Programs to Watch

By Lewis, Jeffrey | Arms Control Today, November 2004 | Go to article overview

Programs to Watch


Lewis, Jeffrey, Arms Control Today


The United States will spend about $3 billion in 2005 on space control and space force projection programs. More than 90 percent of this money, however, will supplement U.S. command, control, and intelligence systems. The Pentagon did seek a small amount of funding-$217 million in fiscal year 2005-for a handful of potential anti-satellite (ASAT) and space-based missile defense programs that some have called "space weapons." Congress appropriated about 60 percent of this money, or $133 million.

Experimental Satellite Series

The Experimental Satellite Series (XSS) is an Air Force research project that seeks to use small satellites to conduct "proximity operations"-maneuvers around other satellites in order to inspect, service, or attack.

The Air Force launched the first satellite in the series, the 28-kilogram XSS-10 in January 2003. The XSS-11 will be larger and will remain in orbit for one year, conducting proximity operations with multiple space objects. During some of these maneuvers, the XSS-11 will transmit real-time streaming video to ground stations. Proximity operations could also prove useful in the development of orbiting ASAT weapons. The "single strongest recommendation" of the informal Air Force 1999 Microsatellite Technology and Requirements Study, called for "the deployment, as rapidly as possible, of XSS-10-based satellites to intercept, image, and if needed, take action against, a target satellite."1

Funding for the XSS program probably comes out of $18.6 million for "autonomous microsatellite technologies."

Kinetic Energy Anti-Satellite (KEASAT) System

In 1989 the Army began to develop a direct-ascent, kinetic energy ASAT weapon (KEASAT), which could be launched by rocket booster to destroy a hostile satellite. The Department of Defense has transferred

control of the KEASAT to the Air Force but has not requested funds for the program for several years. Still, Congress occasionally makes funds available. As a result of episodic funding and disinterest from the Army leadership, the then-General Accounting Office (GAO) found the program "in a state of disarray" in December 2000. Still, the Pentagon regards the program as completed, and program officers reportedly believe they could conduct a demonstration in orbit for about $60 million.

Counterspace Systems

Counterspace systems is the principle research and development budget item for systems intended to disrupt enemy satellites.

One initiative is the Counter Communications System (CCS), a ground-based, mobile system intended to disrupt satellite-based communications used by an enemy for military purposes. The first CCS system was delivered to the 76th Space Control Squadron this year.

The account also includes the now-canceled Counter Surveillance Reconnaissance System (CSRS), a ground-based system designed to impair reconnaissance satellites with "reversible, non-damaging effects. …

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