Launch on demand: If satellites are shot down, will Space Force be ready to restock?

A small satellite mission the U.S. Space Force plans to launch in 2023 will test the ability of the commercial space industry to deploy a payload on an extraordinarily compressed timeline.

A contract for the mission, code-named Victus Nox, was awarded Sept. 30 to launch services provider Firefly Aerospace and satellite manufacturer Millennium Space. Once the Space Force decides when the mission must launch, it will give Millennium a few months to produce the spacecraft and Firefly will only get 24 hours’ notice to get ready for liftoff.

The point of Victus Nox — Latin for ‘conquer the night’ — is to demonstrate fast turnaround launch operations, known as tactically responsive space, and to help planners figure out the front-end processes leading up to the launch. This capability, strategists warn, will be needed during an armed conflict to augment constellations or replace satellites that adversaries would damage or blow up.

This has impact on more than just security as it talks about quick response and mitigations from this attack. As the attacks get more and more complex and widespread, the responses for them also need to evolve, and this is a step in the right direction.

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