Second View: Space and Cyber Never Rest - Nor Does AFSPC
This Second View column is by Brendan Curry, Space Foundation vice president - Washington operations.
This past May 20-22 I had the distinct privilege of being a guest on a community relations tour conducted by U.S. Air Force Space Command, lead by General William Shelton. I, along with 19 other civilians, toured Patrick Air Force Base, in Florida, and Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. I wish all Americans could see what I was fortunate enough to observe.
We arrived at Patrick AFB first. It is located on America's "Space Coast". While most Americans are aware of the retirement of NASA's shuttles and our complete reliance on the Russians for human spaceflight capabilities for the time being, they probably are not aware of the busy activity taking place on the Air Force side of Cape Canaveral. While I was there, I saw three different launch vehicles in various stages of preparation for launch.
First, I saw a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V stacked and awaiting its National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payload for a mid-June launch date. I next saw a mighty Delta IV Heavy on the pad. Also owned by ULA, this is currently the world's largest and most powerful launch vehicle. It is slated for a late June launch, also with an NRO payload aboard. Of note is that this will be the first mission with Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne's new RS-68A engines. These new and improved engines will be putting out over 700,000 pounds of thrust each for a combined total of over 2.1 million pounds of thrust. Finally, I was lucky enough to get pretty close to SpaceX's Falcon 9 with the Dragon capsule atop it -- very cool to see with less than 14 hours before its historic liftoff. In our meetings and briefings with both uniformed Air Force personnel and with civilians there was a clear and unified commitment and unbridled enthusiasm for continuing America's mission in space.
At Lackland AFB resides the 24th Air Force. Its mission is to "Extend, operate and defend the Air Force portion of the DoD network and provide full spectrum capabilities for the Joint warfighter in, through and from cyberspace." While cybersecurity has been an issue for some time now, I feel that policymakers in the U.S. government are getting a firmer handle on this new and emerging domain. I am happy to say that under the leadership of Major General Suzanne Vautrinot, the 24th Air Force is actively working day and night to provide cyber defense, offense and exploitation capabilities.
The bottom-line for me is that Air Force Space Command is working tirelessly and enthusiastically to ensure American leadership in both space and cyber. As such, the Space Foundation will be hosting events to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Air Force Space Command this September in both Colorado Springs and Washington, D.C. We hope you will join us in saluting the men and women, both active duty and retired, who served our nation as part of U.S. Air Force Space Command.
As the Space Foundation's Vice President - Washington Operations, Brendan Curry leads the Space Foundation's government affairs efforts based in Washington, D.C., serving as principal interface with key customers, staff, and officials in the administration, Congress, space industry, and federal agencies including the Departments of Defense, Commerce, State, Education, Transportation, and NASA. He is also responsible for the Space Foundation's Research & Analysis functions, including policy analysis, Space Foundation Indexes, White Papers and special reports, and the Space Foundation's annual analysis and report on the state of the space industry, The Space Report: The Authoritative Guide to Global Space Activity. Previously, Curry was the senior legislative assistant to Congressman Dave Weldon, M.D. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Scranton and Juris Doctor of Law degree from Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson School of Law.