The Space Domain Emerging Factors and Threats briefing

The briefing was conducted by SMSgt. Ron Lerch, senior enlisted leader of Space Systems Command’s intelligence directorate.

Speaking at the Space Industry Days event, Lerch said it is remarkable how much information can be obtained from open sources. A lot of people “roll their eyes” when you tell them the briefing is unclassified because they assume there’s little value in it, he said, but after hearing it they are surprised by the substance of the information.

Some highlights from the briefing:
1. Counter-space weapons are here today. Russia has openly talked about fixed-site and mobile laser systems that it could use to target foreign optical imaging satellites flying over Russian territory.

2. China becoming more active in GEO

3. The U.S. most exquisite satellites will be in danger. As China becomes more involved in space, putting up more satellites, they’re building an inventory only second to the U.S. For that reason they are unlikely to use kinetic weapons to damage satellites and create debris

4. Cyberattacks will be the first salvo fired

5. China is advancing technologies for space-to-ground weapons

6. China’s use of relay satellites to target U.S. forces

7. Advanced features in China’s Beidou navigation satellites. Beidou is not quite as capable as GPS but it’s catching up, said Lerch. “Some of the more recent assessments say that they likely have at least on average, a two-meter accuracy and an error of 20 nanoseconds, which is pretty good

8. The space war for China is economic. Chinese academics are forecasting that operations in cislunar space beyond Earth orbit is going to be a $10 trillion a year industry