US Air Force Increases Investment in Satellite Protection Technology

[/caption]What does the US, Russia and China have in common? Yes, they’ve all sent a man into space and successfully carried out spacewalks using home-made spaceships, but they have another space-based attribute in common. They are all capable of shooting down satellites in Earth orbit. What’s more, all have proven it. So, we know for a fact that the technology is out there, and although it is still an extremely hard task, satellites are becoming more and more vulnerable to attack from the ground. Experts now believe that anti-satellite technology is within reach of rogue states and some well-funded terrorist groups, using nothing more than a medium range missile, a college-level team of individuals and some crude, yet effective, technology.

The US Air Force is now highlighting their concern by investing $29 million in companies to develop space-based warning and protection systems. The “star wars” threat is still out there

In February, the warship USS Lake Erie fired a modified Standard Missile-3 at a defunct spy satellite called USA 193. The mission was a success, anti-satellite warhead slamming into the fast-moving target. BBC Washington correspondent Jonathan Beale likened the satellite shoot-down to “trying to fire a missile through the eye of a needle.” Although difficult, the US had proven they had the technology to destroy targets in Earth orbit from the ground. This demonstration of US capabilities was widely interpreted as a response to China’s unannounced weather satellite intercept the previous year. However, the US military maintain action needed to be taken as the dead spy satellite could re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, carrying substantial quantities of toxic hydrazine fuel with it.

Regardless of the reasons for a satellite shoot-down, China and the US have shown their abilities when destroying a small target, travelling at high speed in Earth orbit. So now the concern is: what if a well-funded terrorist group or rogue state develop even the crudest anti-satellite technology? According to US military experts some serious damage can be done to military satellites, global positioning systems, weather satellites and even satellite TV systems should they be targeted. All that is needed is a medium-range missile carrying some kind of crude warhead; as long as the warhead collides with, or disrupts the satellite, the satellite will be useless. Although it is not believed there are any current plans by terrorist groups, the US Air Force wants to ensure the future safety of US interests in Earth orbit.

This signifies more investment in the Self-Awareness Space Situations Awareness (SASSA) program, hoping to develop and demonstrate an automated early warning system for space vehicles by 2010. The Air Force has provided $29 million in funds to companies such as Assurance Technologies and Lockheed Martin Space Systems to begin designing the hardware and software that will offer threat and hazard detection, assessment and notification.

The goal is to construct a payload that will identify threats to satellites and protect them from ground-based missile and laser threats.

Concern is growing for the wider use of anti-satellite weapons, so the US Air Force want to be one step ahead of any future threat to US interests orbiting the planet.

Source: Network World

22 Replies to “US Air Force Increases Investment in Satellite Protection Technology”

  1. I imagine you would have to hit a lot of satellites to disable the GPS network. And really, why would a terrorist want to shoot down our TV and weather satellites? What are they going to do, annoy us to death?

  2. @Fagin

    LOL – See our demands are met or we’re going to temporarily suspend afternoon TV. So there! Take that you western pigs!

    Also Osama says to tell you that he thinks your mother needs to shave her moustache off – you filthy Infidel son of a flower press maker!

  3. In war infrastructure is the first thing to be targeted. Power stations, docks, phone centers, highway intersections, that sort of thing.
    Space has become part of that. Its where we keep our advanced navigation and communications equipment… and if that stuff was ground based it would all be tagged for a thorough nuking.

    My fear wouldn’t be for superpowers duking it out tho.
    Sooner or later someones bound to idiot proof the equipment… then export it to places where folks could care less about the full implications of taking pot luck shots at our stuff.

    Having the means to defeat these systems, saving our equipment, would give us more options than to simply counter attack.

  4. Rep Barney Frank just recently declared his wish for a 25% reduction in military spending. I figure you can see a somewhat similar reduction in funding for space-related projects. So if the Dems win, there won’t be a whole lot of worry over satellite protection techology.

  5. Actually it just means we’ll be worrying about Russian satellites.
    I doubt the demand for navigation or communication equipment will dwindle. So they’ll run to get their services from the next best source.

    Its a good thing no one has a bone to pick with the soviets….

    I’m going to go cry now.

  6. Steve,

    in WWIII we will have more to worry about than “affecting the entire developed world”.

  7. Satellites are used for much more than just GPS, although loss of those would be devastating enough. For a better appreciation of the problem, read “Space Wars: The First Six Hours of World War III”. This would affect the entire developed world in ways that you probably haven’t even imagined.

  8. You’re not thinking creatively enough people.

    The Space Shuttle and the ISS are just as much “satellites” (objects orbiting the Earth) as any communications or spy satellite are.

    With appropriate aim and a sufficiently useful warhead terrorists could destroy a manned spacecraft, the ISS, or any future manned space station.

