Air Force Space Command boss Gen.
The new plan for space is driven by an increase in the number of space-faring nations and the fear that the first shots in the next war could be fired high above Earth.
"We've seen this coming for a long time in space," Shelton said.
But the fix Shelton sought required asking hard questions about what America was sending into space and how it was being protected.
"How do we make ourselves survivable in light of what is a very challenging space domain going forward?" Shelton asked.
Until a few years ago,
Losing satellites could be crippling to any American war effort. Troops relay on satellites for weapons guidance, navigation, communications and intelligence.
Some new weapons systems, including drone aircraft, won't function without satellites.
"We can no longer believe space is a peaceful sanctuary," Shelton said.
The general sought to change the way the
Now, Shelton says, America needs big numbers of smaller, less capable satellites, which in concert can do the job of their bigger, more complex cousins.
Because there would be a lot more of them, the smaller birds would form a self-healing network that would be able to weather the early stages of a space war.
"There has been this national consensus," he said.
The second part of Shelton's plan is taking shape, too. In July, Space Command launched a satellite to spy on other satellites and watch for space attacks.
The recently declassified Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program uses those satellites to give Space Command bosses a better picture of what's going on in orbit and could gather intelligence to warn of an attack or avert it.
That, combined with new ground-base sensors such as the Space Fence radar being built on a
The command is struggling with other issues in Shelton's last days. Debate is raging over the use of Russian rocket motors used on the Atlas boosters used in some
Space Command is considering plans for a new American motor or launches using other rockets until tensions with
"I can tell you, there are lots of mitigation studies underway," Shelton said.
The command also faces years of budget austerity, Shelton said.
Shelton said he's happy to be leaving Space Command in the hands of a smart subordinate whose equipped to deal with the challenges ahead.
Shelton is leaving the command but won't be far away. He's retiring in
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