"This does concern me because it could cause unintentional escalation..."
The US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) just filed documents detailing plans for the test launch of two private-sector spy satellites, Wired reports.
The satellites, built by space combat startup True Anomaly, are slated for launch onboard a SpaceX rocket in October of this year. Once there, each "Jackal" — as the models are called — will practice engaging in what the company calls "orbital pursuit." In layman's terms, space tag.
While this mission won't exactly be the aerial battles of "Star Wars," the tech's makers are clear: these crafts are built for space warfare.
"Conflict exists on a continuum that begins with competition," Even "Jolly" Rogers, former US Air Force Major and CEO and co-founder of True Anomaly, told Wired, "and ultimately leads into full-scale conflict like what you're seeing in Ukraine."
"True Anomaly is revolutionizing space security and sustainability," reads the company's website, "with fully-integrated mission technologies designed to protect the interests of the United States and its Allies."
Cat and Mouse
Though the Jackals aren't equipped with any kind of guns, lasers, or explosives-type weaponry, they do have some functionality beyond simply lurking.
Per Wired, they're built to assist with rendezvous proximity operations (RPO), or the capability to get close to other satellites and, by "[training] a battery of sensors upon them," can glean information about foes' "surveillance and weapons systems, or help intercept communications."
RPO crafts, as Wired point out, aren't exactly new, and even have a number of practical non-war uses, like hauling objects around in orbit. But investors certainly seem excited about True Anomaly's crafts, considering that the company has raked in roughly $23 million in funding — some of that cash coming from US senator JD Vance's investment fund.
Chicken or Egg
But while Rogers says his company's RPO is designed to adapt to already hostile global — and orbital — politics, some experts wonder if the existence of a product like the Jackal could itself be an escalating factor.
"What is different about True Anomaly is the way it seems to be presenting its satellite as more of a pursuit system, than an imaging or an intelligence gathering system," Kaitlyn Johnson, deputy director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, told Wired. "This does concern me because it could cause unintentional escalation... it might be read by our adversaries as a military-directed company that was starting to pursue this capability."
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