Like the US Navy has long protected sea lanes during conflict, the military could be called upon to defend commercial satellites from attack, particularly as the Pentagon relies more on commercial networks for communication and surveillance, the Space Force’s top general said last week.
In comments at a conference in Hawaii on September 20, Gen. Chance Saltzman echoed many statements made by military leaders over the last few years: US military space capabilities are under threat from China and Russia, military leaders need more information about what other countries are doing in space, and commercial satellites are playing an ever-larger role in the military’s space programs.
But Saltzman went a little further in his comments when asked about the military’s role in protecting commercial satellites from an attack. The questioner specifically asked how the US military might respond if Russia attacked SpaceX’s Starlink broadband network, which Ukraine widely uses for Internet connectivity in its war with Russia, despite Elon Musk’s refusal to allow Ukraine to employ Starlink services on certain military operations.