Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett addressed the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics during the first virtual Accelerating Space Commerce, Exploration, and New Discovery, or ASCEND, event, on the importance of the newest service in the Department of Defense Nov. 16.
Throughout her discussion, Barrett emphasized the vital role the United States Space Force plays in shaping the future of international space operations.
“The most important thing for the Space Force and the Air Force is working with allies and partners,” Barrett said. “So we've been teaming up. It's not an exclusively American mission. It's the world’s mission to encourage and ensure the future free and open access to space so that elements of space are not put off-limits to others.”
Instrumental to molding the first new military service since 1947, Barrett shared some insight on how the U.S. Air Force Academy has evolved to help build strong foundations for the next generation of USSF officers.
“At the Air Force Academy, we believe that in the field of Astronautics you learn space by doing space,” Barrett said. “So the Air Force Academy Cadets are building spacecraft. They're building satellites. And, they're putting them on the X-37B. In May, we launched an Air Force Academy cadet-built satellite into space. “
Barrett also noted that USAFA recently started a Space Operations degree program, which will further enable building depth in space expertise.
On current operations, Secretary Barrett highlighted the role the service has on lives throughout the world.
“In our everyday life, we're using space constantly, but we often don't recognize it,” Barrett said. “Just think about the GPS system alone and consider how much we depend upon the system. It's accessible to everyone globally and it takes just 8 to 10 people during a single shift to operate it. So, a total of 40 people operate this extraordinary system upon which so much of our current economy depends.”
Continuing her remarks, Barrett spoke about the vulnerabilities that the 31 satellites currently face and how the USSF is leading the way to not only keep the GPS satellite network available but also to maintain Space as a free and open domain.
“It's broadly used. It's transformative, but it's fragile. And, space debris is really a danger to things like our GPS systems. We've got to minimize their vulnerability. And, we have to have the capability to deter others from doing damage to that system upon which so much depends,” Barrett said. “So, we are building processes and doctrine of what is threatening and what is to be acceptable behavior in space. “
In her closing remarks, the secretary stressed the vital need for a dedicated Space Force.
“A final word, I would simply say we are building the United States Space Force to protect the free and benevolent use of that ultimate frontier, the ultimate high ground -- space. Semper Supra,” she concluded.