National Security Space: then. Now. Tomorrow.
General Shelton: Well that was far too generous of an introduction. I didn't even recognize any of that myself. It is great to be back at the symposium this year and thank you all for attending this morning. It's an honor to stand before this particular audience and it's a remarkable collection of space experts, including many friends, and by the way at this point in my life I refuse to call you old friends. Special thanks to the Space Foundation too for 30 years of just wonderful symposiums here, it is just fantastic how this keeps growing every year and it seems like we say this every year, that it keeps getting bigger and better. Because it does, it just keeps getting bigger and better every year. And what a fantastic job the Space Foundation does in educating America about space and promoting space activity and the space industry. As Elliot said this is my last time to be able to speak to you in uniform, so I hope you don't mind if I choose this opportunity to wax a little nostalgic and talk to you about some memories over the last 38 years of service in this business, and I also wanted to share some thoughts with you about the progress of National Security Space over the years. I think it's something that we should all celebrate and I hope you'll agree with me on that. At the same time I think there is a lot of work we need to do to stay relevant in what I call the new normal of space.
Hopefully you'll agree with me on that by the time we're done here, and I'll try very hard to be through in time [so] that we can do some questions and answers.
You know the month of May is really a historic month for space. On May 25th, 1961 President Kennedy declared to the Congress the American objective to put a man on the moon by the end of that decade. As a youngster growing up in the great State of Oklahoma, l remember watching those early TV programs, my parents were kind enough to get me up, and let me watch those grainy black and white images and I've got to tell you I was hooked. I was hooked on the space business. After that point I knew what I wanted to do the rest of my life. And several years later, I remember watching the Apollo landing and I was watching it in my girlfriend's living room, on her TV. It was one of those events in life where you'll never forget where you were at that particular point in time. By the way, that girlfriend was not Linda, so for those of you who know Linda forget anything I said about my girlfriend. I'm sure I can trust all of you.
I would submit to you that the world has been transformed by our inexorable progress in space. We have strengthened our economy, and made the world smaller. We've also used space to promote international relations and promote scientific discovery. However, the operating environment in space is very different than it was 50 years ago. So, with that thought in mind, let's look back at how our National Security Space program got started, take stock of where we are today, and also look toward our future.
The earliest efforts in the space race began soon after World War II. Theodore von Karman's Toward New Horizons report in 1945 stated very concisely, the satellite is a definite possibility. In 1946 the first FtAND study suggested "World Circling Spaceships" to observe Soviet missile development, warn of ballistic missile launches, communicate with and command our forces around the world, forecast the weather, and be warned of activity in space that would affect our satellites. Pretty prescient for 1946!
The launch of Sputnik, and the realization that the Soviet Union now had a missile with intercontinental range, compelled the United States and the Air Force to move quickly into the launch business. America followed just a few months after Sputnik by launching our first satellite, Explorer I, which really was not much more than a simple "the art of the possible" kind of experiment. These early launches in the U.S. formed the long relationship between the ballistic missile community and the space community.
Key to establishing this relationship was General Bennie Schriever. In the 50's, he led a team that simultaneously began development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, with an eye toward their use as space launch vehicles as well. As well as developing our first satellites under the program named WS-117L.
When Francis Gary Powers was shot down in his U-2 over the Soviet Union in 1960, President Eisenhower accelerated the WS-117L program and established the National Reconnaissance Office. This led to the world's first successful photoreconnaissance satellite program, Corona, launched first in August of 1960. General Schriever's gang in the so-called Little Red Schoolhouse in LA also defined the set of satellite missions which would eventually become the core of what we do today in Air Force Space Command.
General Schriever's team had their first success with the Atlas rocket family placing the SCORE, our first communications relay satellite, into orbit. Atlas boosters were also chosen to launch our first astronauts into space. It's a proud heritage really that continues to today with the Atlas V.
The Martin Company developed the Titan ICBM, which evolved into the Titan II. In a testament to its design and development, Titan II served the Air Force as a launch vehicle until 2003.
The Thor intermediate-range ballistic missile launched Discoverer 1 and Discoverer 14, which returned a capsule containing the first space-based images of the Soviet Union. Needless to say, this was a major step forward, in gaining much-needed information on what was going on with the Soviet Union.
