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U.S. and China locked in a high stakes contest over satellites that are critical to national security and everyday life

U.S. officials have become concerned about China’s anti-satellite capabilities, which could potentially threaten the satellites that give the U.S. military its edge on the battlefield and provide the GPS signals that smartphones, ATMs, and power grids use.

Martin provides a rare look at Space Command, the branch of the U.S. Air Force charged with launching and protecting U.S. satellites. The report includes stunning images of a massive, laser-guided telescope in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that can be used to surveil the satellites of potential adversaries like China.

USAF Gen. John Hyten, the head of Air Force Space Command, tells Martin that he believes China will soon be able to threaten U.S. satellites in “every orbital regime that we operate in,” from low Earth orbit a few hundred miles above the Earth, to geosynchronous orbit more than 20,000 miles up – where some of the military’s most important satellites circle the Earth. Continue Reading … CLICK HERE

 

 Watch Air Force Space Command – CLICK HERE 

 

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Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command. Credit: SpaceNews/Tom Kimmell

 

Transcript … THE BATTLE ABOVE

David Martin, Andy Court

60 MINUTES Sunday, April 26, 2015

 

WITHOUT MOST OF US NOTICING, OUR EVERYDAY ACTIVITIES – EVERYTHING FROM GETTING CASH AT AN ATM TO WATCHING THIS PROGRAM — DEPEND ON SATELLITES IN SPACE.  AND FOR THE U.S. MILITARY, IT’S NOT JUST EVERYDAY ACTIVITIES. THE WAY IT FIGHTS DEPENDS ON SPACE.  SATELLITES ARE USED TO COMMUNICATE WITH TROOPS, GATHER INTELLIGENCE, FLY DRONES AND TARGET WEAPONS.  BUT TOP MILITARY AND INTELLIGENCE LEADERS ARE NOW WORRIED THOSE SATELLITES ARE VULNERABLE TO ATTACK. THEY SAY CHINA, IN PARTICULAR, HAS BEEN ACTIVELY TESTING ANTI-SATELLITE WEAPONS THAT COULD, IN EFFECT, KNOCK OUT AMERICA’S EYES AND EARS.  NO ONE WANTS A WAR IN SPACE, BUT IT’S THE JOB OF A BRANCH OF THE AIR FORCE CALLED SPACE COMMAND TO PREPARE FOR ONE. IF YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF SPACE COMMAND, IT’S BECAUSE MOST OF WHAT IT DOES HAPPENS HUNDREDS EVEN THOUSANDS OF MILES ABOVE THE EARTH OR DEEP INSIDE HIGHLY SECURE COMMAND CENTERS.  YOU MAY BE AS SURPRISED AS WE WERE TO FIND OUT HOW THE HIGH STAKES GAME FOR CONTROL OF SPACE IS PLAYED.

THE RESEARCH BEING DONE AT THE STARFIRE OPTICAL RANGE IN ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO WAS KEPT SECRET FOR MANY YEARS…

… AND FOR A GOOD REASON…WHICH ONLY BECOMES APPARENT AT NIGHT.

Natsot: airman pressing button on panel, then interior shots of roof opening.

FIRST, THE ROOF OF ONE BUILDING IS OPENED TO THE STARS….

…THEN THE WALLS RETRACT…AND AN OBJECT STRAIGHT OUT OF STAR WARS APPEARS…

Natsot: ambient noise (as mirrors open up)

… SHOOTING A LASER INTO THE SKY. THE LASER’S BEAM HELPS A HIGH-POWERED TELESCOPE FOCUS IN ON OBJECTS IN SPACE, SO THE AIR FORCE CAN GET A BETTER LOOK AT THE SATELLITES OF POTENTIAL ADVERSARIES LIKE CHINA WHIZZING BY AT 17,000 MILES PER HOUR.  IT’S PART OF A COMPLEX – AND MOSTLY SECRET — BATTLE FOR WHAT THE MILITARY CONSIDERS THE ULTIMATE HIGH GROUND.

GEN. JOHN HYTEN: there is no such thing as a day without space.

THAT’S THE MANTRA OF GENERAL JOHN HYTEN, THE HEAD OF AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND.

GEN. JOHN HYTEN: Think of what –life used to be like and all the things that we have today in warfare that wouldn’t exist without space.  Remotely piloted aircraft–   All-weather precision guided munitions didn’t exist– before space. Now we can attack any target on the planet, anytime, anywhere in any weather.

DAVID MARTIN:  What would the U.S. Military do without space?

GENERAL HYTEN:  What happens is you go back to World War II. You go back to industrial age warfare.

DAVID MARTIN:  And your job is to make sure there is no day without space.

GEN. HYTEN: Absolutely.

Natsot: (Gen. Hyten addressing his troops):  And you should be thinking right from the beginning that this is a contested environment and …

HYTEN DRILLS INTO HIS TROOPS THAT U.S. SATELLITES ARE NO LONGER SAFE FROM ATTACK. ELEVEN COUNTRIES, INCLUDING IRAN AND NORTH KOREA, NOW HAVE THE ABILITY TO LAUNCH OBJECTS INTO ORBIT. AND RUSSIA AND CHINA HAVE BEEN TESTING NEW ANTI-SATELLITE TECHNOLOGIES.

GEN. HYTEN:  It’s a competition that– I wish wasn’t occurring, but it is.  and if we’re threatened in space,   we have the right of self-defense , and we’ll make sure we can execute that right.

DAVID MARTIN:  And use force if necessary.

GEN. HYTEN:  that’s why we have a military. You know– I’m not NASA.

SPACE COMMAND HAS 38,000 AIRMEN AT 134 LOCATIONS AROUND THE WORLD. ONE OF THEIR MOST VISIBLE MISSIONS IS TO MAKE SURE U.S. SATELLITES CAN ALWAYS GET INTO SPACE….FROM LAUNCH PADS LIKE THIS ONE AT VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE IN CALIFORNIA.

 

– See more at: spacenews.com/transcript-of-60-minutes

Source: Transcript of “60 Minutes” Air Force Space Command Segment – SpaceNews.com

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