• Wed. May 18th, 2022

Geospatial intelligence is in high demand at the Space Force

ByKarol Donimirski

May 11, 2022

The US Space Force intends to request financing for space-based espionage, reconnaissance and surveillance in the 2024 budget. At the 2022 GEOINT Symposium here, Lt. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, US Space Force deputy chief of the space operations, remarked.

The US military is seeking geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) to follow objects and activity in space after decades of focus on collecting GEOINT (geospatial intelligence) from space. Saltzman added, “I suppose many of you would characterize our desire thus far as insatiable.  I can tell you that it’s just going to get bigger.  We’ll continue to be demanding clients, and what we really require from GEOINT is persistence on the ground and in space to prepare for possible contacts or conflicts.”

Saltzman spoke about the rising threat to US spacecraft and also the services they offer, like GPS, during a keynote speech near the end of the GEOINT Symposium. Saltzman mentioned Russian anti-satellite tests, China’s hypersonic glide vehicle test, cyberattacks on terrestrial nodes, radio frequency interference, and “provocative on-orbit antisatellite demonstrations, as launching bullets” as examples. Furthermore, he stated that possible enemies “have developed powerful space-based targeting capabilities which put our joint force at risk.”

Saltzman proposed training and equipping US personnel to attribute reckless or aggressive actions in space, as well as strengthening space-based ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) to combat these threats.

“The reason your Space Force was founded was to protect and defend our space-based assets, as well as to safeguard our joint force from unethical or hostile utilization of space-based capabilities,” Saltzman added. “To operate and triumph in a competitive space domain versus a thinking foe, our guardians need to be trained and equipped.  Failure to preserve our ability to attribute an action, neutralize threats, and safeguard interests erodes our leadership, deters aggressiveness, undermines responsible conduct standards, and increases the risk of miscalculation and war.”

Saltzman realized the need for attribution while serving as a US Air Force officer in the Middle East.

“I’ve witnessed firsthand how the capacity to assign operations affects opponent behavior before the operations are ever carried out,” Salzman said. “To summarize, the capacity to attribute deters or, at the very minimum, constrains opponents.”

“Bad actors” in the Middle East, according to Saltzman, would “dismantle their attack systems and flee because they noticed us observing and didn’t want to be associated with the attack.” There would be fiscal and resource tradeoffs in case the Space Force took on attribution as a military mission, Saltzman said, “but I think it’s worthy of a community-wide conversation.”

Whether or not attribution becomes a new mission for the Space Force, the military is committed to improving space-based ISR. “We’re currently examining our potential involvement in space-based ISR,” Saltzman explained.

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