Space Force rapid launch capability requires ‘culture shift’ within service, vice chief says

“Tactically responsive space is about a culture shift with the United States Space Force to get the entire set of guardians thinking on tactically relevant timelines,” Gen. Michael Guetlein said.
Firefly Aerospace successfullylLaunches U.S. Space Force VICTUS NOX Responsive Space Mission with 24-hour notice. (Firefly Aerospace photo)

In order for the Space Force to be able launch military payloads on demand, the service must embrace a new mindset that enables capability delivery on “tactically relevant timelines,” a senior officer said.

The service’s tactically responsive space (TacRS) effort is intended to rapidly speed up how it acquires, builds and launches national security systems into orbit — a process that normally takes several weeks or even months to complete. By doing so, the United States could immediately respond to on-orbit threats or replace space-based systems that have been targeted by an adversary.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Friday, Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. Michael Guetlein emphasized that the success of TacRS is not dependent on a specific hardware or technology — but rather the mindset of the Space Force.

“Tactically responsive space is about a culture shift with the United States Space Force to get the entire set of guardians thinking on tactically relevant timelines,” Guetlein said. “Everything in my psyche as a Space Force member — as a guardian — needs to be about how I provide that capability. What can I do to get it there tonight? What can I do to guarantee that it’ll be there tomorrow? And what can I be guaranteed to do to make sure I have competitive endurance in the future with a credible capability?”


The Space Force has begun a series of demonstrations that will help the service understand what changes are needed to have a persistent rapid launch capability — which it wants no later than 2026. That includes the concept of operations, acquisition authorities, training requirements, clearance processes and more, Guetlein said.

During its most recent TacRS demonstration, dubbed Victus Nox, the Space Force and its industry partners launched a satellite into space just 27 hours after the service gave orders to do so. The mission shattered the service’s previous record for a rapid space launch, which was 21 days from notice-to-launch.

Now the service is gearing up for its next TacRS demonstration — Victus Haze — alongside the Defense Innovation Unit. 

“Victus Haze is about continuing to break those paradigms, and to show how we would rapidly put up a space domain awareness capability and operate it in real time against a red threat,” Guetlein said.

As it prepares for the upcoming demo, one question being considered is whether TacRS could be something the Space Force purchases from industry as a service or if it needs to be a bespoke capability. According to Guetlein, all options are up for consideration.


“It might be through the commercially augmented space reserve that I reach into industry and I repurpose an asset that’s already on orbit. It might be that I reach into industry and I take something off the production line and repurpose it like we did for Victus Nox. It might be that I already have capabilities stored on orbit. It might be that there are some capabilities that we want to store on the ground so that we have rapid access to them,” he said. “Tactically responsive space is all of those concepts together, wrapped up into a mindset and a culture change within the United States Space Force.”

Mikayla Easley

Written by Mikayla Easley

Mikayla Easley reports on the Pentagon’s acquisition and use of emerging technologies. Prior to joining DefenseScoop, she covered national security and the defense industry for National Defense Magazine. She received a BA in Russian language and literature from the University of Michigan and a MA in journalism from the University of Missouri. You can follow her on Twitter @MikaylaEasley

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