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Defining Responsive Space

Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, Vice Commander, Air Force Space Command


Thank you Dr. Wertz for that wonderful introduction...and for that great briefing.

You captured many of the key details regarding Responsive Space and did a superb job of setting the stage for a productive conference.

It's truly an honor to be here to talk about the future of space.

And it's an honor to be invited to talk on such an historic day...April 25th. Yes, on April 25th 1953, Senator Wayne Morse (OR) set a record for filibustering, talking continuously on the floor of the Senate for over 22 hours! Despite my desire to get into the record books, I promise to keep my remarks a bit shorter than that.

Today I represent the nearly forty thousand highly-skilled and dedicated professionals of Air Force Space Command who are stationed around the world, standing watch, 24/7, 365 days a year.

At this moment, this fully-integrated team of active duty, reserve, guard, as well as government civilians, contractors and our industry partners are doing what they do everyday...


Flying our communications, early warning, weather, and position, navigation and timing satellites.

Monitoring the ground-based radars and other sensors that locate and track thousands of objects in space.

Stacking boosters and maintaining the ranges for launching satellites into orbit.

Operating, maintaining, securing and supporting our Nation's Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile force.

And, developing and acquiring the next generation of space and missile systems to help ensure America's strategic, commercial, and scientific advantages in space well into the future.
Along with their colleagues in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines...and across the National Security Space enterprise, including the National Reconnaissance Office and NASA...the men and women of Air Force Space Command represent the best and brightest of our Nation's sons and daughters, and we have every reason to be very proud of them and of their service to our country.

As we gather to discuss many weighty and rather technical issues, I'm reminded of a speech President Reagan gave at the University of California.

The story is actually told by Mrs. Reagan, who we had the pleasure of meeting a couple weeks ago, just up the coast at Vandenberg Air Force Base, for the dedication of a missile defense site in her husband's name.

As she relays it, when he had finished his remarks, a student rose to ask a question. How, he wondered, could someone of President Reagan's generation possibly understand the younger generation?

"You grew up in a different world," the student observed. "Today we have television, jet planes, nuclear energy, and space travel."

"You're right," said Reagan. "We didn't have any of those things when we were young, we invented them."

And that's the same thing we're doing today...inventing the future capabilities that will become the hallmark of tomorrow's military operations...and it's those same capabilities that will continue to preserve our way of life and the security of this great Nation.

It was 499 years ago today, this great land...we call home...America, got its name...but got it because of a misunderstanding!

A German geographer and mapmaker named the new continent after the Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci, who he thought had discovered the new land.

He didn't learn about the voyage of Christopher Columbus until several years later, but by then the name had caught on.

That just goes to show you how operating without all the correct information can have far reaching implications. As we discuss Operationally Responsive Space, or ORS, it's critical for us to make decisions with all the information at our disposal.

My goal this morning is simple. I would like to try and get beyond the "bumper sticker" labels we throw around when we often examine an issue from the 30,000 foot level...or perhaps more appropriate for this audience...from LEO. I fully realize I don't need to sell you on the idea of responsive space...but I think it's important for you to understand our vision.

So, I'm going to attempt to take a little closer look at ORS and shed some light on what Air Force Space Command sees as the way ahead.

What is Responsive Space?

If I could take a step back here, I would like to add a little more structure to our definition of "Responsive Space."

It's not a uniquely Air Force idea. It's been embraced by Congress, OSD, the Combatant Commands, the Services and industry.

Most everyone agrees on the principals of ORS. We use the same words you'll hear from speaker after speaker...

Words such as Dynamic, Rapid, Reliable, Agile, Tailored, Affordable, and so forth.

Air Force Space Command, as a leader in DoD space, has been engaged with the other Services, COCOMs and OSD. From those talks, we've generated the following definition of Operationally Responsive Space, which we feel encompasses what we're all trying to do.

"ORS will provide an affordable capability to promptly, accurately and decisively position and operate national and military assets in and through space and near space."

"The ORS vision is to provide rapid, tailorable space power focused at the operational and tactical level of war."

