US Space Force sends two Space Domain Awareness sensors to Japan

  • Published
  • U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command

U.S. Forces Japan and U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific continue to make significant strides in Japan since activating the new service component in November 2022. This week, the USSF announced the delivery the second of two Space Domain Awareness sensors to Japan that will be hosted on Japanese satellites to build SDA capacity and resiliency, in support of a US-Japan cooperative effort called Quasi-Zenith Satellite System Hosted Payload.

"The U.S. Space Force and Japan are pathfinding how we extend our alliance into space through QZSS-HP," remarked Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, USSPACEFOR-INDOPAC commander. "We are dedicated to enabling a cadre of space experts who can work with Allies and partners to integrate space activities into shared operations, activities, and investments. By bringing in the right Guardians at the right time with our Allies, we can maximize opportunities to exercise and train together as well as cooperatively field capabilities such as QZSS-HP.” Mastalir emphasized, “this milestone is significant for both nations."

The first QZSS-HP payload was successfully delivered via a combination of C-17 and ground movements from Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts, to Japan in January 2023. Guardians and Airman from U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, USSPACEFOR-INDOPAC, USFJ, and the 374th Air Wing at Yokota Air Base, Japan worked in close coordination with the program office at Space Systems Command. The National Space Policy Secretariat leads the effort on Japan's side.

"This important system is a beneficial space cooperation pacesetter for both nations, and it paves the way for future initiatives," said Lt. Gen. Ricky Rupp, USFJ commander. "US-Japan dialogue and collaboration across all domains is imperative to set conditions with our Japanese counterparts to ensure U.S. service components maintain a lethal posture and readiness to support theater-wide operations," said Rupp. "This includes the Space Force and I'm excited to see such amazing progress on this particular effort."

The second delivery comes on the heels of a myriad of Congressional Testimonies by senior USINDOPACOM, SPACECOM, and USSF leaders bolstering the importance of space cooperation initiatives with Allies and partners.

China remains the pacing threat in the space domain. "In 2022, the People's Republic of China completed 64 successful space launches that placed at least 160 satellites into orbit," Adm. John Aquilino, USINDOPACOM commander, highlighted in his April testimony. “The PRC is delivering capabilities that seek to deny use of our own space architecture."

In his statement to Congress, Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, USSF's Chief of Space Operations, explained, "the Space Force has two fundamental missions: to provide essential services to the joint force and to protect the joint force from adversary hostile uses of space systems. The ability to perform these missions is at risk today and that risk is increasing over time,” said Saltzman. “Our space systems are threatened by a variety of growing anti-satellite capabilities, and the joint force is threatened by increasingly sophisticated adversary space-based systems intended to target the joint force."

The QZSS-HP will augment the Space Force's ability to conduct persistent, time dominant volume search at geosynchronous orbit.

The effort seeks to demonstrate the ability of the US-Japan alliance to extend to space, contribute toward the Department of Defense's broader integrated deterrence posture against our shared concerns in the Indo-Pacific and contribute to the USSF's Space Domain Awareness. Ultimately, this effort provides a basis for future international cooperative space partnerships and initiatives.