Parallax Rising 2.2 Table Top Exercise Models Space Refueling Future

  • Published
  • By Christopher W. Chang & Daniel P. Burns, Space Systems Command Warfighter Integration Office
Imagine a day in the future, during a potential conflict on Earth, when a Geosynchronous (GEO) U.S. Space Force (USSF) satellite will be required to support terrestrial operations while simultaneously performing maneuvers to avoid a piece of debris or a threat from an adversary.
Like driving a car through an obstacle course, every satellite maneuver expends precious fuel. Too many maneuvers could completely expend a satellite’s fuel reserves, leaving it vulnerable to attack or collision. Either event could not only deprive the USSF of a vital space resource but lead to a debris cloud that could threaten other space assets for hundreds of years.
In today’s congested and contested space domain, enabling sustained satellite maneuvering is a priority for the USSF. Space Systems Command (SSC) is taking a key first step toward Dynamic Space Operations (DSO) by investigating the concept of on-orbit refueling. This work is being conducted by SSC’s Space Mobility and Logistics team.
Space Mobility and Logistics (SML), a USSF core competency, was identified as a critical enabling concept for achieving Contested Space Superiority during the 2022 Inaugural Concept Summit. SML is also identified in the Space Capstone Publication as a military spacepower core competency that enables movement and support of military equipment and personnel in the space domain, from the space domain back to Earth, and to the space domain.
SSC is currently executing an SML architecture assessment, with a focus on defining functional architectures that effectively integrate emerging commercial capabilities and technologies into the future SML ecosystem. Recently, members of SSC’s Assured Access to Space (AATS) program executive office conducted a Tabletop Exercise (TTX) – dubbed “Parallax Rising” – to specifically examine refueling within an SML framework.  
“Parallax Rising is an exercise series that places an emphasis on exploring and identifying potential policies and procedures to synchronize efforts between the command and its partners’
ability to maximize delivery of warfighting capabilities on-orbit,” said Daniel Burns, senior project leader with The Aerospace Corporation, a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) committed exclusively to the space enterprise.
“In the military, tabletop exercises can be a valuable modeling tool because they bring together subject matter experts and leaders and have them creatively craft solutions to problems we may encounter in the future,” said Lt. Col. Michael Killings, deputy director, senior materiel leader, Servicing, Mobility, and Logistics Acquisition directorate within SSC’s AATS program executive office.
The SML community has extensively discussed the advantages of on-orbit refueling in terms of mission life extension, potential ways to achieve it, and the strategic positioning and movement of satellites in GEO across areas of operations (AOR) in light of a competitive space environment, Today, the focus has evolved to DSO in a contested space environment that ensues when terrestrial conflict breaks out.
Terrestrial conflicts will extend to space because of the need to control the “high ground” and what effects the satellite systems can provide to support the terrestrial fight. Parallax Rising was designed to contrast the decision steps, refueling considerations, and implications of the contested space environment.
This three-day exercise examined on-orbit refueling from a tactical command-and-control perspective to investigate the guiding questions of “What types of refuelers are preferred when conflict extends into space, and why?” and “How would commercial refuelers be integrated with U.S. DoD refuelers?” Additionally, “What DoD refueling operational procedures from the Navy and Air Force can be applied to the Space Force?”
SSC’s Warfighting Integration Office worked with the command’s Space Systems Integration Office’s Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis Branch, AATS’s SML program office and Launch Systems Enterprise Engineering division together to create the Parallax Rising tabletop exercise to conceptually understand the decision steps of a refueling mission, considerations, and implications of the contested space environment. SSC’s Warfighting Integration and Aerospace team have been the lead planners for the series.
Parallax Rising 2.2 was the third exercise in the series. It focused on improving enterprise understanding of Space Mobility & Logistics on-orbit refueling concepts and plans via a synchronized, enterprise-wide tabletop exercise. Participants came from across the space enterprise, including members from the three Space Force Field Commands (SSC, Space Operations Command, and STARCOM) and commercial industry. Participants were selected based on their subject matter expertise and knowledge of policies, processes, and procedures associated with an SML mission.
Findings from the latest exercise will be analyzed and reviewed to inform future acquisition decisions and help develop future USSF space architecture. Findings will also be shared with the Space Warfighter Analysis Center and Space Operations Command for their respective use.
The Warfighting Integration Office was established by SSC’s Commander, to synchronize unity of effort between SSC and the Combatant Commands (CCMDs). The office is tasked to provide requirements/needs support between CCMDs and SCC to ensure space systems are meeting end user equities currently and for future systems.
In order to provide “eyes on the ground” in CCMDs, SSC’s Warfighting Integration Office has established liaison officers (LNOs) embedded at the Space Force Components at US Indo-Pacific Command, US Central Command, US Space Command, US European/African Command, and Space Operations Command.  Future LNOs will be established at US Forces Korea and US Southern Command.