The Space Component
Nov 15, 2010

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Over millennia, technology has changed the face of warfare in fundamental ways, but perhaps never more so than in the last 100 years. World War I ushered in the era of warfare on an industrial scale. World War II introduced manoeuvre warfare and the coming of age of air power. The use of the first atomic bomb marked a shift in thinking about the use and utility of war by the great powers, from wars of national survival to one of containment and deterrence. The next major leap occurred during the First Gulf War, as space was introduced as a transformational capability that military commanders used to great asymmetric effect. Since that time, space-derived capabilities have had a tremendous effect on how military operations are conceived, planned and executed, an effect that, at the beginning of my career, no one could have imagined.

Today, modern warfare is critically reliant on space, not as a force multiplier, but as a fundamental enabler of ­operations. The term C4ISR (Command, Control, Computers, Communications, Intelligence, ­Surveillance and Reconnaissance), now common in our military lexicon, could not exist without the critical infrastructure and technologies that move through or are resident in space. Whether we are referring to position, navi­gation and timing (PNT) systems, like the U.S. Air Force’s Global Positioning System (GPS), satellite communications or space-based earth observation, modern militaries would not be able to operate with the speed, efficiency and effectiveness we have come to expect and rely on.

Since the First Gulf War, space capabilities have played an ever-increasing role in Canadian Forces operations and are now recognized as a key element of our force structure. This year, the Chief of Force Development (CFD) issued the Integrated Capstone Concept, which categorizes military operations into six distinct environmental domains: the traditional maritime, land, air; and the new space, cyber and cognitive domains. In addition, the Department of National Defence (DND) is concluding a two-year process that will soon culminate in the approval of a new Defence Space Policy and Defence Space Strategy. These documents were developed in close cooperation with Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) Policy and CFD, with extensive collaboration and consultation with other government departments and allies. Together they will provide continued strategic intent and guidance in support of a robust space programme, and additional direction to ensure that the men and women of the Canadian Forces (CF) are provided with the necessary space-based capabilities required to effectively execute the missions assigned to them.
Satellite communications is a key enabler of Canadian Forces operations around the world.

The Canada First Defence Strategy (CFDS) charges DND and the CF with a comprehensive set of missions. To assist us in executing our missions we have adeptly utilized a variety of space-based capabilities to great effect over the years. However, we often used commercially available systems or leveraged privileged access to U.S. systems to support our needs, whether in space-based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT), satellite communications or imagery.

Space-based ISR systems have, until relatively recently, been the providence of highly-classified capabilities focused on the intelligence community’s needs. However, these once classified technologies are now commonly available and anyone with internet access and a credit card can leverage these very powerful capabilities. They have become ubiquitous and are now capable of routine, tactically relevant capabilities, useful not only for intelligence purposes, but for routine surveillance and reconnaissance activities. Providing the men and women of the CF with the best possible information to allow them to make sound, timely decisions in often complex environments, is a key component of our space-based surveillance and reconnaissance programme.

Our spaced-based ISR programme leverages other government of Canada programmes and commercial capabilities to deliver – directly into the hands of our sailors, soldiers, air men and women – actionable, decision-quality surveillance and reconnaissance data.

One of DND’s projects, the Joint Space Support Project (JSSP), will provide access, from within any theater of operation, to space-based commercial imagery and synthetic aperture radar data, often within just a few hours of the request. JSSP will normalize such imagery systems into the standard tool kit of every command, from the tactical to the strategic theater of operation. More importantly, it will do so at the unclassified level, allowing the information to be shared with any mission partner, regardless of their nationality or security clearance in military operations or humanitarian assistance. This is an extremely powerful and truly transformational capability for Canada.
The Canadian Space Agency’s RadarSat Constellation Mission will provide the Canadian Forces with daily coverage of the ­maritime approaches and the Canadian arctic.

A key component of our space-based ISR programme leverages the leading edge capabilities work developed by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and Canadian industry in the field of remote sensing. Canadian space-based synthetic aperture radar (SAR) is unmatched for wide-area ­surveillance. Canada’s RadarSat, RadarSat 2 and, once launched, the RadarSat Constellation Mission (RCM), will provide unparalleled capabilities for wide-area maritime domain awareness, arctic surveillance and support to expeditionary operations. Polar Epsilon One and Two, DND’s projects to exploit these satellite radar systems, will provide the CF with the technology to monitor the entire arctic land mass, and its waterways, up to four times a day.

In addition to its arctic role, Polar Epsilon will be capable of monitoring maritime traffic out to 1200 nm, providing ship detection over almost 100% of our maritime area of responsibility every day, regardless of weather conditions. Canada will be deploying a space-based maritime domain awareness capability that is unmatched in the world. For the first time ever, a nation will have the ability to detect, track, characterize and identify most of the ships in its maritime area of interest and provide the unclassified data with all Canadian government departments and our allies.

Over the last decade, the number of space systems has increased substantially and as a result the space environment has become much more complex. Over the past few years the number of space objects orbiting the earth has grown dramatically, and the U.S. Joint Space Operations center actively tracks well over 20,000 objects, with the vast majority of these being space debris. Much of that debris is the result of a very small number of intentional and unintentional events. In particular, a collision between two satellites and an anti-satellite weapons test resulted in approximately 20% of the space debris which is now located in some of our most important orbital locations. Space is no longer the sanctuary that it once was and it has become a contested, congested and competitive environment that must be carefully managed. Unfortunately, the tools required to effectively manage this environment currently do not fully meet the need. Canada, as a leading space-faring nation, has an obligation to help manage the space environment with the international community. In 2011, Project Sapphire will deliver a Canadian developed satellite designed to monitor satellites’ ­locations and determine their orbital parameters in order to enhance our space situational awareness. Sapphire will provide the information collected to the U.S. Joint Space Operations Center, which maintains a space satellite catalogue and shares the ­catalogue freely to help reduce the chance of accidental collisions. In addition, the Sapphire data will pro-actively identify potential satellite conjunctions so that warnings and manoeuvre recommendations can be made to national and ­commercial satellite operators.

Modern militaries rely heavily on communication systems to effect their command and control. The CF relies, in large part, on commercially leased satellite communications, which are expensive and subject to fluctuations in price and availability. The DND is investing in dedicated satellite communications to fully support the missions and requirements articulated in the Canada First Defence Strategy. The Protected Military Satellite Communications (PMSC) project will deliver, in the very near future, a highly-survivable, jamming-­resistant, global satellite communications capability that will allow the CF to provide the assured command and control links it requires in the most severe of communications environments. In addition to the specialized demands that will be met by PMSC, the Mercury Global project will deliver a very cost-effective, high-capacity satellite communications capability to deliver services to address bandwidth intensive applications including command and control systems, ISR platforms, tactical communications in direct support to troops on the move and welfare/moral applications.

As our dependency on space increases, we need to concurrently build the intellectual foundation necessary to properly and fully exploit these options. We are developing human resource strategies that will allow members of the CF, from all environments and all occupations, to have full and rewarding careers that could include space assignments. We have initiated the development of CF Joint Space Doctrine to ­further guide force development and force employment concepts, and we continue to build on an already robust space training and education program to build a solid foundation for the CF’s space cadre.

Space has forever changed the face of modern military operations. The DND has recognized the critical nature of this domain and has developed the policy and strategy framework required to support a solid defence space programme. It has also committed the resources to ensure that our sailors, soldiers and airmen and women have the space-based capabilities they need to effectively accomplish the very demanding missions we ask of them, both at home and deployed abroad.

Colonel André Dupuis is the Director of Space Development at DND.
© FrontLine Defence 2010