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HUNTSVILLE, Alabama (Reuters) - The Air Force's new top commander for space predicted on Tuesday future attacks on U.S. satellites and called for greatly expanded tracking and identification of payloads launched by other countries.
Currently, U.S. efforts are focused on determining if an overseas launch is a ballistic missile or designed to put an object in orbit, then cataloging it over a period that can take weeks, said Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, who heads the Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.
"I say those days are over," he told an annual conference here on the fledgling, multibillion-dollar U.S. anti-missile shield. "If it's a space launch, we can't afford to relax."
"We need to know what the intent of that launch is," he said, including whether an object could jam or otherwise harm satellites or spread micro-satellites that could do so.
Chilton said his goal was to learn all this in the object's first orbit of the Earth so the United States could take unspecified actions "before an adversary can cripple us."
Warning of satelite attack