The U.S. military is planning to use artificial intelligence to track objects in space—including China’s.
The number of orbiting objects U.S. Space Command needs to keep tabs on has almost doubled to “over 46,000” since it was re-established as a unified command in 2019, said its commander, Gen. James Dickinson.
Tracking everything from defunct satellites and active satellites to rocket bodies generates a massive amount of data, Dickinson said Tuesday at the Association of the Army 2023 LANPAC Symposium. His command is working to “train an AI capability to look at that, and then tell us what we really need to spend our time on.”
The general said his command will use AI to “exploit” data generated by space operations “to the maximum extent possible,” freeing his people to tackle the most important tasks.
“We’ve got current efforts ongoing in the command where we actually use commercial, unclassified information that we find out on the internet, and we use it in a test configuration and see how well that will respond or fulfill our requirements,” Dickinson said.
Dickinson’s command is observing China’s space behaviors “around the clock,” he said, studying the country’s development of tactics, techniques, and procedures.
“They haven’t put up a big proliferated type of space architecture yet, but with their efforts to do that, we’re watching very closely, watching how they’re conducting operations in space,” he said.
China, which aims to land taikonauts on the moon, is growing its civil space capabilities as well, Dickinson said. China entered into an agreement with Russia in 2021 to build an international lunar research station.
Space Command is on track to reach full operating capability later this year at its headquarters in Colorado Springs, but the Defense Department has yet to decide whether it will move to Alabama, as recommended by then-Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett at the end of the Trump administration.
NBC News reported Monday that the White House wants to cancel the move because of Alabama’s severe restrictions on abortion.
But a White House official denied that, saying that “reproductive health laws are not a factor in the ongoing review” and that the administration is not stalling a decision. The Air Force’s review is ongoing and no decision has been made, the official said.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, told Defense One that Space Command would achieve full operating capability much faster in Colorado because “the job is being done there right now.”
“Starting from the ground up is disruptive and produces delays, so I think if we concentrate on what the national security of our country really needs most, and that’s full operational capability as quickly as possible, that will necessitate a decision for Colorado Springs,” Lamborn said.
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