Evolving US space strategy in the face of growing rivalry with China and Russia
The prospect of battles in space, as an extension of wars that may be fought on Earth, seeking to interfere with the capabilities provided by satellites, has led the Trump Administration to promote a specific division of the US Armed Forces dedicated to this domain, the US Space Force. Although its constitution has yet to be approved by the congress, the new Pentagon component will already have its own budget.
▲ The X-37B orbital vehicle in operations at test in 2017, at Kennedy Space [US Air Force].
article / Ane Gil
More than 1,300 active satellites encircle the globe today, providing global communications, GPS navigation, weather forecasting and planetary surveillance. The need to protect them from attack, which could seriously disrupt countries' national security, has become a priority for major powers.
Since he arrived at the White House, Donald Trump has insisted on his idea of creating a Space Force, giving it the same rank as the five existing branches of the Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard). Trump signed the directive for the creation of the US Space Force on 19 February, the final approval of which has yet to be given at congress. It would be the first military branch to be created in the United States since 1947, when the Air Force was launched. The Pentagon expects it to be operational by 2020.
As US Vice President Mike Pence announced almost a year ago, this new Space Force will have its own facilities, although for the time being it will draw on the support and resources of the Air Force. According to Pence, the Space Force's goal is intended to deal with alleged threats from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran in space. Although its ultimate aim is specifically to contain Russia and China, who for some years now have been developing their own methods of conquering space.
Obama-era strategy reports
The Trump Administration has called for such a military specialization in space in the face of China and Russia's skill in the same domain, which during the Obama Administration was still embryonic. However, while during Barack Obama's presidency the White House placed less emphasis on military developments in space capabilities, it also sought to promote the US presence in space.
In the 2010 National Space Policy of 2010, in a rather inclusive essay , the United States defended the right of all nations to explore space and called for all countries to be able to work together to ensure respectful space activity manager in an framework of international cooperation. The policy that was then being set looked primarily to the commercial and civilian dimension of space, where the US aspired to strengthen its leadership.
The document did, however, include a section on security. Thus, it made reference letter the need to develop and operate information systems and networks that provide national security coverage, facilitating defence and intelligence operations both in times of peace and in times of crisis and conflict. In addition, it called for the development and implementation of plans, procedures, techniques and capabilities to ensure critical national security missions, using space assets while taking advantage of non-space capabilities of allied countries or private companies.
What was presented there in a more generic way, the Obama Administration fleshed out in a subsequent strategy document, the 2011 National Security Space Strategy of 2011, in which space was presented as a vital area for US national security. The text warned that space is "increasingly congested, contested and competitive", which urged the US to try to maintain its leadership, but without neglecting the international partnership to make space a safe, stable and secure place.
The document then set out strategic objectives and approaches. Specifically, the US aimed to "provide enhanced space capabilities" in order to improve system procurement, reduce the risk of mission failure, increase launch success and system operability, and train national security professionals to support all these space activities.
Another stated objective was to "prevent and deter aggression against the space infrastructure that supports US national security", which at its core included denying adversaries the significant benefits of an attack by strengthening the resilience of their systems architecture. However, the document specified that the US retains the right to respond in self-defence if deterrence fails.
Precisely in the latter case, the strategic text called for preparing one's capabilities to "defeat attacks and operations in a degraded environment". It indicated that military and intelligence capabilities must be prepared to "combat" and defeat attacks on their space systems and support infrastructure.
China and Russia's rivalry in the Trump era
Donald Trump became US president with his motto "America First", which he has also applied to space strategy, prioritising US interests in a context of increased rivalry with Beijing and Moscow. His space policy emphasises the dynamic and cooperative interaction between the military, civilian and commercial interests, respectively, of the Pentagon, NASA and private companies interested in extra-atmospheric spaceflight.
The first national security strategy document of the Trump era is the National Security Strategy (NSS) of December 2017. National Security Strategy (NSS) of December 2017. reference letter Although report barely mentions space, the text declares China and Russia to be "rivals", giving the US an opportunity to confront the opposing interests of these countries, also outside the Earth. The NSS proclaims that the US must maintain its "leadership and freedom of action in space", and warns of the risk of "other actors" achieving the capability to attack US space assets and thus gaining an "asymmetric advantage". "Any harmful interference or attack against critical components of our space architecture that directly affects this vital US interest will be met with a deliberate response in a time, place, manner and domain of our choosing," the document warns.
Some of these military issues are further elaborated in the Pentagon's report . In the April 2018 Space Operations document, the military leadership notes that several nations are making significant advances in offensive space control capabilities, with the intention of challenging the use of space by the US and its allies by threatening their space assets. It therefore advocates the importance of off-ground operations, which have the goal purpose of securing and defending space capabilities against the aggressive activities of others.
"Our adversaries' progress in space technology," notes report, "not only threatens the space environment and our space assets, but may also deny us an advantage if we lose space superiority". To mitigate these risks and threats, the US is committed to "planning and conducting defensive and offensive operations".
The broad outlines of Trump's space policy are set out in the March 2018 National Space Strategy document. National Space Strategy of March 2018. It is a policy based on four pillars: reinforcing space architectures; strengthening deterrence and warfighting options; improving foundational capabilities, Structures and processes; and fostering enabling domestic and international environments.
Directives and budget
In addition to the security aspects already noted, the Trump Administration has also expressed a desire to "promote space commerce" by "simplifying and updating regulations for commercial space activity to strengthen competitiveness".
To oversee these activities, which open up the space business to US private companies and at the same time set a horizon for mineral exploitation of asteroids and planets, Trump revived the White House's National Space committee in June 2017, 24 years after it was disbanded. In December 2017 Trump signed Space Police Directive-1, which ordered NASA to send US astronauts to the Moon once again, and in June 2018 he signed a directive on the management of traffic in space (Space Policy Directive-3). The fourth directive is the one signed in February 2019 for the creation of the Space Force.
Trump's new policy has not been immune to criticism, as it is argued that erecting the Space Force as an additional division of the Armed Forces could weaken the resources of other divisions, putting the country at risk in the event of an attack or emergency on Earth. In fact, General James Mattis, secretary of defence during 2017 and 2018, publicly expressed some reluctance at first, although he later began to implement the president's plans.
agreement According to data provided at the recent presentation of the budgets for the next fiscal year, the Space Force could have a staff of 830 people (divided between the Headquarters, the Space Agency development and the Space Command, which will require 300 million dollars for its installation) and a budget of about 2 billion during the first five years. At the end of those five years it could have a payroll of 15,000 people.