Former US Air Force major Even “Jolly” Rogers is worried about a space war. “Conflict exists on a continuum that begins with competition and ultimately leads into full-scale conflict like what you’re seeing in Ukraine,” he says. The US, he adds, is already “in active competition with Russia and China for freedom of action and dominance of the space domain. And it’s evolving very quickly.”
So on January 26 last year, the former US Air Force major incorporated True Anomaly, Inc to “solve the most challenging orbital warfare problems for the US Space Force,” he later tweeted.
According to a recent filing with the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC), True Anomaly is now gearing up for its first orbital mission. In October, True Anomaly hopes to launch two Jackal “orbital pursuit” spacecraft aboard a SpaceX rocket to low earth orbit. The Jackals will not house guns, warheads, or laser blasters, but they will be capable of rendezvous proximity operations (RPO)—the ability to maneuver close to other satellites and train a battery of sensors upon them. This could reveal their rivals’ surveillance and weapons systems or help intercept communications.
In their first mission, dubbed Demo-1, the Jackals will merely spy on each other, using thrusters, radar, and multi-spectral cameras to approach within a few hundred meters. If that goes well, Rogers envisages deploying thousands of autonomous spacecraft in service of the US military, controlled by a team of human operators and AI “to pursue adversaries wherever they fly, and to provide the tools of accountability.”
Those tools start with understanding what technologies America’s adversaries are deploying in space. “But an active defense is going to be required,” says Rogers, now True Anomaly’s CEO. “If you take the job of defense and protection of the domain seriously, you have to have the ability to do the joint functions of maneuver and fires.” Although the military often uses “fires” to mean kinetic weapons like guns and shells, in the space context, it usually refers to jamming, electronic warfare, and cyberattacks.
Nothing on True Anomaly’s website suggests that it is developing its own offensive weapons. However, in a series of posts last summer, Rogers tweeted: “Tactically disabling enemy spacecraft can be the difference between the loss of an entire Carrier Strike Group or its survival… And there are many ways to destroy spacecraft that don’t ruin the environment. After all, they are just floating computers.”