ORLANDO — As the U.S. Space Force takes steps to make its satellites more resilient against an enemy attack or a mishap in space, the service’s launch enterprise is making similar moves on the ground.
Col. Mark Shoemaker, vice commander for operations at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Space Launch Delta 45, said the service is “taking analytical steps” and building operational concepts to ensure its launch ranges can operate in adverse conditions, including national disasters or enemy attacks.
“Whether the degraded environment . . . is a hurricane or a powerline goes down off of our complex or there’s some other activity that goes on – by whatever means it arrives, we need to be able to operate through that,” he said Feb. 21 at the Space Force’s inaugural Space Mobility Conference in Orlando. “We can’t shut down the cape for weeks and months at a time.”
Florida’s Eastern Range, home to Cape Canaveral and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, launches civil, commercial and national security rockets. The complex is the world’s busiest launch range — and if trends hold, it will only get busier. The Space Force projects the range will support 92 launches this year, up from 57 in 2022 and 31 in 2021.
Shoemaker said that while the launch capability at the Eastern Range is secure and reliable, it’s also consolidated. To improve resiliency as launch rates increase, he said, the U.S. government must ensure that all of its spaceports offer the same level of security and reliability.
“Much like when you travel in an airport in the United States . . . you trust that the security is going to be there and you can do what you need to do, we’re going to need all of that in spades from a space access perspective,” Shoemaker said. “Those are the kinds of things we’re thinking about.”
Along with its internal work, the Space Force is also part of a National Spaceport Interagency Working Group created in 2022 to, among other tasks, develop a strategy to make U.S. spaceports more resilient and interoperable. The group also includes representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, the departments of state and commerce and NASA.
Maj. Gen. Purdy, the head of the Space Force’s launch enterprise, told C4ISRNET in a Feb. 13 email that the group expects to complete a draft of its spaceport strategy this year.
Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.