ORS is unlike a traditional space program...in reality, it's not a single program.


We view ORS as an enabler with four components...

Responsive Satellites

Responsive Spacelift

Responsive Launch Ranges

and Near Space systems.
These components, following the ORS mandate, are being designed from the start to meet warfighter needs. To do so quickly. To do so affordably.

Why Responsive Space?

Our next challenge is to continually define exactly why we need responsive space.

The short answer is...because the President told us to.

The U.S. Space Transportation Policy clearly states...

"The United States Government shall: Demonstrate an initial capability for operationally responsive access to and use of space -- providing capacity to respond to unexpected loss or degradation of selected capabilities, and to provide timely availability of tailored or new capabilities -- to support national security requirements"

As space is not just important, but critical to the very nature of both our military strength and our society as a whole, the idea of space being more responsive is unquestionably a necessity.

And I think Dr. Wertz did a great job of stating the case for more responsive capabilities.

But let me say that responsive space is not the answer to every question.

The joint warfighter uses space to satisfy an ever expanding and diverse set of requirements.

To meet some of these needs requires us to develop and operate large, complex satellites and constellations.

These systems, the ones we're using today, and the ones we're building for tomorrow...Advanced EHF, TSAT, Space Radar, Wideband Gapfiller, SBIRS...we simply cannot operate without them.

But, different needs require different solutions. We need small, medium, and large programs.

When we're talking about the space capabilities our troops depend on to fight and win...their lives, and our Nation's very defense, demand mission success.

So, as we build satellites and launch them into orbit...we need to take every precaution...and then take it again.

This is an expensive business. And time consuming.

But we take the time, we spend the money, because we can't afford not to.

As our former Air Force Space Command, Commander, General Lord, liked to say..."There is nothing more costly than failure."

There is no debate, our on-orbit systems continue to exceed all expectations.

Which begs the question - why do we need responsive space?

To answer that question, you need to stop and think about what it is we do and who we do it for.

The joint warfighter is at the heart of everything we do in Air Force Space Command.

That's why our top priority is securing the space domain and providing space combat effects to joint warfighters.

It's how we support our Air Force Chief of Staff, General Buzz Moseley, and his top priority of, winning the Global War on Terror.

As we fight this war against unconventional enemies, our military today is more reliant on space than ever before.

As I said, our current systems are magnificent, and the next generation will be phenomenal, but there are always going to be gaps as we drive to get information all the way down to the individual soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.

When I think about the relationship between Responsive Space and our more traditional programs...I think the best analogy is to our airlift fleet.

Our C-17 Globemaster aircraft are wonders...and wonderfully big. They haul massive amounts of cargo great distances.

But despite all their impressive capabilities we still have a need for cargo aircraft that operate primarily within theater for shorter duration missions, in very austere conditions...sometimes to go that "last tactical mile".

That's why we have the C-130 and are pursuing a smaller next generation light cargo aircraft to fill future airlift gaps.

They can't carry as much as a C-17, and can't fly as long, but they sure come in handy in the tactical environment.

The bottom line is, neither can do the job alone.

I can't imagine anyone who would advocate for an Air Force airlift fleet based entirely on one aircraft or the other.

Similarly, we have different requirements in space...each requiring a tailored solution.

Our space systems, as capable as they may be, are not omnipresent. Sometimes, perhaps we can't wait until the next satellite pass.

We envision using Responsive Space to augment what's already there.

Even if the current systems can handle the job quite well, what happens if we lose them?

Our satellites, no matter the orbit they're in, are vulnerable...be it from natural, accidental or deliberate actions.

We all know the stories about what happens when commercial satellites go off the air from time to time.

We see Responsive Space as a hedge against such eventualities.

In time of national crisis, we can't afford to completely lose the capability our military satellites provide. Too much is at stake.

Responsive Space will enable us at Air Force Space Command, and the entire National Security Space enterprise, to offset a portion of the Combatant Commander's loss in capability.

Additionally, we see Responsive Space as an excellent way to test new technology and concepts before committing to a larger-scale system.

