NEW YORK, New York –
“Welcome to the Third Space Age,” said Lt. Gen. Shaw, U.S. Space Command deputy commander, during The 5th Summit for Space Sustainability. “I think it’s a helpful framework to describe many of the dynamics that we’re seeing today in the space environment.”
The 5th Summit for Space Sustainability hosted by the Secure World Foundation invited Shaw to its conference in New York June 14, 2023, to talk about military space activities and USSPACECOM’s role and mission.
Space sustainability and security has evolved since the First and Second Space Age – when the U.S. space mission was still primarily focused on national security activities, strategic space capabilities and scientific discovery. While the Second Space Age brought to light the need to drive security capabilities down to the tactical level amid a benign space environment, the Third Space Age brings new threats to the space domain.
“We now have to face the idea that we may have threats in the domain to our space capabilities on which our joint warfighters and our society is more reliant than ever before,” Shaw said.
Today, space includes increased commercial activity, which drives society and the economy. This increased dependence on space assets raises challenges in all domains – space, sea, air, land and cyber. USSPACECOM is responsible for addressing the challenges of security in space.
“We're responsible for understanding what's going on in that environment, understanding what threats exist there, and protecting and defending our capabilities accordingly. So, that's why we have a U.S. Space Command,” Shaw said.
From a sustainability perspective, USSPACECOM has taken on the role of establishing responsible behaviors in space. Space sustainability is an important tenet USSPACECOM uses to guide its space activities and USSPACECOM has been a big proponent of working with other space-faring nations to ensure space remains a safe and secure place to operate in.
“Much of what we do is really focused on transparency and understanding what's happening in the domain to ensure safe and secure operations, not only for our capabilities, but for everybody’s.”
Shaw urged the audience to think about the “continuity of operations as a spectrum of operations” in order to understand the balance of security and transparency.
“We need to find the right balance between (security) and the sharing of what's actually happening in the environment,” Shaw said. “If we're doing our job right, then we deter that bad day from ever happening in the first place. That's another reason why you have the U.S. Space Command. If other nations are going to threaten us in space, ignoring that is not an option.”
Understanding what’s happening in space is not only an integral part of security, but an important part of sustainability. Shaw provided an analogy to the U.S. Coast Guard’s domain to drive his point.
“I imagine there's not a single official in the U.S. Coast Guard that would want to see navigational hazards on the high seas – oil slicks or other kinds of problems,” Shaw said. “I would just say that same spirit infuses what we're finding in the U.S. Space Command, that is keeping the domain sustainable for all.”
Shaw gave examples of how the Department of Defense and USSPACECOM are executing those responsibilities through tracking and cataloguing objects in space and working with commercial industries to modernize both the way satellites deorbit and, in the future, how to extend the life and upgrade a satellite so that it can continuously maneuver in space.
“U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command are interested in sustainability. It's part of our mission. It's part of what we need to do to make the space domain sustainable, safe and secure. I think it’s our responsibility to encourage economic investment in the domain because that’s how we’re really going to move forward – as a society, as a planet, as secure worlds,” Shaw said.