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Aviators Warned: Don’t Take Space For Granted

courtesy of www.ainonline.com

 – May 23, 2018, 9:18 AM

Defence Space
The UK’s first Defence Space conference was well-supported, including presentations from British ministers and senior officers, as well as many commercial companies. (Photo: Chris Pocock)

“We are now treating space as a key operational domain…and working to fully understand the risks,” said British defense procurement minister Guto Bebb. Royal Air Force (RAF) chief Sir Stephen Hillier went further: “We are at acute risk from those who might now seek to deny, degrade, and disrupt our capabilities,” he warned. More than one speaker referred to China’s anti-satellite missile test 11 years ago and to that country’s more recent rendezvous demonstration.

Speakers all agreed that this is a time of the most profound change in the space sector, with a huge increase in launches predicted, including new “horizontal” options from airborne platforms as well as new “vertical” options from conventional and reusable rockets. Nearly all of the growth is commercially driven and provided, rather than by governments. In particular, a revolution in small satellites has provided low-cost access to space for an ever-increasing number of companies and countries. This revolution has also contributed to a massive increase in available bandwidth and frequency spectrum, and a reduction in revisit rates that is of military significance, especially for ISR. So is the fast-developing provision of radar imagery and SIGINT from space by commercial providers.

Three British companies build about half of the global total of small satellites. Surrey Satellite Technology, part-owned by Airbus Defence & Space, recently claimed a world first by launching the first earth observation satellite that provides high-definition video as well as frames of imagery. The RAF was a prime driver of this concept demonstrator, designated Carbonite-2, and is one of two customers for its output, the other being a British commercial provider, Earth-i.

The conference coincided with news that British participation in Europe’s new Galileo GPS may be significantly limited by Brussels after the UK leaves the European Union. Having contributed so much to Galileo, and with a thriving space industry, the UK could potentially “go-it-alone” with an alternative GPS. This could provide the secure signal considered essential for military operations. But Bebb emphasized that the UK is “keen to remain a part of the Galileo project in which we were instrumental from the start.” And a government scientist refuted the notion that the UK could produce its own GPS for less than the cost of continued participation in Galileo.

During a discussion on the encryption of satellite communications, a senior British military officer noted that it is not yet clear how much of the predictive maintenance data for the F-35 stealth fighter would need to be protected, rather than be transmitted by open broadcast. The first Lightning II squadron is due to transfer from the U.S. to the UK next month. The jet’s Autonomic Logistics Information System has been the subject of much debate, especially concerning security.

The Defence Space 2018 conference was organized for the UK MoD by the Air Power Association. The APA is also organizing the 2018 Air Power Conference in London on July 11-12, which is expected to attract a gathering of senior air commanders from more than 50 countries.