USA: The Department of Defence (DoD) is creating a new Space Development Agency (SDA) oversee the development of sensors and weapons to counter advances by Russia and China, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a memo published on Thursday.
“Continuing actions by our near-peer competitors, China and Russia, suggest that they will attempt to deny, degrade or destroy US space capabilities, and are designing strategic and tactical weapons that are not easily detected, identified, or tracked by legacy National Security Space (NSS) systems”, Shanahan said in the memo, which was distributed to senior defence officials earlier in the week.
“Our existing space acquisition system is not responding to this new threat environment at the pace now being set by our adversaries”. The SDA’s mission will be to “define and monitor” future threat-driven space architecture and accelerate development while reducing bureaucratic overlap and inefficiency, the memo said.
The directive mentioned a need for space-based offensive weapons without elaborating, while offering some detail of a sensor and communications network that would form the system’s basic architecture.
“The foundation of this architecture will be a massively proliferated sensor and communications transport layer in low-Earth orbit”, the memo said. “Proliferation of space assets and the collateral distribution of command and control renders any given satellite a less attractive target”.
Eventually, the SDA would be transferred to the proposed US Space Force, which must be approved by Congress, according to the memo.
The Department of Defence said in a report in August 2018 that the US Space Force’s capability development efforts will focus on global surveillance for missile targeting and other priorities. The report also claimed Russia and China as alleged key threats to US space capabilities.
The 1967 Outer Space Treaty, approved by more than 100 countries, bans deploying weapons of mass destruction in outer space and prohibits military activities on celestial bodies. According to the Arms Control Association, although the treaty details legally binding rules governing the peaceful exploration of space, it does not ban all weapons and military activities.