Just last week, the Chinese air force chief officer
called military competition in space "inevitable."
For those who thought this was just idle saber-rattling, take a look
at what the American Air Force is cooking up this morning: a
$50 million bid for better interplanetary weather forecasts, "battlespace
surveillance" in space environments and inertial sensors for
navigation, presumably in situations where the standard compass isn't
The call for proposals is pretty general, but it specifically seeks
"to define the impact of the Earth's space environment on Air Force
systems and to achieve a capability for specifying, predicting,
mitigating, and exploiting the effects of the space environment that
can disrupt or degrade Air Force operational systems." In short: we
need to figure out how to expand our Air Force capabilities into the
area immediately outside Earth's atmosphere.
More specifically, the call for bids wants research
in forecasting solar and interplanetary weather conditions that can
cause electromagnetic or geomagnetic interference with communication
signals or space flight systems. It also seeks better sensors for
situational awareness in space; that is, commanders want to know how
to best calibrate navigational instruments in space, as well as to
create next-gen orientation sensors with "accuracies surpassing state
of the art ring laser gyroscopes."