US Space Command Says Unidentified Aerial Objects Outside Its ‘Astrographic Area of Responsibility’
US Space Command Says Unidentified Aerial Objects Outside Its ‘Astrographic Area of Responsibility’

By Frank Fang

The U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) explained why it has not been at the forefront of dealing with the Chinese spy balloon, and other unidentified flying objects shot down in North American airspace recently.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (NORTHCOM), both headed by Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, have been leading the effort to share information about the objects, since the balloon was shot down off the South Carolina Coast on Feb. 4.

In a statement to Fox News on Feb. 14, a spokesperson for the Space Command explained that it is not taking a lead role because the objects operated outside the command’s “astrographic area of responsibility.”

“U.S. Space Command operates the most exquisite and extensive sensor network in the world,” the spokesperson said, adding that NORAD, NORTHCOM, and the Pentagon are three bodies that are the “focal point” in identifying the objects.

“While the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena are below USSPACECOM’s astrographic area of responsibility (100km+), we continue to monitor these events and provide supporting data to U.S. Northern Command,” the spokesperson added.

The Space Command declined to elaborate on what it meant about providing “supporting data,” according to the outlet.

USSPACECOM is one of the nation’s 11 combatant commands responsible for U.S. military operations. Aside from the Nothern Command, other commands include the European Command, the Indo-Pacific Command, the Southern Command, and Cyber Command.

“U.S. Space Command, working with Allies and Partners, plans, executes, and integrates military spacepower into multi-domain global operations in order to deter aggression, defend national interests, and when necessary, defeat threats,” according to the command’s website.

The U.S. Space Force did not comment when asked whether it was working with NORAD and NORTHCOM on the objects, according to the outlet.

Established in December 2019 during the Trump administration, the Space Force is organized under the U.S. Air Force in a manner similar to how the Marine Corps is organized under the U.S. Navy.

Past Events

The U.S. military shot down the Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4, but not before it crossed the continental United States for days.

Before being shot down, the balloon flew near Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, hovered near Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, and came close to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

Since then, U.S. fighter jets have shot down three more objects—one over Alaska on Feb. 10, another over Canada’s Yukon territory on Feb. 11, and one over Michigan’s Lake Huron on Feb. 12.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Feb. 15 that there had been no new unidentified “objects” reported in U.S. airspace over the past 48 hours.

“We’re going to do everything we can to recover debris if it’s possible. That will help us learn a lot more about, you know, what these objects are,” Austin said. “We’re also working with other agencies—NASA, FAA, FBI— and everybody in the community who may have an interest in operating in this space to learn more about, you know, what these could have possibly been.”

Also on Wednesday, NORAD announced that it was conducting a one-day “live-fly air defense exercise” off the coast of Washington state and British Columbia. It added that it was a planned, routine exercise.

“This exercise is in no way related to recent NORAD and U.S. Northern Command operations associated with airborne objects over North America during the last two weeks,” NORAD said.

Senate Resolutions

On Feb. 15, the Senate passed two resolutions condemning China for sending the spy balloon over the United States—one introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Feb. 9 and the other by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Feb. 14.

“China’s decision to send a surveillance balloon into U.S. airspace was a gross violation of American sovereignty and it will not be tolerated. We must send a message–and get the facts from this administration about what’s going on in our skies, while we’re at it,” Hawley said in a statement to announce that his resolution had been passed unanimously.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) at a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Sept. 13, 2022. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

His resolution also calls upon President Joe Biden to “be transparent with the American people and Congress” about the incident and all other Chinese Communist Party (CCP) surveillance attempts.

Tester posted a video on Twitter to announce the passing of the bipartisan resolution.

“This is a bipartisan effort to inform China that not only were their actions inappropriate, but their moves to replace us economically and militarily will fail,” Tester said in his video. “It is important that we get to the bottom of what transpired with that balloon that went over Montana and was shot down off the coast of South Carolina.”

“I’m proud to have led this unified effort to rebuke China’s unacceptable provocation,” Tester wrote in his tweet.

The House of Representatives has already passed a resolution condemning the CCP. On Feb. 9, the House resolution passed on a 419–0 vote.

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