The U.S. Air Force will launch a pair of “minesweeping” satellites into orbit Friday.
Both satellites will watch for attacks on the U.S. fleet of military reconnaissance and intelligence satellites by smaller “space mines” which could sneak up to a national security satellite to disable it.
“The space domain has increasingly become congested, contested, and competitive,” Lt. Sarah Burnett, a spokeswoman for Air Force Space Command, told ScienceWorldReport. “Some countries have clearly signaled their intent and ability to conduct hostile operations in space as an extension of the terrestrial battlefield.”
Department of Defense officials suspect both Russia and China are developing space weapons capable of knocking out U.S. satellites in any future conflict, giving them a potentially catastrophic edge in war.
Both Russia and China, have developed capabilities to attack American space assets. The Chinese successfully targeted and destroyed one of their own satellites in orbit in 2007 and likely tested a ground-based missile launch system to destroy objects in orbit in 2013.
“Despite world interest in avoiding militarization of space, potential adversaries have identified the use of space as an advantage for U.S. military forces, and are actively fielding systems to deny our use of space in a conflict,” Gen. John Hyten, commander of Air Force Space Command, wrote in a white paper published in July. “Securing our right to use space is simply an extension of an age old principle to guarantee use of global commons.”
The Air Force has already vowed to invest $6.6 billion into efforts to protect American satellites over the next six years, and could spend upwards of $10 billion on space operations from combined public and classified budgets this year, according to The Air Force Times.
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