Preventing Pearl Harbor in Space

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.

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.

29 Replies to “Preventing Pearl Harbor in Space”

  1. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Both U.S. and China have shown actively anti-satellite capabilities, other countries possess the technology . A space arms race is going to be very expensive and very dangerous.

  2. “As we move ever forward into the space age, we bring our military with us.”

    More like: “As the military moves ever forward into the space age, they allow you to tag along and rediscover technology they most likely had 30 years ago”. It would be laughable not to realise that the American military have far more advanced technology in space than most would give them credit for. Just look at the technology that the NRO were flying over 40 years ago, only recently declassified, and extend that by imagination and their almost limitless budgets to now! It’s not necessarily an entirely bad thing, but not necessarily entirely good either.

    “Just imagine how many science probes all this military spending would buy.”

    Now that is the crux of the issue. With the sheer amount of cash that the world’s superpowers throw down on so-called ‘defense’ (attack?) spending, we could probably have cured cancer, advance space exploration enormously, funded huge science projects such as the Superconducting Super Collider, and have an assload left over for any number of critical humanitarian causes.

    Humans will be humans though. In reality, if the current superpowers don’t spend the dough on military one-upmanship, some other country will rush in to take their place. Witness China.

  3. It seems the U.S. is waiting for other world powers to surpass them in science and perhaps applications before they care to do anything about funding pure scientific efforts. By and large any military hardware developed are applications of this basic science.

  4. True Greg. At the end of the day, pretty much all innovation comes about as a result of basic science research. It is the foundation that all else is built on…

  5. Its about time!

    For all the whiners out there, our economy/technology heavily depends upon these silicon wonders floating above, and defending them against hostile powers is a priority.

    While no one (or rather most people) do not look for a fight, it is better to be prepared for an upcoming/potential battle than to rely on mere promises of peace.

  6. Not whining – I don’t see where we are required to have space-based weapons. Other studies (some by military) have shown that this will be a no-win disaster scenario. One good satellite attack could leave enough debri in space as to push us pack to the 1950’s without the benefit of safe satellite tech like weather, comm, etc.

    Sure – go for it – shame if with all our science all we manage to do is destroy ourselves (and some folks seem to think this is desirable).
    If thats the best mankind can offer then I guess we deserve it.

  7. I like to just keep it simple. Twice (or more) we’ve needed to shoot down errant sats. Considering the debris field we have created, it would be prudent to outfit high-value assets with self-defending capability. Still, we are in the area of orbital prudence. Where would be turn for this type advice other than the military?

  8. I’m pretty pragmatic about this. If there are going to be weapons capable of destroying satellites, there needs to be a way to defend them. The whole thing is ridiculous, but satellites need defending. Especially considering the non-military use of satellites, like GPS.

  9. I wonder if there is any innovative research on the way which can clean the orbit from debris.

    Maybe a super laser that pushes pieces out of the orbit or a sort of trawl.

  10. Would it make sense to have a fleet of radar satellites stationed around the earth to only oversee debris and to map every tiny piece with highest accuracy?

  11. Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

    Powerful you have become, the dark side I sense in you

    So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph, because good is dumb

    Death comes to call, you cannot hold water in your hands for long, it leaks away, goes where it’s meant to go. To the soil, to the sky. To ions then space, where stars are born.

  12. GPS was primarily a military satellite network which has been repackaged and made available to the public.

    All this stems directly from BMD if you ask me… although arguably warfare was always going to move to space.

  13. btw, is that pic of an F-15 firing a primitive ASAT?

    Afaik, they used high altitude jets to launch ASATs in the 1980s.

  14. Is nobody else worried about the possibility (probability?) of space-based weapons’ command software being hacked?

    At least with a ship/sub/bunker there are people there with a kill-switch – not so in space.

