WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force established the 19th Space Defense Squadron this month in Dahlgren, Va., to focus on cislunar space domain awareness, said Lt. Col. Matthew Lintker, Space Delta 2 de la force, during the C4ISRNET conference on April 20.
According to the squadron’s Facebook page, the unit stood up on April 6 and sports the insignia of a Kraken wrapped around the Space Force Delta symbol.
NASA, Space Systems Command, and the Space Force already have a close relationship when it comes to work supporting human spaceflight, including collision avoidance for the International Space Station and exploration of the cislunar realm. , Lintker said.
“We’re working with NASA, we’re working with the Air Force Research Lab, Space Systems Command (SSC) to bring all that expertise that’s there to improve [space] security and defence,” he said, but specifically within Space Force, the 19th Space Defense Squadron has been tasked to focus on cislunar sensors and systems that find their way into this area because they have “ the capacity and the bandwidth to focus on that, and that way it doesn’t come at the expense of all the other missions that I currently do today.
Cislunar space is the area between geostationary orbit, which is more than 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface, and the orbit of the moon.
The Department of Defense has made a notable shift in its stance toward cislunar space in recent years – moving from viewing potential deep space threats as part of the distant future to the recognition that these threats could present themselves much earlier. And the increased activity is not only contradictory, but also commercial.
“The concerns and the kind of area of interest that we have from a military perspective is that there’s a huge interest that goes beyond [geosynchronous orbit] not only in China and Russia but in a whole series of people and the reality is that when people expand beyond [Low-Earth Orbit] LEO that you are engaging in…there is a military risk associated with that,” Lintker said.
The Space Force is stepping up its efforts and focusing on better articulating this risk, he added.
Speaking earlier this year at a Mitchell Institute event, Chief of Space Operations General John Raymond said he expects the Space Force to have a reconnaissance capability of the cislunar domain in orbit in the next five to 10 years.
The Air Force Research Laboratory recently announced that it plans to award a contract this summer for a new cislunar domain awareness experiment to help the U.S. military observe and track objects that reside in this space between geostationary orbit and the moon.
The AFRL is inviting tenders for the construction of a Cislunar Highway Patrol System, or CHPS, with a launch date of 2025.
CHPS is one of several AFRL programs focused on cislunar space operations that will demonstrate the use of small satellites for a range of missions. These efforts include a portfolio of demonstrations and experiments using satellites focused on knowledge and logistics of the cislunar space domain.
Jen Judson is an award-winning reporter covering ground warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in Journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.