Achieving the Speed of Need

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Samuel Becker

Within the early stages of the “space race,” the United States spent years developing and launching rockets and satellites into an uncongested and uncontested space environment.

But now, that dynamic has shifted. Due to the advancements in technology and growing competition to dominate this domain, space has become a congested and contested environment.

In an effort to maintain its competitive edge in a rapidly evolving sphere, from Sept. 7-9, Space Systems Command conducted its first joint operations Tabletop Exercise (TTX) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., in a newly defined TTX series called Parallax Rising.

Parallax Rising is an exercise series that places an emphasis on exploring and identifying potential policies and procedures to synchronize efforts between the command and its partners’ ability to maximize delivery of warfighting capabilities on-orbit.

For its inaugural scenario, this three-day exercise focused on streamlining interagency responsibilities to generate Tactically Responsive Space (TacRS) capabilities at a faster rate.

“Parallax Rising is a venue that the Space Force is using to explore what tactically responsive space looks like,” said U.S. Space Force Captain Benjamin Vowell, Space Systems Command, warfighting integration office chief of wargames and exercises. “This platform serves as the pipeline for gathering the communities that would be tactically responsive in space.”

By looking at the flow and processes of materiel from tasking orders, payload mating, and launch, to operational handover and integration of mission data at the warfighter level, the exercise scenario provided much context for real-world projects.

“TacRS is really about how you can provide capability at the speed of need instead of a deliberate planning cycle,” said U.S. Space Force Col. James Horne, Space Systems Command, deputy director of operations. “The reason we’re doing that is because of the changes in the space environment where our strategic capabilities are being directly challenged by our adversaries.”

We can no longer view space through the lens of years past. Space is a rapidly evolving domain requiring accelerated thinking and tactical responsiveness to prevail in space.

“The TTX is going to allow us to move faster and accelerate our thinking as a team,” said Mark Bontrager, Space Systems Command, operations directorate technical director. “We’ve got an adversary that doesn’t think like we do, and it’s all about winning.”

The Parallax Rising series will serve as a conduit to assuring the success and dependability of the technologies we are delivering.

“With the advancement in today’s technologies, in some fashion, everything around us is impacted by space,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Travis Ferguson, Space Systems Command Operations Directorate, launch operations manager and exercise lead planner. “Therefore, we cannot afford to become complacent in how we maintain our readiness and collaboration with our interagency and joint partners. Accelerating our response efforts, takes time, thought, and a deliberate understanding of each organization’s processes – all that’s fundamentally discussed during exercises like this.”

Processes created and compiled throughout these cooperative engagements serve as a catalyst for enhancing the overall readiness posture of the USSF. By creating these processes, SSC can use them as blueprints for future response initiatives to achieve space superiority.

Parallax Rising is a direct precursor to Space Safari’s upcoming VICTUS NOX (Latin for “Conquer the Night”) mission, which is scheduled to launch in 2023 and demonstrate a novel TacRS capability.

“The TTX successfully brought together the right people at the right time to explore the art of the possible in TacRS and pivot to a space warfighting mindset,” said Arthur Grijalva, Space Systems Command, deputy director of space warfighting. “The event and upcoming TacRS Operational Exercise led by STARCOM, [Space Training and Readiness Command], are the foundation for a successful VICTUS NOX mission and future TacRS capabilities.”

According to SSC’s director of operations this type of execution further advances the USSF’s position against emerging competition.

“The pace of change in Space today is absolutely incredible,” Horne stated. “Just in space launch alone, things we once held dear and true about launch range operations aren’t true two years later. We’re averaging a launch every seven days in 2022 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. We’ve never seen that kind of throughput, not even in the 1960’s when we were launching Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions in addition to developing and test launching nuclear missiles.”

Staying ahead of the speed needed to prevail in space is an ongoing task that the command, its Guardians, Airmen, joint and interagency partners are constantly monitoring.

The threats in space are no longer a distant future, but actively present.

Protecting the country’s national security by providing a resilient architecture to the joint warfighter by 2026 and beyond requires an unwavering commitment.

Parallax Rising encapsulates the essence of dismantling old processes to generate the forward thinking and innovation necessary to maintain the command’s competitive edge in space.

“I think we have to constantly question everything we’ve held true up until this point, about space,” Horne said. “We have to question every single process, policy, and rule that we’ve written over the years because our adversaries are not bound by those rules, and they’re not waiting on us to complete our processes.”