07Oct2018

Space Force Will Protect Energy Grid From ‘Existential Threat’

President Trump’s “Space Force” proposal would help prevent the U.S. energy grid from going dark in an emergency or an attack, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in an exclusive interview.

Donald Trump’s amateurish designs for potential Space Force logos are out-of-this-world

Bridenstine argued that a disruption of America’s satellite assets would pose an “existential threat” to the grid, meaning that a Space Force is needed more than ever. He compared the threat to those facing the banking system today. Both Wall Street and the electricity sector are dependent on the same Global Positioning System, or GPS, signals from space to operate, he explained.

“Every banking transaction requires a timing signal from GPS,” he says. “In other words, if there is no GPS, there is no banking in the United States. Everything shuts down.” “It becomes an existential threat,” Bridenstine added.

Likewise, the situation would be similar for the electric grid, if a foreign adversary targeted U.S. assets in space, he said. “Electricity flows on the power grid are regulated by a GPS timing signal as well,” said Bridenstine.

The Commerce Department explains that GPS is being used more than ever to time transactions and run systems more efficiently. Utilities and power companies have employed GPS to pinpoint disruptions and make the grid more reliable. Experts say knocking out GPS, or having an enemy broadcast a phony GPS signal, would mean grid operators would be blind to their operations, resulting in an out-of-sync system and potential calamity.

“We are dependent as a nation … on space to the point where our potential adversaries have called it the ‘American Achilles heel,’” noted Bridenstine. The Trump administration called for the creation of the force by 2020, citing threats from Russia and China.

U.S. adversaries are “developing capabilities to deny us access to space … to wreck those capabilities in space,” said Bridenstine. “And if they do, they could bring this country to its knees.” Bridenstine said that NASA supports the Space Force proposal wholeheartedly, though NASA will not have a direct role in implementing it. His support is based on the absolute “dependency the United States has on space,” he said.

U.S. satellite assets control “the way we communicate, the way we navigate, the way we produce food, the way we produce energy, the way we do national security and defense, the way we predict weather, the way we understand climate, the way we do banking in the country,” he said.

Bridenstine made clear that he wants to keep NASA out of Space Force, although he described his agency as supportive because of its hundreds of billions of dollars worth of assets in space, along with its astronauts and foreign partners it wants to protect. “We have an interest in making sure that space is secure,” Bridenstine said. But NASA doesn’t get involved in national security, he added: “It’s not what we do.”

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