  15. I live in Germany as a local national and have contact with members of the US Forces here. What always amazes me is the fact, who incredibly much money the US Army spends for purposes that are not clearly related to the military, e.g. a soldier and his or her family reside off-post in the German economy. What does the Army do? It pays for the rent. Or another example, the Army pays for the College. Or the Army pays for medical issues of the children of the divorced soldier. Or the Army gives fuel coupons for the soldiers’ POVs. Of which other Army in the world did you ever hear such a thing? The lefties in Germany always claim that the US has the highest military spending compared to every other single army. So what? They miss the point. The US Army is dedicated to other things than just “supress the poor people of the world” as agitators always claim. They miss the point.

    “Just imagine how many science probes all this military spending would buy.” That’s the point.

  16. Yes sir,

    where would this world be without military.
    Complete chaos.
    No education and welfare.
    undisciplined crackjunkies in every corner.

    It will be the best to completely militarize all states and societies.
    The problem of military budget is then gone 😀

  17. # major rubberballs Says:

    “It will be the best to completely militarize all states and societies.
    The problem of military budget is then gone”

    Sounds like you have a problem with the military. Don’t worry. Nobody is perfect.
    (But I hope that you have at least no problems with police?)

  18. sir yes sir

    No worries, police is fine.
    They shoot you only when you deserve it.
    And I feel saver when someone paid by the state is controlling the public cameras.

    We should have a clear and common concept of the enemy.

    sir yes sir

  19. Stan Fields: What is the one most important thing our society needs?

    Gracie Hart: That would be… harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan.

    [crowd is silent]

    Gracie Hart: And world peace!

    [crowd cheers ecstatically]

  20. Sir yes sir

    that is the problem.
    These civilists just dont have the necessary discipline and obidience. They stupidly think they are individuals with free will. They ignore the loving breast and the liberation from thinking own thoughts.

    “From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:

    Sir yes sir

  21. “major rubberballs”, I can clearly see what your problem is. Old George could not make clear to you what kind of society he mend.

    We Germans invented both National Socialism and Marxism. Marx was German, Hitler was German.

    We suffered among the one form of Utopia from 1933 to 1945 and half of us among the other from 1945 to 1989. Enough experience to admire societies that are simply democratic and have an Army to defend their interests, whether good or bad, too.

  22. “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience.therefore [individual citizens] have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.” : Nuremberg War Crime Tribunal, 1950

  23. Would the nickname “Robin Hood” not fit better to you? Or Zorro?

    WHATdomestic laws do you exactly violate to prevent WHAT crimes concretely?

  24. No dollhopf,

    I wont allow him to use my name.
    Although I admit that military power needs control.
    And military at all times wasted money of the citizens.

    If I only think about the sheriff of Nottingham and his soldiers. What a waste of money.

  25. Hi Robin and Dollhopf,

    many greetings from palestine.
    It is quite nice weather over here though the locals give us a hard time.
    the just dont understand wtf our crusade is so important.
    I think we have to ask for some more money to have the latest weapons and some better housings around here.

    please sent some gold as soon as possible.

    best wishes richard

    P.S. please say hi to the other frenchies over there.

  26. Dear Richard,

    come back!

    I know that you only went there because they bombed here, but while you tried to wipe out the nest of the terrorists for all times so far away from me, more and more of them come here every day. And they besiege me.

    Help me!

    your true Lady

  27. My dearest beloved babyjane,

    come on get real.
    I have to do a job over here and you know what ?
    It is great fun to massacre all these strange behaving foreigners.

    For homeland security I hired a bunch of brigands that work under cover in sherwood forrest.

    they will work it out somehow.
    In the attachment I sent you some rosewater and couple of photos of the medina.
    They are not very good cause my mobile had a low battery and the flash did not work.

    your loving hubbie Rick

  28. Hi Robin and dollhopf,

    things get tricky over here.
    You better get some money wandering.
    And hey Robin, why the hack is Jane jangling about the pigsty at home.
    It is your bloody job to keep things running.

    I dont want to hear complaints again or the thing with the accolade wont happen.

    anyway lets proceed, Rick

  29. While you lot are bickering, don’t forget the former Soviet Union/Russians have fielded ASAT’s for years, have a look at and while you are surfing the www tap in Sukhoi Su-35…
    Nighty Night

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