General John “Jay” Raymond, who works at the United States Space Force as the chief of space operations, said on September 13 that small but powerful spacecraft powered by microelectronics and enhanced propulsion is a disruptive trend in the space sector that will boost national security. Smaller, cheaper payloads that can easily be released in great numbers to function as eyes inside the sky and the transfer data worldwide in seconds have become conceivable because of technological advancements. The mix of small satellites with computer power is among the most intriguing advancements in space technology, according to Raymond, who spoke at an Arizona State University-sponsored New America virtual conference.
Raymond claimed the Space Force intends to use this technology to upgrade its satellite constellations through a question-and-answer discussion with Peter Singer, a senior fellow in New America. While there is a lot of enthusiasm in space exploration and tourism, Raymond points out that the evolution of satellite designs gets less attention.
“What is less evident is the shift toward what is referred to as a proliferating low Earth orbit (LEO) architecture,” he added. Because the Earth spins at the same rate as satellites orbiting planet, the majority of the US military’s satellites in the geosynchronous orbit offer persistence. “You don’t get that persistence in low Earth orbit, so you acquire it by adding numbers,” Raymond explained. “We would like to be able to profit from it.”
In low Earth orbit, remote-sensing constellations capture and distribute data at speeds that would’ve been unthinkable only a few years ago. According to Raymond, the capacity to use artificial intelligence to examine data on the ground implies that “we can derive answers to really complex problems from such a data,” according to Raymond.
Small, low-flying satellites are not going to replace the military’s regular geosynchronous spacecraft. Still, they will permit the Department of Defense (DoD) to obtain extra capabilities at a lesser cost, according to him.
“Today, our satellites are quite beautiful. And they’re the best in the world, but they’re not cheap, and they’re not something we can get right away; they require time to acquire. We put a huge amount of mission certainty on it, which leads to higher prices and longer schedules because you can’t afford to fail,” Raymond explained.
He described the goal as a “hybrid” model. “We’ll have exquisite capabilities, but I believe there will also be a strong set of abilities that aren’t exquisite,” he says.
Raymond described the vision as “an assembly line technique, where you may build a new risk calculus.” “I believe it also makes it possible for more commercial and international partners to take part.”
Raymond warned that the rapid pace of the commercial space innovation is causing congestion and making it increasingly difficult to discriminate between benign and illegal or hostile activity.