With Thor, Titan and Atlas, the Air Force was on a roll. We continued to develop more powerful technology to place heavier payloads into higher orbits. Upper-stage boosters, Agena followed by Centaur, came along in the mid-60s. These boosters sent many satellites into orbit, but truth be told, our efforts were not always successful. In fact, many met with failure.
In the first ten years-and this is an amazing statistic--in the first ten years of the Air Force space program, nearly eighty launches ended in failure, far more than the number of successes. But in those days, failure was a learning experience. We made progress, made the adjustments needed and we moved on. Just a slightly different mentality than we have today, right? Through the 1970s and the early 80s, launch capability kept growing and improving. Our largest launch vehicle at the time was the Titan 34D. It had fifteen launches, but unfortunately, two of those failed as you see here on the screen.
In the 1970s, the national decision was taken to make the Space Transportation System, the Space Shuttle, as our sole means of access to space. Not widely known, but there were eleven military-focused space shuttle missions. As an insurance policy, throughout the 1980's the Air Force continued work on a program called the complimentary expendable launch vehicle. In the wake of the Challenger disaster, the Air Force returned to expendable rockets for military satellite launches.
Delta II, Atlas I and Atlas II, and Titan IV became our mainstay launch systems in the 1980s. These rockets successfully placed dozens of satellites in orbit, but launch failures continued to be a concern. Our payloads were becoming more and more complex and as a result, more and more expensive, and mission assurance took on even greater importance.
In the late-1990's, we began work on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program with Atlas V and the Delta IV, and both had their first successful launches in 2002.
As you know, these launch systems have been incredibly reliable. In fact, we've enjoyed a 100% success rate. But trust me when I say we're not taking mission assurance for granted. We treat every launch as if it's our first. And we simply don't, and won't, compromise on mission assurance, given the cost and importance of the satellites we lift.
We built the systems to get us to space, now let's talk about how we built the systems to control our spacecraft after we got them there.
From the outset, we created a global network of remote tracking stations to provide the communication links and computer systems to track our satellites and capture the required mission data.
The central node for the Air Force Satellite Control Network was at Sunnyvale Air Force Station, California, also known as the "Blue Cube," which was later renamed Onizuka Air Force Station, in honor of Air Force Colonel Ellison Onizuka, who was one of the astronauts on board the shuttle Challenger on that fateful day in 1986. As many of you know, the Blue Cube had a very colorful history dating all the way back to the 117L program.
To create a backup node for satellite operations, and in anticipation of planned military Space Shuttle operations, construction of the Consolidated Space Operations Center at Falcon Air Force Station, right outside Colorado Springs here, now called Schriever Air Force Base, began in the early 80s. For a time, we operated in a dual-node concept, we then decided we could operate solely out of Schriever Air Force Base with various backup locations for each satellite constellation. As a result, we closed Onizuka in 2010.
Today, there are seven Remote Tracking Stations and fifteen fixed antennas supporting satellite operations for more than 150 DoD, allied and civil space systems. Originally, there were nine sites supported by hundreds of operators, and technicians, but with automation and communications systems improved, we reduced our footprint considerably. On an average day, we now support more than 400 satellite contacts.
Lots of history associated with the Air Force Satellite Control Network and the dedicated people who have served, and those who continue to serve, at some pretty remote locations. I've got to tell you, I personally regretted our decision to close the station at Seychelles. Any of you who have been there fully appreciate what I just said.
The next mission area we need to talk about is missile warning.
The Cold War demanded clear confirmation of a missile launch against North America. We had to provide accurate and reliable data to allow the President to decide what his response would be. The threat of ICBMs required the creation of both ground- and space-based missile warning systems.
By the early 60s, the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System had deployed to Alaska, Greenland and England. These high-powered mechanical radar systems provided fifteen to twenty-five minutes of warning time of ballistic missile launches, depending on the trajectory of that particular missile. The BMEWS radars were also among the first contributing sensors to our space surveillance mission, and I'll talk more about that in a little bit.
Additionally, the advent of the Soviet's Sub-Launched Ballistic Missiles prompted the deployment of PAVE PAWS radars in the late-70s. Four sites were constructed in California, Massachusetts, Georgia, and Texas, with the first two becoming operational in 1980. PAVE PAWS deployed a far more efficient solid-state phased array technology, thereby eliminating mechanical radar components and the failure of those moving parts, and also the costly klystron transmitters at the BMEWS sites. Phased array technology was extended to the BMEWS sites, resulting in a ring of missile warning capability around the United States.
