USSPACECOM Outlines Requirements for Sustained Maneuver, ‘Dynamic Space Operations’

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U.S. Space Force Lt. Gen. John Shaw, deputy commander of U.S. Space Command, called upon commercial space professionals to be part of a solution that delivers U.S. Space Command sustained maneuver in his remarks at the 38th Space Symposium, April 19, 2023.

These in-domain platforms – called “dynamic space operations” platforms – aim to mitigate the effects of constraints imposed by USSPACECOM’s assigned area of responsibility by providing options like capabilities with on-orbit servicing or extended lifespans.

Our modern space environment demands these types of advancements, Shaw told industry leaders attending the Space Warfighters Luncheon. Today’s Third Space Age, Shaw explained, is characterized as the conjunction of national security, civil, and commercial sectors interwoven in an environment that is no longer free of threats. Though once benign, space has become an operational domain, and thus calls for updated platforms and systems built for such an evolution.

“We do not sustain maneuver in the space domain very well today,” Shaw said. “We need to find a way to do that, to get to the point where I don’t have to plan out my fuel for satellites.”

Though the requisition for these capabilities specifically pertaining to space is relatively novel, Shaw cited examples of logistical innovations throughout history, technological advancements resulting from the constraints placed upon military operational domains.

“In the 1930’s they realized, if we’re going against a peer adversary, we’re going to have to be able to move quickly,” Shaw said, describing the development of refueling operations at sea. “In order to be able to do continuous maneuver, sustained maneuver in the maritime domain, you need to be able to replenish your diesel at sea.”

This type of sustained maneuver, Shaw asserted, is particularly necessary for the combatant command that’s responsible for protecting and defending a domain that’s growing increasingly more contested and congested.

“It allows you to achieve surprise against your enemy, come in close contact near your enemy, and outmaneuver your enemy,” he said.

Designing such platforms may sound like the content of science fiction movies, but USSPACECOM’s has set the target for an operational demonstration by 2026. Just as the U.S. military overcame the logistical hurdles of previously unexplored domains, USSPACECOM looks forward to employing the creative and innovative solutions that its industry partners will no doubt bring to life.