US Space Command is recognizing the need for a change in the design and operation of satellites. Lieutenant General John Shaw, the second most senior officer at US Space Command, stated that the current approach of leaving stationary satellites in orbit is outdated for military purposes. Shaw emphasized the need for satellites with refillable fuel tanks in order to fulfill various military objectives. The US armed forces, along with China and Russia, operate satellites that observe other satellites in geostationary orbits. Refueling satellites in orbit or utilizing cheaper satellites and rocket launchers from commercial providers are potential alternatives to improve satellite capabilities.
The militarization of Earth’s orbit is becoming more common, with the US learning from Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, where both sides attempted to disrupt satellite navigation. The Space Command is closely collaborating with the armed forces for cyber warfare, emphasizing the importance of space and cyber as “best friends” in terms of attack and defense. The public discussion held by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies serves as a signal to commercial aerospace providers to expedite the development of relevant systems. Request for proposals have already been published, and demonstrations of satellite maneuvers are expected in 2026.
Lieutenant General Shaw’s appearance is part of a larger effort to rethink the use of satellites and missiles within the US military. In February, the US Space Command hosted a conference on “Space Mobility,” highlighting the limitations of stationary satellites due to their limited maneuverability. This has led to the initiation of the Rocket Cargo Vanguard program, which aims to explore the use of missiles for military ground-to-ground transport.
The US military is actively seeking improvements in satellite capabilities and transport methods in order to adapt to the evolving landscape of space warfare. By embracing new technologies and approaches, they hope to enhance their military capabilities and ensure their dominance in space.