Breakthrough Space Force Maneuvers

Mike Leslie
April 17, 2024

U.S. Space Force is partnering with Rocket Lab and True Anomaly for a mission to demonstrate how the military can counter "on-orbit aggression."

Inputs that matter: "When another nation puts an asset up into space, and we don't quite know what that asset is, we don't know what its intent is, we don't know what its capabilities are, we need the ability to go up there and figure out what this thing is," said Gen. Michael Guetlein, the Space Force's vice chief of space operations.

  • "If a near-peer competitor makes a movement, we need to have it in our quiver to make a counter maneuver," Guetlein said.

The opportunity: "We no longer have the luxury of time to wait years, even 10 or 15 years, to deliver some of these capabilities," Guetlein said in a January discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

  • We need "a tactically relevant timeline is a matter of weeks, days, or even hours."
  • "Victus Haze is about continuing to break those paradigms and to show how we would rapidly build a space domain awareness capability and operate it in real-time against a threat," Guetlein said.

Zoom in: "We recognize the significant opportunity to leverage the commercial space industry's innovations to counter China as America's pacing threat," said Col. Bryon McClain, Space Systems Command's program executive officer for space domain awareness and combat power.

  • "The United States has the most innovative space industry in the world. Victus Haze will demonstrate, under operationally realistic conditions, our ability to respond to irresponsible behavior on orbit."

Between the lines: The United States, Russia, and over 100 other states are parties to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST), which remains in force and can be understood as a de facto constitution for space operations.

  • Almost 60 years later, the OST's vague language regarding military limitations in space, as space policy expert Michelle L.D. Hanlon and Greg Autry highlight, "leave more than enough room for interpretation to result in conflict."
  • 2019, the Pentagon created the Space Force, an entirely new military branch "focused solely on pursuing superiority in the space domain."
  • DefenseNews reports, "Russia, China, India, and the United States have tested anti-satellite missiles, and several major world powers have developed technology meant to disrupt signals in space."

Follow the money: The new mission falls under the scope of Space Force's Assured Access to Space program, which aims to ensure "flexible, responsive, and reliable launch" -- lining up small space companies to launch rockets for the military on short notice.

  • Rocket Lab USA, Inc. announced that it has been selected for a $32M U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command (SSC) contracted to deliver the VICTUS HAZE Tactically Responsive Space (TacRS) mission.
  • Gizmodo describes the Electron rocket as "the first rocket with a full carbon-composite build and the Rutherford engine, the first 3D-printed and electrically pumped rocket engine."

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