Limited Operations of US Space Futures Command  Expected Before End of 2024

Space

Washington: The US Space Force expects to begin early operations of its new Futures Command before the end of this year, according to the general in charge of establishing the organisation.

Lt Gen Shawn Bratton, the service’s chief strategy and resourcing officer, said he hopes to have a task force of 10 to 15 personnel in place by this summer. That team will lay the groundwork for the command with the goal of initial operations before the end of 2024.

“We’ll get the team, and they’ll start pulling it together and working through both the administrative [Defence Department] requirements to create a new organisation as well as the much harder work of really getting after the tasks associated with it,” Bratton said February 27 at the National Security Space Association’s Defence and Intelligence Space Conference in Virginia.

Chief of Space Operations General Chance Saltzman announced the creation of the command February 12 as part of organisational changes meant to position the Air Force and Space Force to better deter and counter threats from China. The Army has had a futures command to run modernization efforts since 2018.

The idea is that as the Space Force matures, it requires a more robust analysis backbone to not only understand what satellites, sensors and ground systems it needs, but also what structures it must have in place to support those capabilities. That includes the military construction, classified facilities, training and operational units that come with a new mission.

Space Futures Command will focus on three primary functions, which will be organized into centres. The Concepts and Technology Centre will analyse the threat environment and consider what capabilities and forces the service needs to respond to those threats. A Wargaming Centre will evaluate potential technologies through tabletop exercises and learning campaigns.

The third hub, the Space Warfighting Analysis Centre, already exists within the Space Force and is focused on developing models for how the service can apply those capabilities in a future warfighting environment.

Bratton pointed to cislunar operations and on-orbit servicing and logistics as two mission areas Space Futures Command may explore in the near term. Cislunar refers to the area between geostationary orbit — about 22,000 miles above Earth — and the moon. The service has been exploring concepts for future operations in that region, and Bratton said the new command could help refine how the service might operate in cislunar and what threats it may encounter.

Servicing, mobility and logistics is an emerging mission for the Space Force as it looks to extend the life of its satellites and change the way it manoeuvres them. While the service has demonstrations planned in the coming years, Bratton said there is some analytical work around how, for example, on-orbit refuelling contributes to the Space Force’s role in future conflicts. “We think there’s value there,” he said. “It’s sort of like going into court and proving there’s value. And that’s what futures command is going to have to do.”