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Space: Dispatches from the Garden of the Gods V

Published on:
May 15th 2016

State of Space 2016: How safe are we?

Foul weather swept Colorado as the conference was coming to a close. The last day assembled top generals from US, Canada, England, France, Colombia, Australia, New Zealand and more for a space security pow-wow.

“Space is hard, we have gaps,” Canada said.

“Almost everything depends on it. Both software and hardware,” UK chimed in.

The statements echoed a brief but emotional opening talk delivered shortly before by General John Hyten from the US Air Force Space Command. The concerned expression on his face gave everyone pause, making it evident we may be in more trouble than we realize.

“UK space command is too small, we have huge dependency on US,” said our British allies, adding:

“There is a huge change how Space security is viewed back home since 6 years. We need to understand our dependencies, we think we do, but do we?”

Canada wanted to synchronize the satellites: “First thing we do (in case of trouble) is we establish a no fly zone. Except above that, in Iraq or elsewhere, it’s business as usual. With collaboration we can fill those gaps with an order of magnitude,” rallied the general, who also used the occasion to apologize for recent Canadian hockey results.

“Thankfully satellites are more reliable than Canadian hockey,” chirped somebody to lift spirits.

It was Australia’s turn. “Huge landmasses separate our populations,” lamented the spokeswoman, “we need satellites and collaboration.”

New Zealand regretted that with a population of Kentucky and the size of Colorado, they are not currently a space faring nation. Being a speck in a big ocean with few neighbors, “our isolation makes us more, not less, reliant on Space,” assured the monarchy, but other than working for responsible use of Space and treaties for peaceful cooperation with like minded, “that’s all we can do, we are too small for anything else.”

Germany turned out big advocates for regulations, “Space may become prime target for attacks, we need to litigate,” said the chief for German Air and Space Operations. We need better sensors too, said the German speaker, and explained: “We don’t even know today if satellite technology goes bust because of collision with debris, or because of software attacks.”

It was added that sensors are further useful for re-entry prediction and to monitor suspicious activities such as strange Russian orbits (for example).

France reminded their first satellite went up 1965 and was named Asterix.

A slide came up showing a satellite that takes 120 images each day. A Chinese woman in the front row snapped a picture of that.

"We don’t want send our kids into a fair fight, we want overmatch."

Everyone on the panel said they want to partner with industry and academia for innovative solutions. They repeated urgent need for international cooperation but when time came to bring out the wallet all eyes were back on US.

General Bowen of US Army Space and Missile Defense took the lead. “70% of our army systems are space enabled,” he said, and then he added suddenly, “cooperation is important, even with US Air Force.”

Turned out there’s too much classified stuff, we have problems communicating information even within our own government. “Partnership is extremely important to us,” concluded the American, “we don’t want send our kids into a fair fight, we want overmatch, and Space gives us that.”

Most of all the panel agreed we need a new legislation of Space, which all of a sudden worried the explorer in me.

Tina Sjogren
Tina Sjogren
CEO & Founder
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The likable (and concerned) General John Hyten from the US Air Force Space Command showed up once more after his emotional speech, this time on the Cheyenne Mountain anniversary celebration.

In the movie Wargames, a kid accidentally hacks into a top secret super-computer which has complete control over the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The actual computer sits in Cheyenne Mountain which celebrated its 50th anniversary on April 20 this year. In image, Tom about to enter "America's Fortress."

The Goddard Space Flight Center's lists 2,271 satellites currently in orbit. With 1,324 satellites, Russia dominates, followed by the US at 658.