Between the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War and last week’s high-profile Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) announcement regarding a cislunar transportation system, Space Force brass were in high demand this week at conferences and on mainstream media. Space Command head Gen. John Raymond was particularly quotable, and SpaceX got kudos aplenty for the showing of their Starlink satellite technology in the Ukrainian theatre. Read on for all the week’s Space Force news…
Gen. Dickinson, SpaceX president on Starlink tech in Ukraine
During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, March 8, U.S. Space Command head Gen. James Dickinson had some high praise for Starlink technology, particularly within the framework of intelligence in Ukraine.
“What we’re seeing with Elon Musk and the Starlink capabilities is really showing us what a mega-constellation or a proliferated architecture can provide in terms of redundancy and capability,” told Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and the committee. Kaine responded that Starlink was an exemplar of “private actors in space entering into contested environments.” The senator also asserted that Russian forces have been “trying to jam the signals and block coverage” in Ukraine.
The previous day, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell stated at the California Institute of Technology that Starlink had been waiting to establish capacity in Ukraine since early January 2022: “We had been working with the Ukrainians for a month and a half or so,” Shotwell said, “on trying to get permission – landing rights – to lay down capacity in Ukraine” as part of an expansion of Starlink’s services in Europe.
On February 26, two days after Russian troops advanced into Ukrainian territory, minister Mykhailo Fedorov tweeted to Musk himself for assistance to Ukraine’s military forces:
@elonmusk, while you try to colonize Mars – Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space – Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people! We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand.— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) February 26, 2022</a >
SpaceX did not have formal permission to enable Starlink services in the area, “But then they tweeted,” said Shotwell, and “There’s our permission. They tweeted at Elon and so we turned it on.” Sources: (Futurist Journal, Space News, Twitter)
Gen. Raymond: Access to cislunar space is top priority
At the McAleese conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 9, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. Raymond discussed plans by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to develop defense in cislunar space.
“[A]s the nations of the world go further out from Earth, so is the Space Force going to have to do that,” said Gen. Raymond, “We have to be able to ensure that we can provide capabilities for our nation and for our joint coalition forces–it’s critical for the defense of all of our forces. If you were to look at the force structure of any other service, and if you took space away from it, that doesn’t close. They’re all built around having that assured access. That’s priority #1.”
When asked if Guardians might soon be literally based in space, Raymond speculated a bit. “…as things progress in space, I do see that there may be a role for Guardians that will be in space. So I think that will happen [within] the career timeframe of the Guardians that are coming into service right now.” Source: Air Force Magazine.
Gen. Raymond to CNBC: “space has become a war-fighting domain”
USSC head Gen. John Raymond got 4½ good minutes on a CNBC “Technology” segment on Wednesday, March 9, to discuss the role of space and space defense in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, as well as touching upon the importance of technological resilience. The interview in full runs below. Source: YouTube.
USSF Chief Master Sergeant to OSI
The Office of Special Investigations (OSI) this week reported a visit by a Space Force notable: On Tuesday, March 8, USSF Chief Master Sergeant Roger A. Towberman, known as the top enlisted Space Force Guardian visited the Russell Knox Building.
OSI command chief Sgt. Gregg Gow, said to be a personal friend of Towberman’s, was on hand for the tour, telling media that “Airmen and Guardians are committed to protecting the nation’s security, side-by-side, and walking along the halls of OSI headquarters with [the CMSSF] exemplifies our continuing partnership.”
OSI reportage stated that “As part of the immersive tour, Towberman saw firsthand how OSI addresses these various priorities, from how the agency’s crime fighters take on criminal investigations, fraud, counterintelligence, cyber, special projects and anti-terrorism specialty team missions.” Source: OSI official site.
“Semper Soon”: The Space Force’s “Catch-22”?
For nearly as long as the Space Force has been in existence, military-centered media outlets have noted a certain lack of recognition of the newest military branch of service. But this week, Military.com reported that an least one expression of the collective cynicism within the USSF is growing.
The expression “Semper Soon” is reportedly now widespread among Guardians as a catch-all phrase which “explains” the lack of policies and procedures, some as basic as dealing with physical training assessments, apparently still rife within the Space Force. And on a Reddit page entitled (what else but) Semper Soon, a “draft website to keep track of when USSF leadership has estimated updates, tracks (non-)delivery on basic regs such as uniform standards and promotions.
Stated one anonymous Guardian in Military.com: “I think [Semper Soon] was a self-soothing mechanism by slapping something clever onto our motto that answers seemingly everything. I leaned more into it when there wasn’t a lot of communication from leadership.” Source: Military.com, Reddit.