S. Space Force marks the entry of an important stage of the U.S. military in the space field.
From a nascent service to a large-scale new launch contract, 2020 has been a busy year in the space field. Here is a brief account of the top six military space events in 2020.
The Tais Air Force is beginning to take shape.
2019 is regarded as the year of the founding of the U.S. Space Force, and 2020 is the year when the new service is beginning to take shape.
General John Raymond, commander of the Pacific Air Force, said that the Space Force is the first new service to be established in 70 years.
In its first year of its establishment, the Space Force has five areas of focus: developing personnel, developing theories, proposing an independent budget, conducting force design and providing relevant troops to the Joint Command.
In 2020, the Space Force had its first member and commander of space operations, adding 2,500 people to the new service, defining a “space power” different from military power in its “archstone theory”, establishing the first of three commands, and starting a series of procurement reforms.
Space Development Agency ordered the first batch of satellites
In 2020, the Space Development Agency determined its position in the national space industry: to establish a new “Defense Space Architecture Project” composed of hundreds of satellites in low-Earth orbit.
The core of this architecture—a space-based mesh network—will become the space component of the Joint Global Command and Control System, which is part of the Pentagon’s efforts to connect any sensor with any force projection unit across the service and the field. The Space Development Agency confidently won and approved the first contracts this summer.
Army test connects space sensor with “shooter”
On the surface, the U.S. Army has not set foot in space in a high-profile way. However, the Army has made significant progress in the “2020 Integration” plan.
In short, the Army wanted to be able to connect any sensor to the best “shooter” (i.e., the power projection unit).
Satellites are used as both sensors to detect threats and as a network to connect sensors and “shooters” throughout the battlefield.
Tactical Image Satellites are an important part of the “2020 Convergence” program.
When taking battlefield images, satellites transmit their data to ground stations, then use artificial intelligence to process images, automatically detect threats, and provide aiming data to the Army’s “shooters”.
In this new setup, the satellite can provide the necessary sensing capabilities to achieve over-the-horizon aiming and greatly compress the transmission time required for data from the sensor to the “shooter”.
Space Exploration Technology and Joint Launch Alliance won the “big order”
In a sense, despite the global pandemic, the 2020 military event in space may be dominated by the rise and success of several small launch suppliers.
However, the biggest launch contract this year is the traditional heavy launch contract.
In August 2020, the Space Force signed a national security space launch contract with Space Exploration Technology and Joint Launch Alliance, which received $316 million and $337 million.
The contract will support more than 30 heavy launches by the Space Force and the National Bureau of Reconnaissance over a five-year period—from 2022 to fiscal year 2027.
This is a major victory for Space Exploration Technology Company.
On-orbit services bring new opportunities
In 2020, two commercial satellites successfully docked in orbit for the first time as part of the service of extending the life of commercial satellite provided by Northrop-Grumman’s space logistics system.
Although the mission is completely commercial, it has a significant impact on the military, which is considering using the services of the space logistics system to extend the life of its satellite.
Commercial orbital satellite services can go far beyond simply replenishing space fuel reserves.
Following the successful docking in February, the Space Logistics System announced a partnership with the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on the Robot Service Program for Geosynchronous Satellites.
The program is dedicated to creating the first commercial spacecraft equipped with robotic arms that can repair, enhance, assemble, inspect and migrate other spacecraft already in orbit.
Perhaps on-orbit services will not be as feasible and cost-effective as people hope, but in 2020, this concept will become a reality.
Russia continues anti-satellite weapons testing
In 2019 and 2020, the Pentagon used the development and testing of anti-satellite weapons in countries such as Russia as a reason for establishing a space army.
To say the least, Russia has provided a lot of excuses for those who think that the country’s space activities are provocative.
In 2020, Russia conducted two tests of direct rise anti-satellite missiles capable of shooting down low-Earth orbit satellites.
“Russia’s direct-rising antisatellite missile test provides another example that the threat to the space systems of the United States and its allies is real, serious, and increasing,” Raymond, then also the commander of the U.S. Space Command, said after his first test in April.
But perhaps more worrying than direct rise missiles is what the U.S. Space Command calls the in-orbit anti-satellite weapon test.
In July 2020, the U.S. Space Command announced that a Russian satellite appeared to have launched a high-speed flying object into space. U.S. officials say that this ability is a weapon.