The race for orbital supremacy: Victus Haze and the future of space defence

The US Space Force is preparing a plan for situations where an enemy might target its satellites. This plan includes quickly sending up satellites that can protect those in space. Rocket Lab will be ready to launch these satellites at short notice. The practice run for this strategy is set to happen next year.

On April 11, the US Space Force revealed a new partnership with private companies Rocket Lab and True Anomaly.

They will work together on a mission called Victus Haze Tactically Responsive Space (TacRS). This mission is designed to show how the military can respond if faced with threats in space. It’s a pioneering effort that highlights the increasing focus on security issues in space.

The Victus Haze Tactically Responsive Space (TacRS) mission aims to show how the military can handle threats in space. This unique mission highlights the increasing focus on military activities in space.

The US Space Force’s Operation Victus Haze

In this mission, a spacecraft made and sent into space by Rocket Lab will chase a satellite created by True Anomaly. The spacecraft from Rocket Lab will meet up with the True Anomaly satellite and take detailed pictures of it.

The US Space Force has given Rocket Lab a contract worth $32 million and awarded True Anomaly a similar contract for $30 million.

According to Interesting Engineering, both companies will take part in an exercise called Victus Haze. This exercise will realistically simulate how to respond to threats in space, as explained by the Space Force’s Space Systems Command in a press release.

The Space Force’s Space Systems Command is a key component of the United States Space Force, responsible for overseeing the development, acquisition, and management of space systems and technology. Essentially, it’s the part of the Space Force that handles the tools and technology needed to operate in space, including satellites, sensors, and related software and hardware. It plays a crucial role in ensuring the U.S. maintains and enhances its capabilities in space operations.

The US Space Force is preparing a plan for situations where an enemy might target its satellites. This plan includes quickly sending up satellites that can protect those in space. Rocket Lab will be ready to launch these satellites at short notice. The practice run for this strategy is set to happen next year.

“On-orbit military assets” refers to equipment and technologies that the military has deployed in space. These can include satellites used for communication, navigation, surveillance, and other defense-related functions. These assets are crucial because they help with a wide range of tasks, from monitoring potential threats to ensuring smooth operation of various military and civilian technologies on Earth.

A Vulnerable Period in Space Security

The announcement of the new mission follows shortly after a US general highlighted a period of risk in space security.  General Stephen Whiting, the leader of US Space Command, recently informed the Senate Armed Services Committee that China and Russia have turned space into an area of military competition.

General Whiting told US lawmakers that China is advancing incredibly quickly in space. He emphasized that the United States needs to swiftly improve the speed, quality, and number of its crucial national space and missile defense systems to keep up with China and maintain its lead. The US views the Victus Haze mission as a response to increased military activities by Russia and China in space. However, as expected, the major space powers are blaming each other. Both China and Russia are accusing the US of causing this escalation.

In reality, military missions in space often contradict the guidelines of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which is a key piece of international space law. For example, SpaceX’s Starlink has become an important military resource in Ukraine, signaling a shift to a new era. In this era, the goal of keeping space free from military activities seems to be largely overlooked.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty is an international agreement that sets rules for exploring and using space. It aims to keep space peaceful by banning weapons of mass destruction there and making sure all countries can explore space freely and responsibly.

(The author Girish Linganna of this article is a Defence, Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru. He is also Director of ADD Engineering Components, India, Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany. You can reach out to him at: [email protected])

(Views expressed in the article are of author’s own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Business Upturn)