  9. That’s true, and it would be something a terrorist network might give a shot at (pun intended). It would be a hell of a PR move. However, from a more “classic” military standpoint, knocking out telecom networks and spy satellites are very interesting aims. Manned ships are usually not.

    Still, we have much, much better things to worry about than those long shots. Instead of going all paranoid about that kind of stuff, we’d accoplish a LOT more if we made an effort to reduce international tensions. And if we put financial institutions firmly under control.

    A LOT more.

  10. I don’t think the towel heads could master that type of technology.

    Some of their brightest people obviously have the intelligence to do that, surely, but with the backward, fatalistic societies that they live in, they are better off sticking to throwing rocks.

  11. # Sakib Says:
    October 26th, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    “They could even blow up the HST!”

    Now that would piss me off.

  12. Well, I have to put myself into the shoes of a terrorist. Why would I go through all the effort to get a hold of some technology that I don’t play around with that much, aiming it at some target that I have a high likelihood of missing which, worse yet, might come right back down and hit me and my rogue state, a much larger and easier target, right here on the ground where it and the busted up satellite has to return? What goes up must come down. It’s easier to just throw rocks and burn American flags.

    My nephew served in the Iranian Army and the majority of the soldiers he served with were extremely fascinated with his American roots. They asked about America all the time. What they do in public is just a mask. They could care less about blowing us up. They just want us out of their back yard. I told my nephew that was a simple task. No weapons recquired. Just organize into labor unions and demand teamster wages. The capitalists will leave tomorrow.

  13. You are wasting your time if you are worried about an ASAT strike on your space infrastructure. Is it possible? Yes. Is it probabale? Not really
    This would be a sort of Pearl Harbour situation, where you would more than likely know exactly who is doing the deed.
    The insurgents in Iraq and Syria are more likely to try a IED or a BCIED/MIED – a lot more easier and lowtech. Time to get real I believe…

  14. Never underestimate technology. They aren’t looking at this being a threat in the next couple of years, they are simply getting ahead of something which in 10 years could very well be in the hands of nations like Iran and North Korea. Which could easily train and equip terrorists with this threat.

    Realistically, you don’t have to make a direct hit in order to do damage. There are enough satellites in low earth orbit, that a couple of well placed shots of scattered debris in a retrograde orbit at a few common declinations will do a great deal of damage. Perhaps not immediately, but over time it is very likely.
    Don’t forget the snowball affect of debris. With the time and expense of satellites, there isn’t a lot of built in redundancy for many of them. For those who don’t think their life would be affected by the loss of several satellites is simply ignorant. For instance over 60% of credit card transactions at gas pumps travel via satellite, and it would put a large strain on logistical movement of goods, greatly slowing down and degrading efficiency which you’ll immediately see in the cost of goods and services.

    What would terrorists get by striking them down? Well, lets see. We use satellites to coordinate tactial actions, develop plans, gain visual and electromagnetic information, predict weather, network equipment, notify us of rocket launches, navigate, tracking, intelligence etc. Basically, protect the homeland. Could you get by without it? Sure, but you wouldn’t be as effective, and more lives will be lost. Not very comforting if one of those lost is you. These items aren’t easily or cheaply replaced; making them prized targets.

  15. marcellus… your ignorance from your racist belief is as bad as your ignorance about people themselves.
    There are terrorists more educated than yourself, and you believe they couldn’t handle weapons technology?
    You aren’t only an ignorant racist, you’re a moron.

  16. “And really, why would a terrorist want to shoot down our TV and weather satellites?”

    Although it’ll be a long time before terrorists can threaten anything in geostationary orbits (nations are another issue), understand that ‘TV’ satellites are rarely just that. Various on-board transponders serve various other uses, including voice and data (and as voice/video have long been carried as a digital bitstream, the difference is almost meaningless).

    Now, the economic situation is already
    precarious enough…imagine the effect of taking out a signifigant chunk of communications supporting real-time, world-wide financial transactions and you can see why the ‘bad guys’ might be interested in doing harm to satcoms…

    Even sudden, signifigant TV disruption (coordinated with some other major action…imagine if it could have been done at the same time as September 11?) could only enhance fear and anxiety in the US and other western nations.

  17. Terrorist would love to find and eliminate spy satellites, or any other sat that can be used for anything by the West.

    Even if it wasn’t a major target, thay would try for it, just to say they did it.

    They absolutley would attampt to go after manned spacecraft as well.

    The U.S. and it’s allies need to develop a system that can trace the launch location of an anti-sat missile. Obviously, this would rely on satellites too, but if placed in a high enough orbit, they would be out of reach.

  18. “They absolutley would attampt to go after manned spacecraft as well”.

    Terrorists haven’t hit an unmanned aircraft yet, much less a manned spacecraft. Good luck.

  19. Dear Aodhhan and Bonr

    When you cherish the traditions of democracy and have respect for the rule of law, you may possibly be able to join the real world.

    Until then, Boo Hoo Hoo.

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