by Lt. Col. Christina Abbott-Marks
Air Force Space Command Public Affairs
4/21/2015 - COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- General
John E. Hyten, commander of Air Force Space Command, recently
identified several key actions to be taken to ensure U.S. strength in
space for the future. On Apr. 14 at the 2015 Space Symposium in
Colorado Springs, Colo., he discussed his command priorities, changes in
store for space crews, and new initiatives to assure access to space.
"Winning today's fight is my first priority," said General Hyten. "When
we have Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines deployed in harm's way
all around the world, we have to make sure our number one priority is
get them everything they need, every minute of the day because
everything that they do is critically dependent on space...we cannot
fail in that mission."
"We also have to figure out how to prepare for tomorrow's fight if war
should someday extend into space," he said. "We have to move into the
"Our crew force is the greatest in the world, but they are unbelievably
young and inexperienced," he said about the Airmen who operate the Air
Force's space systems. "It is that way because we designed our crew
force to progress from crew duty to the day staff as they gain
experience and expertise. But this means our most capable operators are
not on crew."
In a future contested environment, he said that the Nation needs its
best people on duty, ready to "make real time decisions about what's
going on if something bad should happen. You have to have very
experienced people on crew."
General Hyten explained ways in which the space operator crew force is going to be changed.
He plans to normalize the space force presentation to U.S. Strategic
Command and ensure that U.S. Strategic Command gets space force
capabilities that they require.
"The way you present forces has to be structured so that when you
actually ask for capability, you get that capability," he said.
He also will change the space operator construct. From young Airmen to
senior NCOs to officers, crews will work a six-months-on, six-months-off
cycle. On the alternating six months, the crews will be in advanced
training to ensure experienced operators capable of operating in a
contested or degraded space environment are on crew at all times. The
General also discussed lengthening of initial training to add more depth
to the curriculum, which will better prepare crews to operate in
contested or degraded environments.
"We're going to do business fundamentally differently because our Airmen need to be prepared for tomorrow's fight," he said.
General Hyten then talked about three challenges to assured access to
space. He said, to the audience of military and industry leaders, that
they all have the same goals: assured access to space, maintaining
competition in launch, and moving away from the Russian RD-180 engine.
To assure access to space, his primary concern is how to maintain two launch providers in the aftermath of a launch accident.
"God forbid, someday we will have an accident again. It's not going to
be the next launch; it's not going to be the launch after that, but it
will happen again - it's the nature of the business," he said.
He pointed out that, based on past launch accident history, the launch
provider would be unable to launch for a lengthy period of time due to
the accident investigation and loss of confidence.
"What do you have to do to return to fly in this kind of environment?
And who makes that decision? Because I'm not going to stand up and put a
billion-dollar satellite on top of a rocket I don't know is going to
work," he said. He questioned how they would stay in business while
their competitor continues to launch. "That's a fundamental issue that
we have to solve."
Another concern for assured access to space is the state of the launch
ranges, which he said are not structured to support the launch business
today because of the aging infrastructure of radars, telescopes,
telemetry systems that track launches. He said, "We have to build an
automated flight safety system and get that approved."
An automated flight safety system will use GPS tracking for launches,
reducing maintenance and sustainment costs for aging telemetry and
tracking systems. In addition, an automated flight safety system will
make the ranges more responsive to industry and government launch
The last challenge he discussed is the ground architecture for operating
space systems. He said that there are too many stand-alone ground
systems, with many satellite constellations having their own unique
ground system to operate each constellation. "It doesn't enable us to
move into the future. We have to get to a common ground system; and
we're going to get to a ground system; and we're going to get to it one
way or the other. We cannot fail in this endeavor."
He highlighted the challenge to accomplishing these actions with
sequestration still looming and warned that if sequestration occurs in
2016, Air Force Space Command would be forced to cut launches, decimate
weapons systems sustainment, and delay programs like the Space Based
Infrared System mobile ground systems, which contribute to the U.S.
nuclear command and control architecture.
General Hyten closed his remarks by emphasizing the importance of taking
care of Airmen and families, underscoring the point by explaining the
impact of deployments.
"We currently have 600 Airmen in [Air Force] Space Command deployed in
support of the wars in the Middle East," he said. "That's a burden on
the Airmen, but it's even a bigger burden on their families...I was
talking to one Airman the other night [who] has deployed 10 times back
and forth to theater and he's got a family and two kids. Just think
about how difficult that is on an Airman. We have to make sure that we
make this probably our top priority because if we break this, we break
the Air Force and we break what we do in space."