Protecting U.S. Space Assets Critical: Space Command Established in Response to Russian and Chinese Threats

On August 29th, 2019, the Pentagon established Space Command, which will be responsible for overseeing the military’s space operations. This comes following Russia and China’s new alliance, from which they will work toward the interoperability of their two navigation systems—GLONASS and Beidou.

According to Air Force General and Commander of Space Command John Raymond, these two nations pose a serious threat to the stability of the United States Global Positioning System as the leading Global Navigation System.

“Our adversaries have had a front-row seat to our many successes of integrating space [into warfighting],” stated General Raymond during a briefing at the Pentagon, “and they are developing capabilities to negate our access to space.”

This threat is certainly not new, however, as U.S. officials have kept a watchful eye on Russia and China’s positions in the space domain for years. In 2016, previous U.S. Air Force General John Heyton cited Russia and China as threats to United States’ GPS, claiming that these two nations were planning to shoot down American military satellites with missiles and lasers.

In 2007, China launched an anti-satellite missile into the air, destroying one of its low-earth-orbiting satellites and eliciting concern from global officials.

In 2018, during a NATO exercise in Finland and Norway, airway navigation authorities detected GPS jamming, the source of which was determined to be Russia. And on August 21st, 2019, as Russian President Vladimir Putin left the Helsinki Airport to visit Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at the Presidential Palace, various GPS disruptions occurred on users’ phones. When Putin arrived at his destination, however, disruptions ceased.

In addition to these incidents, the U.S. Shipping Industry has faced several GPS disruptions this summer in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Mediterranean Sea.

One of the Pentagon’s chief concerns is the GPS jamming capabilities of Russia and China. Space Command’s primary goal, according to General Raymond, is to prevent these two nations from challenging American space assets.

One of its other chief priorities is to expand America’s partnerships with other nations.

Britain recently enlisted in Operation Olympic Defender, an American-led coalition whose goal is to strengthen the capability for allies to prevent hostile actions from rivals in space. Currently, the United States allies with the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia in its Combined Space Operation Center. But according to General John Raymond, this isn’t enough. “Historically, we haven’t needed to have allies in space,” he stated. But the United States is working toward new partnerships to expand its space allies because working with allies will “provide our country a big advantage. We’re stronger together.”

In addition to this, President Trump hopes to establish a Space Force as the sixth military branch. According to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Space Command is the next step in establishing Space Force.

The United States has taken several steps toward strengthening and protecting its Global Positioning System. Not only has it established Space Command, which will work specifically to negate Russia and China’s threats, but it has also begun testing GPS alternatives, which will ensure that our system is impervious to jamming and spoofing.

Alternative signals, like Satelles’ Satellite Time and Location (STL), which complements GPS when signals are disrupted, will keep GPS as the leading Global Navigation System. Our signals, which are derived from 66 low-earth-orbiting Iridium satellites, are 1,000 times stronger than those of GPS. Satelles signals provide dependable accuracy and work in GPS-challenged environments, penetrating indoor environments and operating across multiple platforms.

“To ensure the protection of America’s interests in space,” stated Esper, “we must apply the necessary focus, energy, and resources to the task, and that is exactly what Space Command will do.”

Sources: https://www.stripes.com/news/us/pentagon-establishes-space-command-lobbies-for-space-force-with-eyes-on-russia-china-1.596537, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/08/29/trump-officially-launches-us-space-command-counter-russia-china-threats/, https://www.defensenews.com/space/2019/09/03/increasing-allied-role-in-space-a-priority-for-space-command-head/