The Western Hemisphere countries are committed to strengthening space partnership to benefit the region. Such was the general message of military, governmental, and civilian space leaders who attended the Space Conference of the Americas held at the headquarters of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami, Florida, January 30-31, 2023.
U.S. North Command (NORTHCOM), U.S. Space Command (SPACECOM), and SOUTHCOM cohosted the event.
U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Thomas G. Allan Jr, director of Operations, J3, SOUTHCOM; U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Scott Robertson, director of Plans, Policy and Strategy, J5, NORTHCOM; and British Army Brigadier Paul Tedman, deputy director of Policy and Strategic Partnerships, SPACECOM, led the event.
“The women and men of SOUTHCOM are proud of our partnership with all of you attending the Space Conference of the Americas. We continue to find new ways to share our experiences with regard to space with the goal of helping all of us to build and preserve access to this incredible asset for current and future generations,” Rear Adm. Allan said during his opening remarks. “Information collected from space capabilities contributes to international peace and security. Because of this, access to and use of space is a vital interest of all of our nations. The responsible use of space is critically important whether one is a space-faring nation or not. It is the partnership among nations that enables us all to peacefully build our economies and secure our countries.”
Under the theme “Expanding Regional Partnerships Through Space Collaboration” space defense experts from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Mexico, and the United States addressed space situational awareness, cooperation, planning, partnerships with the commercial and civil space industry and regional collaboration in space security and defense.
“Space-based capabilities are vital to the global way of life for billions around the world, and malign-actors displaying irresponsible behavior continue to put these capabilities in jeopardy,” said Brig. Tedman. “It’s for this reason that we must work together to advocate for responsible behaviors in space by all.”
The United States is a leading advocate for the responsible and sustainable use of space, supporting partner nations to protect their space capabilities from threats.
John D. Hill, deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space and Missile Defense of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), spoke about the importance of space situational awareness and supporting safe and sustainable space operations for the benefit of all space users. “Sharing space situational awareness information is so important. This is not about political military relationships, but about shared interests in safety and sustainability of space activities.”
During his presentation, Hill mentioned that some nations are developing satellites and anti-satellite missiles that could threaten outer space, so an attack on space systems might have a significant impact on military operations causing large amounts of space debris. “Space domain awareness is fundamental to our ability to protect space systems from unintentional acts, and we need to assure that our space missions continue to operate even when threatened.”
Hill invited participants to work together in space defense and safety adding that space policy, legal frameworks, and cybersecurity are some of the key factors to grow international partnerships. “DoD is working with the international community to establish norms of responsible behavior for outer space activities […]. We will continue to work with space operators and our security partners around the world to advance safety, stability, and security.”
Space challenges and opportunities
The conference helped partner countries to identify challenges and opportunities in the space domain.
“This conference is very important for Ecuador because we want to establish cooperation ties, especially with allies such as the United States, in the aerospace field. We must identify common threats and possible cooperation,” said Ecuadorian Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Henry Rivera Puga, director of Aerospace Development.
Brazilian Air Force Major General Rodrigo Alvim de Oliveira, chief of the Space Operations Center, reaffirmed the importance of the event. “This conference allows us to strengthen the relationship between Brazil, the U.S. Space Force [USSF], SPACECOM, SOUTHCOM, and other neighbor countries in Latin America.”
Space threats, U.S. space policy, USSF support to combatant commands, and space engagements in Latin America were part of the agenda.
For Paraguayan Air Force Brigadier General Oscar Santa Cruz, commander of the Air Regions Command, cooperation among Western Hemisphere nations is extremely important, especially with the United States.
“This is the first conference of this magnitude that we are attending, so it is very important for Paraguay. Being here allows us to understand from the military perspective, the U.S. position and that of the region with respect to the space issue, and at the same time, we can share our position,” said Brig. Gen. Santa Cruz. “This conference could mean the creation of what could be a space command for the Paraguayan Air Force.”
At the end of the two-day event, participants agreed that collaboration and sharing information is fundamental to counter security threats in the region, including space domain.
Colombian Air Force General Brigadier Luis René Nieto Rojas, commander of the Air and Space Operations Command, said, “We must continue with these conferences to be able to continue sharing experiences and analyzing how we are doing in our own space development.”
“We all share common threats and certainly whether it’s climate, criminal terrorism, nationally generated illegal actions like illegal fishing, certainly those by aggressive nations, but the fact that we are all facing the multidimensional threats here, should help bond us… Space domain can help us identify those threats, mitigate them and maybe even help solve a lot of those problems,” Rear Adm. Robertson said.
“At the end of the day, responsible space behavior is built on a common understanding of what each country is doing in space, where our systems are functioning, and on a value system that prioritizes access for all,” Rear Adm. Allan reminded partner nations after thanking them for attending the event. “We have to be able to trust each other. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together.”