Working with our mission partner, the Missile Defense Agency, we are deploying the Upgraded Early Warning Radar system to both BMEWS and PAVE PAWS radars. These new computers, significantly upgrade the accuracy, sensitivity, automation, and responsiveness of our radars. With the exception of our radar in North Dakota, our missile warning radars will all be UEWR improved by 2017.
In addition to ground based radars, on-orbit architectures were developed to enhance our missile warning capabilities. During the 1960s, we developed and launched Vela to monitor Soviet nuclear testing in the atmosphere and on the ground. Vela was so successful the program actually lasted for 26 years.
The next step along the way was the Missile Defense Alarm System, MIDAS, using infrared sensors to provide thirty minutes of warning of a potential ICBM attack, which when you think about it, was not bad for 1963. And it provided warning well in advance of the radars, which means, of course, more decision time for the President.
MIDAS paved the way for the Defense Support Program satellite in 1970. The improved technology of the DSP satellites greatly improved global awareness. The DSP program had 23 satellites in its history and we still have some on orbit serving us well today.
The successor to DSP is the Space Based Infrared System, incorporating new scanning and staring sensor technologies to deliver a far superior system. With our legacy DSP and the new SBIRS satellites operating together, we can tell you anytime a missile launches on this planet, where it launched, the missile type, and the impact point. Plus, we ring the bell for missile defenses if necessary. The data provided by SBIRS satellites thus far has been outstanding, and we anticipate continuing to wring out even more capability from these satellites. The third launch of the SBIRS GEO satellite program is expected in 2016, and combined with the block buy contract for SBIRS 5 and 6, this is going to take us through the mid-2020's with SBIRS capability.
I already mentioned that our ground-based missile warning radars provided great space surveillance data for Space Situational Awareness.
Our early SSA data-Space Situational Awareness data-came from these BMEWS radar sites for low earth orbiting objects. And for deep space, we counted on Baker-Nunn cameras with optical telescopes.
When MIT-Lincoln Laboratory opened in 1964, the Haystack Long Range Imaging Radar was the world's most sensitive radio antenna. Its X-band radar collected high resolution data on objects in geostationary orbits and beyond.
Haystack was recently upgraded to add W-band capability, and was renamed Haystack Ultra-wideband Satellite Imaging Radar, or HUSIR. HUSIR produces extraordinary images of satellites while operating in both X and W bands. Great capability for us, for characterizing things on orbit.
In the late 60's, the need for a dedicated Space Situational Awareness system had become apparent. The phased array radar at Eglin gave us much-needed capability to track and characterize satellites. Eglin has been updated a number of times and it continues; dedicated to the space track mission.
The addition of the Naval Space Surveillance System greatly improved the timeliness and capacity of our space surveillance mission. The Naval Space Surveillance System began operations in 1959, and it eventually became the Air Force Space Surveillance System in 2004. Advances in tracking capabilities at our other sites, as well as budget pressures, led us to close the so-called legacy space fence last year.
To improve southern hemisphere coverage, we are relocating a C-band launch support radar on Antigua, as well as a Space Surveillance Telescope in New Mexico, down to Australia. You see that Space Surveillance Telescope here. This is a very capable sensor, and we're looking forward to having southern hemisphere coverage with that asset.
In 2010, we launched the Space-Based Space Surveillance satellite, which is solely dedicated to timely tracking of the geosynchronous orbit traffic. SBSS brings persistent and all-weather coverage of GEO that simply cannot be matched by ground-based sensors such as radars and optical capability. I think it's imperative we continue the space-based surveillance of GEO due to the priority of the satellites we fly there.
In that same vein of vital GEO coverage, we just announced the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program, GSSAP, which is scheduled to launch in July. The electro-optical payload on GSSAP gives us very closeup neighborhood watch capability that helps prevent surprise, and that protects our assets in GEO.
Our space surveillance data was originally processed on early main frames at the former Ent Air Force Base here in Colorado Springs-a site now better known as the Olympic Training Center. The Space Detection and Tracking System was the first of its kind to merge radar and optical data to detect, track and catalog human-made objects in space.