Our scientists and engineers, like many of you here in the audience, are constantly working to increase the capabilities we can provide to the warfighter.

But when you're embarking on a multi-billion dollar program, you want to be sure that...

It will work, and

It has utility
The Undersecretary of the Air Force, Doctor Ron Sega, has directed a "back-to-basics" approach for future space systems. Using a building block concept, we will ensure technological readiness before proceeding into full-scale production.

Responsive Space systems, which by their nature are smaller and less expensive, are ideal platforms to test these capabilities prior to full maturity.

This is the idea behind the TacSat series of operational experimentation satellites. The community takes inputs from the Services and COCOMs as to what kind of tactical space system they'd want.

Then we build them, using readily available technology. Once launched, the TacSats will not only prove out that technology in orbit, they'll also prove out the military utility of such systems with the folks that really matter...the joint warfighter, the ultimate customer.

If they like it, we can then proceed to operational versions. Or integrate that capability into a larger space system.

As I said earlier, the joint warfighter is at the heart of everything we do...I don't think I can say that enough.

Our goal with Responsive Space is not to build one system to meet the needs of as many warfighter requirements as possible, but to build individual systems to meet specific, critical warfighter needs.

It's equally important for us to minimize the complexity of responsive systems...which keeps our costs down.

That's not to say responsive space isn't flexible. In fact, that's one of its major advantages.

By keeping our responsive space systems relatively simple, we increase their flexibility. If we look again at the C-130, one aspect of that aircraft is its remarkable flexibility.

A truly responsive space system offers that same kind of flexibility. Whether we're talking a common satellite bus or a near space platform...our vision at Air Force Space Command is that different payloads can be integrated based on mission needs....keeping costs down, without sacrificing reliability. It's what we see as the hallmark of Responsive Space.

What are we doing in Responsive Space?

And Air Force Space Command is stepping out on ORS.

Last month we obtained formal validation from the Air Force of the potential of Operationally Responsive Space to meet warfighter needs.

Getting this go-ahead was an important and necessary first step in defining Responsive Space capabilities and requirements.

Partnering with other Services, OSD, and national labs, we will provide the launch capability and work the military utility aspects of the TacSat series of spacecraft.

These responsive satellites have the potential to dramatically alter the way space provides support to the warfighter.

Of course, with all this talk about responsive spacecraft, you still need the ability to get to orbit...and do so quickly and affordably.

The Air Force is keenly interested in low cost, responsive launch vehicles.

And to that end the Space and Missile Systems Center, with their leader General Mike Hamel, is utilizing existing spacelift systems, while at the same time aggressively pursuing new and innovative launch technology.

We continue to look towards vehicles that are smaller than the EELVs used to lift the bulk of our military space payloads, and the hope is we will discover even more responsive solutions.

Our belief in Air Force Space Command is...as we progress, the need for responsive spacelift will only increase.

We recognize there are many different solutions to obtaining this capability.

In 2004 we conducted an Analysis of Alternatives, which pointed out the benefits of a hybrid launch vehicle, with a reusable first stage and an expendable upper stage.

Such a system would decrease costs while increasing flexibility for quick-reaction launches.

However, we remain committed to exploring the full range of responsive spacelift technology.

So if you have a good idea, we are willing to listen.

Just as a responsive satellite needs a responsive launcher, we can't ignore the third piece in this chain...the launch range.

Our launch ranges do a superb job of supporting a myriad of users. But to meet responsive space needs, we'll have to expand coverage, quicken flight plan approval, and increase capability for higher flight rates.

Our Responsive Space Traffic Control system will improve the range's ability for quick launches an order of magnitude over our current systems...without sacrificing safety.

We have been working for years with NASA and the FAA to lay the groundwork for such a system, which will have shared benefits in the military, civil and commercial space arenas.

Those three components...Spacelift, Satellites, and Ranges, all must be responsive if we are to achieve our goal.

But as we develop these systems we're not forgetting the bottom line...the warfighter's needs.

Sometimes we can meet those needs without resorting to an orbiting space asset.

This is why Air Force Space Command includes near space as part of Operationally Responsive Space.

