Why the U.S. Air Force Just Threw $1 Billion Into Space

Written by Jason Simpkins
Posted November 19, 2021

This week, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) announced it's pouring $1 billion into space-related technology and equipment to support a broad range of space missions.

This huge sum of money will go entirely to the Utah State University Space Dynamics Laboratory, which will use it to research space-related sensor systems, advanced satellite navigation and GPS technology, and precision quantum and photonic sensors.

And according to AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate head Col. Eric Felt, these technologies will give the U.S. Space Force what it needs to address potential conflicts in space itself.

“The partnership will accelerate critical space science and technology projects, especially when we need to quickly respond to urgent and unexpected needs,” he said in a press release. “It will allow us to focus on proactively out-innovating our peer competitors to ensure the Space Force continues to have the technology required to deter conflict and assure our nation’s critical space capabilities are available whenever and wherever needed.”

What’s interesting about the timing of this announcement is that, also this week, Russia made headlines for targeting and destroying one of its own defunct satellites with a missile.

The demonstration of anti-satellite capability raised a lot of eyebrows and indignation in Washington.

“The test has so far generated over 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris and hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris that now threaten the interests of all nations,” lamented State Department spokesman Ned Price. 

But really, it’s not the space debris that’s making policymakers nervous — it’s the capability.

You see, this was Russia’s first official intercept using its current anti-satellite (ASAT) system, known as Nudol, after roughly a dozen tries.

And that’s not all.

In addition to using earth-based missiles to strike down satellites, Russia has also deployed a small constellation of inspector satellites.

But what exactly are they inspecting?

Well, one, called Cosmos 2542, has synchronized its orbit with a U.S. satellite called USA 245. And it just so happens that USA 245 is a confidential image-gathering spy satellite.

It’s still unclear what exactly Cosmos 2542 is actually doing, but it’s shadowing its U.S. counterpart in a highly unusual and inconspicuous manner.

That’s led defense officials to speculate that it’s using cameras or other sensors to gather information about the KH-11 — the capabilities of which are highly classified.

Others fear it’s been put there to sabotage the KH-11 using chemicals or lasers, or even by simply smashing into it at some point.

This would be in line with another incident in 2020 in which the U.S. Space Command called Russia out for testing “a space-based anti-satellite weapon.” 

“The Russian satellite system used to conduct this on-orbit weapons test is the same satellite system that we raised concerns about earlier this year, when Russia maneuvered near a U.S. government satellite,” Gen. John Raymond, Commander of U.S. Space Command and U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations, said at the time. “This is further evidence of Russia's continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems, and consistent with the Kremlin's published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold U.S. and allied space assets at risk.”

And that is indeed Russia’s endgame. 

The country has spent years developing anti-satellite weapons capable of taking out American satellites in the event of a conflict. This would badly disrupt our communication and surveillance capabilities, but it could also undermine our space-based missile defenses, paving the way for missile strikes (potentially even nuclear strikes) on our homeland. 

And whats more is that China is doing the same exact thing.

It was just last year that I wrote about China's space laser, which has been developed to neutralize the threat posed by U.S. submarines.

Now, I know a lot of this sounds like science fiction, but I assure you it's not.

This is 21st century warfare.

The outer reaches of the earths atmosphere, and maybe even one day the moon, are the ultimate high ground.

Its brand-new warfighting domain.

And heres the thing...

Companies are going to profit from this trend. And I mean in a huge way.

Just look at the fortunes that were made by the likes of Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT), Boeing (NYSE: BA), Honeywell (NASDAQ: HON), and others as the world loaded up on traditional, earth-based weapons like jets, tanks, and missiles.

Space weapons are going to generate a similar wave of investment — trillions dollars.

Even if it just means launching more satellites.

In fact, Lockheed Martin just signed a $737 million deal with the U.S. Space Force for three GPS 3F satellites. That deal was exercised as part of a 2018 contract for up to 22 satellites worth up to $7.2 billion. 

This is real money that’s getting thrown around.

And that’s why I’ve gone hard into companies that I believe will profit from this trend.

My latest pick for Wall Street's Proving Ground, for example, is a space launch company that is working on a test launch for the U.S. Space Force as we speak.

You can find out about that company and more here.

Fight on,

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Jason Simpkins

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Jason Simpkins is Assistant Managing Editor of the Outsider Club and Investment Director of Wall Street's Proving Ground, a financial advisory focused on security companies and defense contractors. For more on Jason, check out his editor's page. 

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