Former U.S. Air Force Major Even “Jolly” Rogers worries about a space war. “Conflict exists on a continuum that starts with competition and eventually leads to full-scale conflict like what you see in Ukraine,” he says. The United States, he adds, is already “in active competition with Russia and China for freedom of action and dominance in the space domain. And it is changing very quickly.
So on January 26 of last year, the former US Air Force major incorporated True Anomaly, Inc to “solve the toughest orbital warfare problems for the US Space Force”, he went on to tweeted.
According to a recent filing with the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC), True Anomaly is now preparing for its first orbital mission. In October, True Anomaly hopes to launch two Jackal “orbital pursuit” spacecraft aboard a SpaceX rocket into low Earth orbit. The Jackals will not house guns, warheads or laser blasters, but they will be capable of rendezvous proximity operations (RPO) – the ability to maneuver near other satellites and train an array of sensors on them. This could reveal rivals’ surveillance and weapon systems or help intercept communications.
In their first mission, dubbed Demo-1, the Jackals will simply spy on each other, using thrusters, radars and multispectral cameras to approach within a few hundred yards. If that goes well, Rogers plans to deploy thousands of autonomous spacecraft in service to the U.S. military, controlled by a team of human and AI operators “to pursue adversaries wherever they fly and provide the tools of responsibility”.
These tools begin with understanding what technologies US adversaries are deploying in space. “But active defense is going to be necessary,” says Rogers, now CEO of True Anomaly. “If you are serious about the work of defending and protecting the domain, you must have the ability to perform the joint functions of maneuver and fire.” Although the military often uses “fires” to refer to kinetic weapons like guns and shells, in the space context it typically refers to jamming, electronic warfare, and cyberattacks.
Nothing on True Anomaly’s website suggests that it is developing its own offensive weapons. However, in a series of articles last summer, Rogers tweeted: “Tactically disabling an enemy spacecraft can mean the difference between the loss of an entire carrier battle group or its survival… And there are many ways to destroy a spacecraft without ruining the environment. After all, these are not than floating computers.