Space strategies, operations and technology go into hyperdrive: 5 stories from 2022

Surface of planet Earth in outer space.  Stars and milky way in the background.  Sci-fi space wallpaper.  Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Surface of planet Earth in outer space. (iStock via Getty)

WASHINGTON — The problem with space is that there is only so much There are, according to the late great Carl Sagan, “trillions and billions” of stars out there.

Even on a relatively minuscule scale, cislunar space, the vast stretches between the orbits of the Earth and the Moon that space operators around the world are eager to exploit, implies a distance of about 500,000 kilometers and, more importantly, , because spaceships do not travel. in a straight line, a volume of about 2 million kilometers, according to the 2021 manual from the Air Force Research Laboratory [PDF] about the region

Y as in 2021, there were too many stories this year in the little corner of the Breaking Defense Universe for me to come up with a top five list. So, find below a highly subjective roundup of those that were most interesting, or just plain fun to write and hopefully read.

[This article is one of many in a series in which Breaking Defense reporters look back on the most significant (and entertaining) news stories of 2022 and look forward to what 2023 may hold.]

1. The next energy frontier: a race for solar power from space?

Just about everyone who has met me knows that I am a fan of science fiction/fantasy. Therefore, I have a huge soft spot for innovative and revolutionary space technology ideas, even ones that are, well, fantastic. space-based solar power (SBSP) is such an idea, and one that the Pentagon has been half-heartedly toying with for 15 years.

But people can look back on 2022 as the year the SPSP research finally stopped raising skeptical eyebrows and took a small step toward reality. This story reviewed the many efforts by governments around the world, some with strong military interest, to demonstrate the viability of solar power transmission. In fact, since this story broke, the European Space Agency Council of Ministers has approved a feasibility study for its proposed SOLARIS SBSP project.

2. See in the dark: Space Force is slowly working to improve monitoring of the skies Y Key space monitoring sensors still rely on outdated CAVENet computer system

The decades-long saga of failures Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) Mission System (JMS) program to upgrade complex computer models and systems used by Space Command operators to control satellites and hazardous space debris is epic. Like the journey that led to this pack of stories that attempt to explain (as well as could be) the Space Force’s follow-up effort to pick up the pieces and implement a state-of-the-art hardware system and, more importantly, , , software to process data from telescopes and radars pointing to the sky. It’s a huge undertaking, and no one should envy the Space Systems Command.

3. To protect and perhaps defend: NRO, SPACECOM assess commercial satellite defense options

Since the inception of the Space Force in December 2019, there has been a debate about what role, if any, it should have in protect space trade. The complex political and legal issues involved have only become more acute as the reliance of both the US military and the intelligence community on commercial vendors and capabilities has increased. The issue became especially relevant this year due to the war in the Ukraine and the extent to which commercial communications and remote sensing capabilities proved indispensable to the defense of Kyiv. This story took a deep dive into the fundamental issues, most of which remain unresolved.

Four. EXCLUSIVE: The US Strategic Space Review has been closed, but an unclassified version will not arrive

For years, there has been a concerted campaign by top leaders in the homeland security space, especially the top brass, for the US government to stand up to what almost everyone agrees is a excessive classification problem with regard to all things space, one that is having increasing negative effects on the US ability to both preempt and deter adversaries. How’s that going? Not so good, as this headline makes clear.

5. UN committee backs US call for a moratorium on destructive ASAT missile tests

Last year’s “Five Stories” included the The initial promise of the Biden administration develop new international norms and rules for national security space activities designed to reduce the risks of “involuntary conflicts.” At the time, the prospect of a UN ban on destructive anti-satellite weapons (ASATs) was just a gleam in the starry eyes of optimists. But on November 1, the UN First Committee, responsible for peace and security affairs, took a step toward making that dream come true: It backed a US resolution urging all nations to suspend drug testing. ASAT missiles that create debris. (The UN General Assembly in full he did the same on December 7.) By the end of the year, nine other countries joined Washington in making such a pledge.

To be sure, ground-launched ASATs are not the only type of weapon that can create hazardous space debris. And the moratorium focuses on peacetime. testsnot in wartime wear, the latter of which the Pentagon has not ruled out entirely. Furthermore, only nine other countries have so far made a similar unilateral pledge, with adversaries the United States, Russia and China actively scorning the effort.

Still, for advocates, the UN move is a gift of hope for progress in preventing military competition in space from sparking war on Earth and safeguarding the space environment for the future. Here are more good news stories for the coming year!

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