So what do you do if someone fires a powerful laser at your satellite? The optics on the satellite will probably be fried, so you couldn’t see who did it. The US military appears to be concerned that this possibility may become a reality. As the US depends more and more on space for communications, GPS and military applications, the US government has announced the development of a defence method intended to detect a ground-based laser attack on a satellite, and pin point the laser’s location. However, some experts have warned against taking this kind of action as there is little evidence other nations are developing anti-satellite laser technology. Also, it may be defence system but it could push further development of the militarization of space…
Satellites can be a pretty vulnerable technology. As showcased by both China and the US in the last year, satellites are well within the scope for anti-satellite missiles. Although both nations contest that the satellite shoot downs were not intended to demonstrate their military prowess in space, many observers have become concerned about the acceleration of research into space weaponry. Pentagon officials have even voiced their concern that their spy satellites may fall fowl of “illumination” by Chinese ground-based lasers. There is however little evidence that China is pursuing this technology.
Even so, the US Air Force has called on contractors to develop a system that will “sense and attribute” a laser attack. This means the technology must have the ability to sense laser emission aimed at a satellite and attribute it to a location on the surface. This development program has become known as Self Awareness/Space Situation Awareness (SASSA). The SASSA system will need to be sensitive to a wide range of laser and radio wavelengths, but the tough part will be to accurately pin-point where the laser is being fired from.
This month, both Lockheed Martin and Boeing have presented their proposals for the SASSA system and the Air Force hopes to fly the winning bid on board an experimental satellite (TacSat-5) in 2011.
Although this is a defensive measure, military analysts are worried that the SASSA could increase tensions around the use of space weapons. As Rob Hewson, analyst and editor for Jane’s Air Launched Weapons, points out, “It’s a defensive step but one that assumes an attack, it is a baby step in the preparation for fighting in space.”
Source: New Scientist Tech