Defense Department researchers see a future in which the U.S. military has air traffic controllers for space, if Congress will invest in the necessary programs.

"Space is becoming a real-time domain, and it's no longer good enough to sort of know what's up there. We really need to start moving to a future of space traffic control, more like flight traffic control for the air domain," Arati Prabhakar, the director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, said at the SciTech 2014 conference Monday.

Prabhakar mentioned that project and other efforts to develop more efficient ways of launching satellites as she argued that U.S. national security leaders to prioritize space research.

"Today we are extremely effective at waging a kind of precise lethal war," she said. "It's something that is a core element of our national security today, but it is a kind of warfighting capability that's simply not possible without the assets that we have on orbit."