And then when the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center was completed in the 60s, SPADATS moved into the Mountain. The Space Defense Operations Center system eventually replaced SPADATS and is still part of our operational system today. Not something we're particularly proud of by the way. In 2007, SPADOC moved to the Joint Space Operations Center, or JSpOC, at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Today's SPADOC system is not the answer for tomorrow-or really even for today's dynamic space environment. So we're building the JSpOC Mission System program to address these shortfalls. JMS will give us a high performance computing environment to do a much better job of SSA, and provide a modern space command and control capability as well. We'll be in a much better position to process increasing data volumes that will come from improved sensors, such as the SST and the Space Fence. And with JMS, the JSpOC can become much more proactive vice reactive to space events.
Now I mentioned earlier that satellites shrunk the world. Let's talk about satellite communications. World-wide command and control, and the ability for the President and DoD leadership to communicate with forces deployed around the globe, was certainly an early vision for our space program.
The Air Force and the Army Signal Corps cooperated to launch the world's first communications satellite-Signal Communications by Orbiting Relay Equipment-in 1958, which broadcast President Eisenhower's holiday greeting to the world.
Beginning with the Initial Defense Communications Satellite Program, later renamed the Defense Satellite Communications System, the Air Force fielded an operational space-based satellite communication network. Between 1966 and 1968, we launched twenty-seven DSCS I satellites--as many as eight at a time--into a subsynchronous orbit. With incremental technology advances in DSCS, our communication capacity grew from 4.8 Kilobits per second to 1.544 Megabits per second.
In 1971, we launched the much more capable DSCS II satellite. This spin-stabilized satellite increased available bandwidth and added multiple channels to accommodate more users. Its geostationary orbit also provided persistent communications access around the world. A total of sixteen DSCS II satellites were launched in that program.
The rapid technological advancements, like three-axis stability, and a need for hardened, nuclear command and control satellites, spurred development of DSCS III in the late 70s. DSCS III dramatically increased survivability and introduced built-in jammer detection and counter-measures. Of the fourteen DSCS III satellites launched between 1981 and 2003, eight are still operational today. Amazing, and still working.
But the insatiable demand for more bandwidth continued, and continues. Wideband Global SATCOM, the follow-on to DSCS, first launched in 2007. A single WGS satellite provides the same bandwidth as ten DSCS III satellites and WGS can cross-link X-band and Ka-band networks, creating enormous flexibility for the Joint Force. WGS 5 and 6 were launched last year with four more to go in our planned program.
Our Space and Missile Systems Center has initiated a commercial SATCOM pathfinder program to study the feasibility of long-term leases with commercial vendors to further expand our bandwidth and examine options for our future. We're studying many SATCOM options by the way, such as buying all or part of a commercial satellite, or contracting for bandwidth as a service, as opposed to building and operating dedicated DoD SATCOM.
The recognized need for nuclear-survivable, jam-proof SATCOM birthed the program, Milstar, which first launched in February of 1994. This very complex program began under President Reagan, and then went on to the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites following Milstar. First launched in 2010, AEHF continues the protected, nuclear survivable SATCOM mission and delivers secure capability to our deployed forces. As many of you will remember, we really had some challenges getting AEHF-1 into geostationary orbit, but the outstanding work of the industry team and the government team got the job done. AEHF will be an essential asset for the President and for our deployed forces through the mid-2020's at least.
Like SBIRS, we put AEHF 5 and 6 on contract as a block buy. We continue to seek ways to reduce the costs in these programs in areas such as lean processing improvements, long-lead procurements and multi-satellite acquisitions. We're also looking at alternative architectures to reduce costs in these big programs, but more on that in just a few moments.
Success on the battlefield sometimes depends on accurate weather forecasting.
The Defense Satellite Applications Program launched in 1962 was created to provide specific weather data in support of Strategic Air Command and other national requirements. The initial DSAP satellites were relatively simple. When DSAP was later declassified and re-designated the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, these early satellites provided some great cloud-top imagery for planning reconnaissance missions primarily. Today, DMSP has evolved to include visual and infrared imagery, microwave imaging and sounding, and a variety of sensors measuring the space weather environment. We just launched DMSP Flight 19 on the third of April of this year.
