X‑37 Lessons Learned Could Help Space Force Define Future Capabilities

 In U.S. Air Force, Defense, Cyber/ICT, Space, Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste

The Space Force is already think­ing about future space­planes and other plat­forms that will suc­ceed those now in ser­vice, though the near-term focus will be on making exist­ing capa­bil­i­ties more resilient, Lt. Gen. Chance B. Saltzman, deputy chief of space oper­a­tions for oper­a­tions, cyber, and nuclear, said in an AFA Mitchell Institute vir­tu­al event Oct. 16.

The two X‑37B reusable unmanned space­planes that have col­lec­tive­ly amassed years in orbit con­duct­ing oper­a­tional and tech­no­log­i­cal exper­i­ments will likely not be replaced with some­thing just like them, Saltzman said.

“We’ve gotten a lot of great util­i­ty out of both of those vehi­cles,” he said, citing lessons learned about “how to apply a reusable vehi­cle, how to get the most out of it, how to [refur­bish] it.” Those lessons will “live for­ev­er, and we’re going to try to apply those as much as we can.”

Saltzman said he doubts the X‑37s will be replaced with some­thing iden­ti­cal. 

“That seems kind of, ‘status quo,’” he observed, noting that the approach will likely follow former Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein’s maxim that, “We want to get to ‘new-new,’ not just ‘new-old.’”

The X‑37Bs are “an exam­ple, maybe, [of] tech­nol­o­gy that has served its pur­pose and it’s time to start look­ing at the next avail­able capa­bil­i­ty. But the lessons learned from a reusable vehi­cle cer­tain­ly will apply to what­ev­er we do going for­ward.” He couldn’t offer specifics, except to say, “I can tell you we’re look­ing at it from a broad­er lens than just trying to enhance an older capa­bil­i­ty and tech­nol­o­gy.”

Asked if Space Force’s first “new” plat­forms will be of a reusable, on-orbit satel­lite service/refuel type, Saltzman sug­gest­ed such sys­tems may already be in place.

“We’ve been doing this a long time and we’ve got a lot of capa­bil­i­ties. We’re not new to the space effects for warfight­ers … What’s ‘first’ is prob­a­bly a rel­a­tive term.”

In terms of new plat­forms “under the Space Force banner,” Saltzman said, “We’re still devel­op­ing our warfight­ing con­struct, and it takes a while to … resource it … and buy the right sys­tems.” Near-term projects will be “enhance­ments to exist­ing capa­bil­i­ties,” such as new GPS satel­lites, enhanced Extremely High Frequency sys­tems, “new capa­bil­i­ties to pro­tect and defend, and maybe new satel­lites that will be more resilient than the big tar­gets they’ve been in the past. That’s going to be our near-term focus.”

Air Force Magazine source|articles

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