U.S. Space Force satellite network to track potential threats from Russia and China

The 'Silent Barker' constellation was reportedly developed in response to recent satellite launches from China and Russia.
Chris Young
The US Space Force flag.
The US Space Force flag.

Ajax9 / iStock 

The U.S. Space Force will launch a constellation of satellites designed to track Chinese and Russian space vehicles in order to defend its assets in space, a report from Japan Times reveals.

The network, known by the codename "Silent Barker", will reportedly help the US Space Force to overcome the limitations of ground-based sensors by providing surveillance from a high-altitude geosynchronous orbit.

The U.S. Space Force's "Silent Barker" constellation

The satellites are expected to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket at some point this summer, no earlier than August. They will be lifted into a 35,400-kilometer (22,000-mile) geosynchronous orbit, meaning they will stay in a fixed position orbiting at the same speed that the Earth rotates.

The new capability "enables indications and warnings of threats" against U.S. space systems and will "provide capabilities to search, detect and track objects from space for timely threat detection," the Space Force explained in a statement.

The Silent Barker system was reportedly developed in response to the launch of Chinese and Russian systems designed to take out other satellites.

One example is China's SJ-21 satellite, which was launched in 2021 and later moved another defunct Chinese satellite into a higher graveyard orbit.

Though these systems were reportedly designed to remove defunct satellite systems from orbit, there is a growing concern in the US that they may eventually be used for military space operations against other nations.

Military escalation in space

In 2020, the U.S. Space Force published its 'Spacepower' military doctrine, in which it wrote that the actions of adversaries have "significantly increased the likelihood of warfare in the space domain."

With that doctrine, the U.S. turned its back on a decades-long global effort to maintain space as an un-militarized domain. We now live in an era where global space powers are increasingly blaming each other for military escalation in space.

However, the Silent Baker constellation is described as a defensive surveillance measure. The Japan Times report cites Sarah Mineiro, former lead staffer on the House Armed Services Committee strategic subcommittee that oversees space programs, as saying the Silent Barker constellation will "dramatically increase Space Force's ability to track on-orbit, adversary satellites that could be maneuvering around or in proximity to our satellites."

Ultimately, it will allow the U.S. to "really figure out what is going on up there in space," she said.

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