Everyone in this audience knows GPS, but I'm guessing many of you did not know how this program got started. In fact we heard a little bit about that last night. The Navy deployed the Transit System in the early 60's to provide two dimensional position location information to the fleet, while the Air Force worked on Project 621B to provide three dimensional position data that supported Air Force operations.
Eventually, the DoD assigned joint program responsibility for GPS to the Air Force, and it has become an amazing world-wide utility, especially after presidential directives made its highest accuracy data available to people across the globe.
From 1978, when the first GPS Block I satellites were launched, through 1995 when GPS Block II satellites became fully operational, the extraordinary precision provided by GPS navigation and timing signals has really revolutionized life as we know it. I'll be bold and say that everyone in this room has been touched by GPS today--either through your smart phone's GPS chip or through some financial transaction--if not both. Incredible new applications of GPS surface every day.
So, that's where we are today. Our past and our present kind of paraded in front of you this morning. And I think it's clear that our ability to take advantage of the high ground of space has not only provided vast improvements to national and international security, but it also provides incalculable benefits to global commerce, farming, agriculture, earth and space weather forecasting, transportation, global imaging, research and the list just goes on and on.
In the area of joint military operations, I like to challenge audiences with the following statement: all military operations, from humanitarian operations all the way to major combat operations, now depend on space, maybe critically so. Ready to be proven wrong on that statement, but I haven't been yet. And our potential adversaries have watched us employ space to great effect over the past 23 years of continuous combat. Nations with competing interests to the United States have begun to threaten our ability to operate freely within the space domain. This brings both concern and opportunity for all of us, and as a steward of the nation's military space force, I have to bang the gong loudly so people understand this is not the same environment we started with in the 1960s.
In those early days of space flight, it was just us and the Soviet Union in space. Today, more than 170 countries have either a satellite of their own or some financial interest in a satellite. And we now have 11 countries with indigenous launch capability.
While we certainly support those who come in peace, some of these new space faring nations have an openly aggressive agenda toward our space capabilities and this may lead to dangerous and irresponsible behavior that potentially affects all space-faring nations.
Furthermore, we're all facing a huge space debris problem. Currently, we track more than 23,000 objects in space-10 centimeters in size and larger. However, our sensors cannot see the estimated 500,000 pieces of debris between 1 and 10 centimeters in size. We've learned some lessons the hard way with on-orbit collisions, and this increased traffic in space is causing collision avoidance maneuvers at a pace we never before experienced. After five decades of relatively benign operations, space is becoming an increasingly challenging place to operate.
While threats to space operations existed for decades, the ability and sophistication of counterspace technology is growing at an alarming rate. We face a range of threats from the reversible to very destructive and permanent threats.
For example, jamming is relatively easy to do. It's cheap and easily acquired. We're really working hard to develop methods to fight through that jamming. Also, lasers are coming along and blinding and dazzling capability exists today. Higher power lasers that would permanently damage our satellites are not that far off.
Anti-satellite weapons like the one tested by China in 2007 are a serious concern for us. This one test alone created thousands of pieces of debris we will be forced to deal with for decades. Imagine multiple ASATs used in conflict. If we don't come together, as a world community, to condemn this type of weapon, we face the very real threat of making low-earth orbit unusable for years.
Certainly, a nuclear detonation in space is the least likely scenario but it has the most severe consequences. A nation with nothing to lose might be tempted to use that option with devastating and long-term consequences for all of us.
In the past, our satellite programs have evolved with advances in enabling technology. As we walked through the history of our various constellations, you heard a recurring theme: technological advances pacing our progress. I'm convinced our future in the national security space sector will be driven much more by the threats in space, and by the need to operate through those threats during conflict. We're already rethinking how we use technology as a part of alternative architectures to operate in this new normal of a threatening domain.
With the exception of GPS, today's constellations are based on a small number of high-value assets and they were designed to meet our needs in a very different geopolitical and threat environment. These incredibly capable satellites are critical nodes which, if attacked, or if they suffer premature failure, the results are a high-impact loss of capability with extensive recovery time. In my mind, this literally screams that we must begin now to design different satellite constellations for tomorrow.
