Weekly Takeaways-One Year Later
When the invasion started, analysts expected them to immediately jam GPS signals. After all, Russia is an expert in this, and it was their modus operandi from the 2014 Ukraine incursion. There has been jamming, though not as widespread or effective as expected. Maybe because they also need GPS, they were holding back, or they needed their limited equipment to prevent drone attacks within their own borders. But Russia still used GPS to hold the world hostage:
Jamming near the Finland and Norway border disrupted flights, seemingly to intimidate their leaders.
Threatening to blow up GPS satellites with anti-satellite missiles.
Russia realized a long time ago how critical GPS is to the world. If there was ever a widespread outage, all travel, financial transactions, communications, and even power grids would grind to a halt. It is a single point of failure, though the US and other governments are (slowly) working to remedy that. What Have we Learned?
We need a GPS backup
We need a commercial alternative that addresses commercial needs.
A commercial alternative takes the bullseye off GPS and allows the military to build their own dedicated system.
Starlink and others have proven that commercial space companies can provide invaluable services that even impress US military leaders.
Space will be contested ground in future conflicts.
Russia and China have demonstrated anti-missile capabilities.
Even more scary, they have demonstrated kamikaze, kidnapper, and rendezvous satellites that can destroy our satellites, as well as lasers that can dazzle or disable a satellite. An anti-satellite missile is an obvious provocation. But these capabilities give plausible deniability if one of our satellites “mysteriously fails”.
US military satellites are sitting ducks – they are expensive and take too long to replace.
But you don’t need to knock out satellites to disrupt GPS. Jammers are cheap and, as we recently learned, could be easily deployed on a high-altitude balloon.
Xairos has learned from these lessons for a future resilient system:
A satellite-ground hybrid architecture that uses quantum optical links that are resilient to jamming or spoofing.
Multiple payloads on multiple satellites, including hosted on other commercial satellites.
On-orbit and ground spares in case of failures.