Most of you know near space is unofficially recognized as the region between 65,000 and 325,000 feet. From this altitude, assets can provide "space-like" effects without going into space.

I mentioned earlier that ORS is an enabler. One program within the Air Force that ORS is already enabling with its near space systems is Joint Warfighting Space, or JWS.

The JWS mission is to provide operational systems to meet joint warfighter needs. To that end, JWS and ORS are closely linked.

In the far term, JWS will use the full range of ORS capabilities, including the responsive launchers and satellites to support the warfighter.

In the near term, JWS is focused on using near space systems to meet the most immediate needs.

The Combat SkySat near space balloon system is a prime example of our commitment to supporting the warfighter.

Our Space Battlelab took a commercial product and tested a military application on a relatively modest budget.

The end result is what we consider the first dedicated military near space system.

It's simple in concept.

Take a weather balloon, attach a GPS locator and command and control package, and then add a communications repeater.

The result? You've increased the range of hand-held tactical radios in use by our forces from 10 miles to over 500 or 600 miles!

We know this works because we've done it. And we've shown it to the COCOMs...and they like it!

So we're prepared to deploy it whenever and wherever needed. If and when that happens, it will be the first of our ORS concept to see the battlefield. The first...but not the last.

Imagine what we can do with a long-duration UAV or an airship, which can carry hundreds of pounds and provide persistent, responsive, and dedicated support to a ground commander?

Imagine what we can do with satellites that can be launched at a moment's notice to provide that same kind of dedicated support, but this time with the ability to look deep into denied territory?

Imagine what we can do when the loss of a satellite does not mean the total loss of its services.

We don't have to imagine, because we see it.

Clearly, Responsive Space is one element...one important element of the total space picture.

But responsive space has an important role to play...when combined with traditional space capabilities, it will ensure this Nation continues its preeminence in space.

I believe we owe it to those who put themselves in harm's way, each and every day...the warfighter.

Recently I was honored to meet a man who would definitely be classified as a warfighter and a hero.

And I think his story is an excellent way to highlight the importance of what we do.

Just a few weeks ago at the annual Air Force Charity Ball in Washington, D.C....a man in a civilian tuxedo pulled me aside, pointed to my badge, and asked "What's that?"

This simple question led to a long conversation, and I had the opportunity to explain the significance of the new space badge, of Air Force Space Command, of the role of our nation's space forces....

It was one of those rare, great conversations that sticks in your mind...and in your heart.

Now, I'm more than happy to talk about space and what we do to just about anyone, but this gentlemen was more than "just anyone".

Because although he was in a civilian tuxedo, around his neck he wore the Medal of Honor.

I had the privilege of speaking to Colonel Leo K. Thorsness...

He flew an F-105G in Vietnam, where on one harrowing day he put aside his own personal safety to ensure the rescue of his wingman, fighting and chasing off MIGs, even though he was out of Ammo and dangerously low on fuel.

Eleven days later, Colonel Thorsness was in the air again, but this time the bad guys got him and he was shot down. For the next six years he was a prisoner in a North Vietnamese prison camp, suffering from severe back injuries and frequent torture...a truly incredible individual.

On that April day in 1967, when he was shot down...he didn't have the top cover provided by space.

There was no satellite-aided search and rescue...no team of National Security Space professionals working together to pin-point his location.

Today, we know the lives and safety of joint warfighters, many times, depend on us.

That being said, we've only scratched the surface...there is still much left to accomplish.

Today's joint warfighters are counting on space, every day. They're counting on us to cut through the fog and friction of war. They're counting on us to further enable net-centric operations. They're counting on us to deliver the next generation of space systems. They're counting on us...as President Reagan said..."to invent the future."

And ORS is part of that future.

Today, when it comes to strategic space systems, the DoD looks towards the Air Force and the men and women of Air Force Space Command to provide those services.

In my view, we should also look to Air Force Space Command for Operationally Responsive Space.

I look forward to working with you, charting the path ahead.

Thank you for all you do in securing our freedom and way of life...and thank you for inviting me to speak today.