Skating ahead of the puck, in space

In sport, it is harder to imagine equipment with a tougher life than a hockey puck. It survives on the ice because it is made from rubber. To an engineer like Dr. Peter Wegner, former head of the Defense Department’s Office of Operationally Responsive Space, it is a perfect model of resilience. An understanding of resilience is especially important when it comes to America’s national security policy toward military and commercial satellites.

Dr. Wegner, currently Director of Advanced Concepts at Utah State University Space Dynamics Laboratory, and Charles Miller, a former NASA advisor who is president of NexGen Space LLC, joined an American Security Project panel in Washington on Thursday to talk about the asymmetric threats to U.S. space assets. It’s a long list, from Chinese anti-satellite missiles to errant space junk to determined hackers. Given how fragile and vulnerable satellites are, and how dependent the military is upon them, America needs a far more robust launch capability in order to replace those systems when they are inevitably damaged or destroyed during a crisis. That has not happened yet, but it is certain to.

Relying on past approaches will not work. What is needed is a national security space strategy that emphasizes affordable, and dynamic, space launch that leverages new entrants from the commercial market. A fragile system, a sort of glass puck, will fail us when we need it most. There are options today that will help, from shorter-lifespan small satellites to giving commercial space launch operators a better shot at the national security market. The larger question is how does the Defense Department make the most of today’s innovative solutions that threaten the status quo?

Read the ASP report “Overcoming Asymmetric Risks in Space.”

And later that day following Dr. Wegner’s apt metaphor, the Boston Bruins bounced back to win in a key Stanley Cup playoff game against Montreal.

Resilience, indeed.

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