Both China and the United States have recently demonstrated their ability to reach out and destroy satellites from the ground. Since the modern military depends so much on satellites for communications and reconnaissance, you can imagine they’re juicy targets in future conflicts. Aviation Week has an interesting article about the US Air Force’s strategy to defend against this.
So here’s the nightmare scenario. One country planning to invade another would launch a simultaneous attack against a constellation of satellites. If the attacker timed things right, and launched enough anti-satellite missiles, the defender would be rendered blind almost instantaneously.
One moment, the Pentagon is watching the Earth from multiple vantage points, coordinating the movement of troops, and a few minutes later… nothing. A 2001 Space Commission called this scenario, “Pearl Harbor in Space”.
The Pentagon is working on a strategy they hope will prevent against this sneak satellite attack, and they hope to have it online by 2011. The new system, called Rapid Attack Identification Detection Reporting System (Raidrs), would upgrade the capabilities of the satellites, as well as put in a ground-based monitoring system. As missiles are launched towards satellites, commanders would have enough warning to move the targeted bird out of the way.
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If the attack came today, the US military would know they were being targeted, but they wouldn’t necessarily know where, or from who. And they’d have no way to prevent satellites from being shot down. But within a few years, that should change, with individual satellites able to be defend themselves, and help pinpoint the attacker.
As we move ever forward into the space age, we bring our military with us. Although it would be wonderful to have space without weapons, I can’t imagine why the world’s military wouldn’t want to come along into the final frontier. Space is the ultimate high-ground, and they’ll do everything to defend it. Just imagine how many science probes all this military spending would buy.
Anyway, check out the Aviation Week article, and get more details about the program itself.