Oct 6, 2018

U.S. trails behind Russia, China in organizing militarily in space

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

At his rallies, President Trump's base gets fired up about the creation of a Space Force. And behind the scenes, the Pentagon is pushing to stand it up on deadline. But publicly at least, it's not much more fleshed out than the idea.

The big picture: A stated objective of the new force is to pull together U.S. space operations — 90% of which remain under the Air Force — to defend satellite infrastructure and combat adversaries. But as of now, the U.S. is far behind its rivals in organizing militarily in space.

Between the lines: Russia has had sophisticated launch systems for decades, in addition to another that tracks objects more than 30,000 miles above the Earth, according to the CSIS 2018 Space Threat Assessment.

  • "Our main rivals in space have already begun reorganizations to elevate space within their military establishments," Todd Harrison, senior fellow at CSIS, told Axios.
  • Both China and Russia are working to field anti-satellite weapons "that could blind or damage sensitive space-based optical sensors, such as those used for remote sensing or missile defense," according to a February report from the Director of National Intelligence.
  • China recently launched an anti-satellite weapon useable against orbiting military, missile-warning and communication satellites, per the assessment.
  • The debris such a strike would produce could linger for generations and interfere with satellites.

What's next: The Pentagon and Air Force have separately estimated $8 billion and $13 billion budgets for these tasks over the next five years, respectively. They expect to complete a new U.S. Space Command by the end of this year, and to include the cost of standing up a space force in the President's 2020 Budget Request.

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Gov. Tim Walz to mobilize Minnesota's full National Guard

Photo: Steel Brooks/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced on Saturday he is activating the full National Guard to respond to street violence in Minneapolis that broke out during protests of a police encounter that left a black man, George Floyd, dead.

Why it matters: This is the first time the state has activated the full National Guard since World War II. The Minnesota National Guard tweeted, "We are "all-in" to restore order and maintain and keep the peace in Minnesota." There are already around 700 National Guard troops in the city, and the order could bring another 1,000, The Star Tribune writes.

Go deeper...The aftermath of George Floyd's death: Everything you need to know

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Live updates: SpaceX attempts to launch NASA astronauts Saturday

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad. Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky

At 3:22 p.m. ET today, SpaceX is expected to launch NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station for the first time.

Why it matters: The liftoff — should it go off without a hitch — will be the first time a private company has launched people to orbit. It will also bring crewed launches back to the U.S. for the first time in nine years, since the end of the space shuttle program.

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In photos: We've seen images like the protests in Minneapolis before

Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP/MPI/Getty Images

The photos of protests around the country following the death of George Floyd during an encounter with Minneapolis police are hauntingly familiar. We’ve seen them many times before, going back decades.

Why it matters: "What is also unmistakable in the bitter protests in Minneapolis and around the country is the sense that the state is either complicit or incapable of effecting substantive change," Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an assistant professor of African-American studies at Princeton University writes in the New York Times. The images that follow make all too clear how little has changed since the modern Civil Rights Movement began in the 1950s.