Issue Briefs

Low Earth Orbit Is A High-Value Domain (From RealClearDefense)

By Rebecca L. Grant, Ph.D.

Low Earth Orbit – known as LEO – is the future for communications satellites. It’s also a high-value domain for national security. And it’s getting crowded. Elon Musk’s Starlink has over 5500 satellites on orbit and just launched 23 more Friday morning. Amazon is putting $10 billion into its LEO constellation named Kuiper that will build out to 3,236 satellites. To get half the constellation up by 2026, Amazon just carried out the largest-ever block buy of satellite launches. Then there is the Space Force. Hundreds of new, smaller satellites in LEO are taking over many critical functions from missile warning to tactical targeting and communications. The Space Force and commercial companies are going to find themselves working together. In fact, important aspects of US national security may rest on how well the Space Force and its commercial partners learn to work together to keep data flowing in LEO. I have written more on this subject here.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely the author’s.

Rebecca Grant is President of IRIS Independent Research and a Visiting Fellow of the Lexington Institute.