Space Force boss warns 'the US will lose' without help from Musk and Bezos

China, Russia have muscled up, and whoever wins up there wins down here

The commander of the US Space Force (USSF) has warned that America risks losing its dominant position in space, and therefore on Earth too.

In a speech yesterday at the Space Foundation's 2024 Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, USSF boss general Chance Saltzman said unprecedented challenges from Russia and China mean that the military and commercial space sectors need to start working together to develop advanced technology.

"With China and Russia now challenging our space superiority at levels never before seen in the domain, the frontiers of science and technology … will be crucial to our success," Saltzman warned.

"The Space Force must harness the benefits of technological innovation and emerging capabilities if we are going to be able to outcompete our competitors, or the Space Force will lose, the Joint Force will lose, and the US will lose."

Saltzman has been sounding the klaxon on America's decaying orbital situation for some time – he even warned that Russia and China were outpacing US space capabilities during his Senate confirmation hearing to head the branch in 2022.

"The most immediate threat, in my opinion, is the pace with which our strategic challengers – first and foremost the Chinese – are aggressively pursuing capabilities that can disrupt, degrade and ultimately even destroy our satellite capabilities and disrupt our ground infrastructure," Saltzman previously told the Senate.


General Chance Saltzman asks for help in the new space race – Click to enlarge. Source: John Ayre/US Space Force.

Saltzmann is not the only voice urging improvement. Several months after he assumed his post as chief of space operations, think tank the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies published a report that found the US is unprepared to counter orbital threats from Russia and China.

A couple of months later, the Space Force finally stood up its first unit dedicated to target analysis, development and engagement – four years after the branch was formed, in 2019. Shortly after that, the USSF decided to seek outside help from Booz Allen Hamilton, giving the consultants seven years and $630 million to help support systems engineering and integration of space-based missile warning systems that the USSF apparently couldn't deal with on its own.

Saltzman explained that today's form of warfare needs to integrate space operations to ensure control of terrestrial battlefields. To do so he's urging the US's growing private space industry – led by SpaceX, ULA and someday maybe Blue Origin – to lend more critical aid.

"In space operations we have become more comfortable with using commercial capabilities to add capacity than we have with fully integrated commercial capabilities into our force design," Saltzman observed.

The general's speech coincided with the publication of the USSF's new Commercial Space Strategy, which calls for a "fundamental mindset shift" in the branch toward "cultivating commercial partnerships to increase US competitive advantage."

To accomplish its goals, the Space Force explained its commercial strategy is seeking partnership from the private space industry to improve four key areas: tactical surveillance, reconnaissance and tracking; space-based environmental monitoring; positioning, navigation and timing; and space access, mobility and logistics.

The Booz deal signed last year will assist in the first two areas, but time is short. As we've reported previously, both China and Russia have already tested space weapons – and rumors started swirling back in February that Russia was considering putting nuclear anti-satellite weapons into orbit.

"Time matters because we are running out of it," Saltzman warned. "We don't have the luxury of waiting years for programs to deliver – the speed of need is right now." So bring on private players to help, because the feds can't do this alone. ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like