by Senior Airman Zachary Vucic
Air Force News Service
2/24/2014 - ORLANDO, Fla. -- The
commander of Air Force Space Command announced a new satellite program
during a speech about the importance of space and cyberspace at the Air
Force Association Air Warfare Symposium and Technology exposition, Feb.
General William Shelton told the audience about the new Geosynchronous
Space Situational Awareness Program with two satellites being launched
on the same launch vehicle later this year.
"GSSAP will present a significant improvement in space object
surveillance, not only for better collision avoidance, but also for
detecting threats," Shelton said. "GSSAP will bolster our ability to
discern when adversaries attempt to avoid detection and to discover
capabilities they may have, which might be harmful to our critical
assets at these higher altitudes."
According to a new fact sheet on GSSAP posted on the AFSPC website, the
program will be a space-based capability operating in
near-geosynchronous orbit, supporting U.S. Strategic Command space
surveillance operations as a dedicated Space Surveillance Network
sensor. GSSAP will allow more accurate tracking and characterization of
man-made orbiting objects, uniquely contribute to timely and accurate
orbital predictions, enhance knowledge of the geosynchronous orbit
environment, and further enable space flight safety to include satellite
Shelton announced the program during a speech that conveyed concern
about the increasingly complex and contested space and cyber
environments. He said space and cyberspace are very much a part of
everything we do. The dependence on, and demand for, space and
cyberspace is higher than it's ever been, he said, noting the changes
that have occurred over the years, with 170 countries now having a
tangible interest in space to include 11 countries with indigenous
He said there are no midterm alternatives to the capability provided by space.
"If we're going to be a global power, we want global coverage, we want
global access and we want it at a time and a place of our choosing,"
Speaking specifically about space, Shelton said despite the increased
dependence, the declining budget creates challenges to meet the rising
demand. The demand for space includes surveillance, tracking and
In addition the focus and actions the Air Force and the nation are
taking on space situational awareness, he discussed need for
survivability and resilience of our satellite constellations. With the
additional challenge of declining budgets, Shelton said, "What we're
really looking for is the nexus of required capability, affordability
and resilience" for the nation's space systems.
"The study work we are doing right now will be effectual for new
solutions in the mid 2020 timeframe," he said. "But we've got to get
that work done now."
Shelton closed the space portion of his presentation by talking about
the Space Security and Defense Program, a vital program that helps find
ways to protect the Air Force's spacecraft. SSDP looks at available
intelligence and adversary counter space programs, and recommends
solutions. He said the program has been a "big plus" for situational
awareness and has tangible results in many other areas, even in its
"(Air Force Space Command) is working very hard to get it right for the
future," he said. "(Space) is a vital capability for the nation, for the
joint force. We can't let them down, and we won't."
Moving on to cyberspace, the general said it is very different than any
other domain as it's man-made and unlike the physical domains people
have learned to use over time. Cyberspace more and more defines modern
life in the 21st century.
He said cyberspace creates a big advantage in regards to how many people
the military has to put in harm's way, however the country's
adversaries know cyberspace is the nation's lifeline. Because of this,
high-end operators are constantly threatening U.S. systems.
"We've got a lot of cyber enabled weapons these days," he said. "If an
adversary can get in and make that weapon system ineffective at the
worst possible time - think about that.
"As we've grown our dependence on cyberspace for all the right reasons,
it has become an increasingly contested environment for all the wrong
reasons. The threats have grown in both sophistication and in number.
A laptop, the right skill set and an internet connection is all one
needs to become a player in cyber warfare, making the low "cost of
admission" a major complication.
"We can spend a great deal of treasure on defenses, only to be overtaken
by the exquisite talents of a high-end cyber operator who has very
little capital invested," Shelton said, noting anonymity makes
attribution of these attacks difficult.
Though the cyber domain is different from any other domain, the
application of standard military process is doing well to mitigate a lot
of the risk, he said. Air Force Space Command is developing several
tools to conduct cyberspace operations including the potential for
offensive cyber capability.
"Our Airmen and industry partners are facing up to these cyber
challenges each and every day, and they are ensuring the mission gets
done in the 'wild west' of cyberspace," Shelton said. "We've come a long
way in space and cyber these last few years. We continue to provide
game-changing capabilities to the warfighter ... I think the future of
warfare really depends on us having the best, most secure and most
capable space and cyber systems."
U.S. Cyber Command recently established a cyber-mission force concept to
conduct full-spectrum cyber operations across the Department of
Defense, he said. Over the next three years, the Air Force will provide
39 teams, roughly 2,200 Airmen, to contribute to this cyber mission
"We must be prepared as a nation to succeed in increasingly complex and
contested space and cyber environments, especially in these domains
where traditional deterrence theory probably doesn't apply," he said.
"We can't afford to wait ... for that catalyzing event that will prod us