February 24, 2014
Air Force’s ‘Neighborhood Watch’ Program Will Spy On Other Countries
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
General William Shelton said at the Air Force Association meeting in Orlando on Friday that the US will be launching satellites to spy on other countries.
The head of Air Force Space Command said at the event that the “neighborhood watch program” will provide spying capabilities, as well as added eyes in the sky to keep track of space debris while orbiting 22,300 miles above the Earth.
Shelton said the satellites will be used to find potential threats from other spacecraft, and will be used in collaboration with ground-based radars and optical telescopes. The Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) will be launched later this year when the two satellites are placed into orbit.
"GSSAP will present a significant improvement in space object surveillance, not only for better collision avoidance, but also for detecting threats," Shelton said in his speech. "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."
The satellites will support US Strategic Command space surveillance operations as a dedicated Space Surveillance Network sensor. According to the Air Force, GSSAP will provide more accurate tracking and characterization of man-made orbiting objects and will further enable space flight safety to include satellite collision avoidance.
"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," Shelton said.
The general said space and cyberspace are part of everything we do, and the demand for it has been higher than ever before because 170 countries now have a tangible interest in space, while 11 countries have launch capability.
Shelton moved on from space to talk about cyberspace and how it is different from any other domain. He said cyberspace creates a big advantage concerning how many people the military has to put in harm’s way.
"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,” Shelton said. “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.”
Currently, the Air Force Space Command is working on several tools to conduct cyberspace operations, including the potential for offensive cyber capability. Shelton said they are facing cyber challenges every day, and are ensuring the mission gets done in the “wild west” of cyberspace.
"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,” Shelton said. "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. We can't afford to wait ... for that catalyzing event that will prod us to action."