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Editorial: NM’s at the forefront of protecting final frontier

Space may be the final frontier, but it’s not completely lawless – well, not if the folks at the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Space Rapid Capabilities Office at Kirtland Air Force Base have anything to do with it.

Early this year, KAFB’s Space RCO, which seeks to quickly develop and produce prototypes, announced an expanded role that will include creating satellites that can do anything from monitor weather patterns to deter adversaries from targeting U.S. assets. And last week, construction began on the Air Force Research Laboratory’s $12.8 million Space Control Laboratory, which will consolidate work being done in six different facilities on the base.

AFRL principal technical adviser Michael Gallegos helped lead the two-decades-long effort to bring the Space Control Laboratory to Kirtland, “a new state-of-the-art facility that will equip our workforce with secure labs, secure conference space and all of the required lab support space that it needs.”

Back in February, President Donald Trump announced his Space Policy Directive, a strategy that aims to guarantee American space dominance and sets the framework for establishing the United States Space Force, which will likely focus on disrupting an adversary’s communication capabilities. Indeed, Brian Engberg, chief of the space control technologies branch of AFRL’s Spacecraft Components Division, said researchers will be determining what satellites are doing, addressing threats from other countries and “threats from the space environment itself,” as well as developing satellite technology. They will also play a major role in defending the nation from attacks by other countries on U.S. satellites (568 operational this year), which play an increasingly important role in our daily lives, providing information and services to support global communications, the economy, security and defense, safety and emergency management, the environment and health.

Air Force Col. Eric Felt, director of the Space Vehicle Directorate at KAFB, explains “this was envisioned 20 years ago, back before anybody thought of space as a war-fighting domain, back when space control was just a side project. There were visionary folks who saw our nation was going to need this, that our labs were going to need this.”

Considering weapons, primarily surface-to-space and air-to-space missiles, that can target satellites have already been developed by Russia, India and the People’s Republic of China, it makes eminent sense for the U.S. to protect our interests in this new frontier. And it is exciting New Mexico is at the forefront.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.