Disaggregation is but one example of the types of architectural approaches that could be implemented. For example, we might host a DoD payload on a commercial satellite or other host. We're also looking at a functional disaggregation, where sensors or sub-missions previously contained on a single satellite are dispersed across several smaller, less complex, and more affordable satellites. This distributed approach, we believe, will minimize the impact of losing a single asset, and it has the added benefit of complicating an adversary's targeting calculus-what I would call passive survivability. Or said another way, added resilience to our space missions. Multi-orbit architectures may make use of creative orbits that provide the same capabilities but minimize exposure to adversary threats. And finally, multi-domain solutions can take advantage of cooperative and synergistic use of air, land, sea, space and cyber assets. All of these concepts, and maybe others still to be conceived, may be part of our constellations of tomorrow. We are literally designing our future today. The status quo of today is simply not adequate for our future, in my mind.
We've made a lot of progress in maturing our thoughts on resilience and disaggregation. And we're now well along the way on several studies to define the best way to improve that resilience in many of our key capabilities.
The Weather Satellite Follow-on will blaze a new trail as a simpler and smaller system. We've conducted a study to consider international partnerships, hosted payloads or a new satellite to fulfill the needed weather satellite. Our Analysis of Alternatives has been forwarded to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council and we will continue to pursue the best option, or mix of options, to provide that weather data that's needed so much by our deployed forces.
We continue to improve and modernize navigation and timing with GPS III. We're building a more robust vehicle with a longer mission life and multiple signals to support both military and civilian users around the world. The first eight GPS III satellites are on contract and we look forward to them replacing failed satellites in our constellation. We're also looking at other ways to improve how we provide PNT--such as hosting navigation payloads on other satellites. Our continuing objective is to ensure GPS remains the gold standard for global space-based navigation and timing by providing highly reliable and accurate GPS signals to users around the world.
From an SSA viewpoint we have lots of room to improve. As I said earlier, current systems only track objects roughly the size of a softball. We're in source selection right now to build a Space Fence on Kwajalein. It will allow us to track and catalog significantly smaller objects and vastly will increase the number of objects that we can routinely track.
Of course, the mainstay of space operations is assured access. SpaceX and its Falcon rocket are working toward certification to compete for National Security Space missions. As we also look at Orbital Sciences and its Antares rocket, I'm intrigued by the prospect of competition in the space launch market. And the future of space launch could take many forms. Private ventures such as Virgin Galactic are on the cutting edge and may eventually have application to our operations as well.
That said, I remain very concerned about the state of our rocket propulsion industrial base. With the assistance of the Congress, we're looking at options to develop a new domestically produced engine. As you all know, a strong U.S. industrial base is key to innovation, competition and assured access to space.
Our evolution from the 1950s to the present has been about innovation. Incredible innovation by remarkable people like General Bennie Schriever, people like many of you here today. Innovation that has led to remarkable strides in space operations, transforming and becoming integral to military operations and daily life everywhere.
As I look around at this audience, I suspect some of you may have caught the space fever, like me, in the early days of space flight. Others of you are young enough to not even recall a world without GPS chips in your cell phones. Regardless, I think we all share a common and remarkable history of space innovation, and I really appreciate the opportunity to reminisce with you here today.
In my view, the challenge before us today is certainly different, but no less compelling than that our fellow Americans were given by President Kennedy over half a century ago. The architectural approaches to our satellite constellations we are designing now for fielding in the mid-2020s must adapt to a new situation.
Because we are now so dependent on space, we must balance required capability with affordability in this era of declining budgets. This is a tough mandate all by itself, but because of the new normal in space, we need to add the third complicating factor: the absolute necessity for resilience in a very challenged space environment. The nexus, or sweet spot, in this diagram, is our target. I believe our future demands we complete the detailed study work that will provide materiel solutions that give definition to that nexus, and I know our innovative space community is up to that task.
While this will be the last time you see me in uniform at this forum, rest assured that I will remain an avid and outspoken advocate and admirer of the work you do and the tremendous things that together, this Nation will accomplish. America needs your service, it needs your ideas, and it needs your dedication.
It has been the privilege of a lifetime serving alongside many of you, and for those of you I don't know personally, I thank you for serving with me in this exciting business of space.
Thank you very much.
General William L. Shelton, Commander, Air Force Space Command