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Sat, Feb 15, 2003

DOD Space Ops Still Looking For Direction

Teets: "Space Assets More Important To Warfighters Than Ever"

America needs a roadmap to ensure future success, the Defense Department's executive agent for space said earlier this week.

Peter B. Teets, undersecretary of the Air Force and director of the National Reconnaissance Office (right), discussed the country's top national security space priorities at a media roundtable conference at the NRO headquarters here.

"Any discussion of priorities needs to start with the notion of ensuring mission success in space operations," he said. "Our space assets are now probably more important to warfighters, more important to our ability to win the global war on terrorism than they ever have been."

According to Teets, there have already been two successful national security space launches in 2003, with 12 more scheduled. There was only one last year.

Therein Lies The Rub

The key to maintaining the schedule, he said, is a viable fleet of launch vehicles. The United States currently uses the Atlas V and Delta IV evolved expendable launch vehicles to boost spacecraft into orbit.

"It's important to have two EELVs ... as independent as possible so, in the event one of them suffers a launch failure ... (it) won't bring the ... program to a halt while we get to the root cause, make the fix and get back into space again," he said.

While the current vehicles are the best the nation has ever had, Teets said he is looking for better things to come.

"If we're going to have operational, responsive, assured access to space, we need to (reduce launch preparation) time from weeks and months down to hours and days," he said.

Smaller, Better, Faster, Cheaper

To accomplish that goal, Teets said he is expecting to see smaller launch vehicles than can be erected on the launch pad, bolted to a spacecraft and fueled by a tanker truck.

Other goals on the agenda include developing a cadre of space professionals, integrating space capabilities for warfighting and intelligence, getting space acquisition programs back on track and refocusing on science and technology programs.

"Breakthrough technologies are going to allow us to collect our adversaries' secrets without their knowing they're being collected," Teets said. "If we're going to win this global war on terrorism, we're going to have to get ourselves in position where we can collect information about (terrorist groups). We need to find out where they are, what they're thinking (and) what they're plotting."

Equally important, he said, is enhancing the nation's space control capability.

"Our space systems give us a very significant capability advantage," Teets said. "There's no doubt in my mind that our adversaries have taken note of that, so it's going to be important for us to put meaningful resources against, first of all, space situation awareness."

What's Up There?

According to the undersecretary, the first step in defending America's space assets is knowing more about what else is up there.

"We track objects, but we don't know an awful lot about what all those objects may be," he said. "We need to get a better handle on (that), then we need to implement some defensive measures."

Teets said the first space situational awareness measures would include attack-warning sensors, but the nation needs to pursue offensive space capabilities as well.

"The fact is that we're going to want to, if necessary, deny an adversary their use of space," he said. "Offensive space capability is something I think we need to start to work on."



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