• Thanks for stopping by. Logging in to a registered account will remove all generic ads. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

Air Force Seeks Bush's Approval for Space Arms


Full Member
Reaction score

Air Force Seeks Bush's Approval for Space Arms


The Air Force, saying it must secure space to protect the nation from attack, is seeking President Bush's approval of a national-security directive that could move the United States closer to fielding offensive and defensive space weapons, according to White House and Air Force officials.

The proposed change would be a substantial shift in American policy. It would almost certainly be opposed by many American allies and potential enemies, who have said it may create an arms race in space.

A senior administration official said that a new presidential directive would replace a 1996 Clinton administration policy that emphasized a more pacific use of space, including spy satellites' support for military operations, arms control and nonproliferation pacts.

Any deployment of space weapons would face financial, technological, political and diplomatic hurdles, although no treaty or law bans Washington from putting weapons in space, barring weapons of mass destruction.

A presidential directive is expected within weeks, said the senior administration official, who is involved with space policy and insisted that he not be identified because the directive is still under final review and the White House has not disclosed its details.

Air Force officials said yesterday that the directive, which is still in draft form, did not call for militarizing space. "The focus of the process is not putting weapons in space," said Maj. Karen Finn, an Air Force spokeswoman, who said that the White House, not the Air Force, makes national policy. "The focus is having free access in space."

With little public debate, the Pentagon has already spent billions of dollars developing space weapons and preparing plans to deploy them.

"We haven't reached the point of strafing and bombing from space," Pete Teets, who stepped down last month as the acting secretary of the Air Force, told a space warfare symposium last year. "Nonetheless, we are thinking about those possibilities."

In January 2001, a commission led by Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the newly nominated defense secretary, recommended that the military should "ensure that the president will have the option to deploy weapons in space."

It said that "explicit national security guidance and defense policy is needed to direct development of doctrine, concepts of operations and capabilities for space, including weapons systems that operate in space."

The effort to develop a new policy directive reflects three years of work prompted by the report. The White House would not say if all the report's recommendations would be adopted.

In 2002, after weighing the report of the Rumsfeld space commission, President Bush withdrew from the 30-year-old Antiballistic Missile Treaty, which banned space-based weapons.

Ever since then, the Air Force has sought a new presidential policy officially ratifying the concept of seeking American space superiority.

The Air Force believes "we must establish and maintain space superiority," Gen. Lance Lord, who leads the Air Force Space Command, told Congress recently. "Simply put, it's the American way of fighting." Air Force doctrine defines space superiority as "freedom to attack as well as freedom from attack" in space.

The mission will require new weapons, new space satellites, new ways of doing battle and, by some estimates, hundreds of billions of dollars. It faces enormous technological obstacles. And many of the nation's allies object to the idea that space is an American frontier.

Yet "there seems little doubt that space-basing of weapons is an accepted aspect of the Air Force" and its plans for the future, Capt. David C. Hardesty of the Naval War College faculty says in a new study.

A new Air Force strategy, Global Strike, calls for a military space plane carrying precision-guided weapons armed with a half-ton of munitions. General Lord told Congress last month that Global Strike would be "an incredible capability" to destroy command centers or missile bases "anywhere in the world."

Pentagon documents say the weapon, called the common aero vehicle, could strike from halfway around the world in 45 minutes. "This is the type of prompt Global Strike I have identified as a top priority for our space and missile force," General Lord said.

The Air Force's drive into space has been accelerated by the Pentagon's failure to build a missile defense on earth. After spending 22 years and nearly $100 billion, Pentagon officials say they cannot reliably detect and destroy a threat today.

"Are we out of the woods? No," Lt. Gen. Trey Obering, who directs the Missile Defense Agency, said in an interview. "We've got a long way to go, a lot of testing to do."

While the Missile Defense Agency struggles with new technology for a space-based laser, the Air Force already has a potential weapon in space.

In April, the Air Force launched the XSS-11, an experimental microsatellite with the technical ability to disrupt other nations' military reconnaissance and communications satellites.

Another Air Force space program, nicknamed Rods From God, aims to hurl cylinders of tungsten, titanium or uranium from the edge of space to destroy targets on the ground, striking at speeds of about 7,200 miles an hour with the force of a small nuclear weapon.

A third program would bounce laser beams off mirrors hung from space satellites or huge high-altitude blimps, redirecting the lethal rays down to targets around the world. A fourth seeks to turn radio waves into weapons whose powers could range "from tap on the shoulder to toast," in the words of an Air Force plan.

Captain Hardesty, in the new issue of the Naval War College Review, calls for "a thorough military analysis" of these plans, followed by "a larger public debate."

"To proceed with space-based weapons on any other foundation would be the height of folly," he concludes, warning that other nations not necessarily allies would follow America's lead into space.

Despite objections from members of Congress who thought "space should be sanctified and no weapons ever put in space," Mr. Teets, then the Air Force under secretary, told the space-warfare symposium last June that "that policy needs to be pushed forward."

Last month, Gen. James E. Cartwright, who leads the United States Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services nuclear forces subcommittee that the goal of developing space weaponry was to allow the nation to deliver an attack "very quickly, with very short time lines on the planning and delivery, any place on the face of the earth."

Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama who is chairman of the subcommittee, worried that the common aero vehicle might be used in ways that would "be mistaken as some sort of attack on, for example, Russia."

"They might think it would be a launch against them of maybe a nuclear warhead," Senator Sessions said. "We want to be sure that there could be no misunderstanding in that before we authorize going forward with this vehicle."

General Cartwright said that the military would "provide every opportunity to ensure that it's not misunderstood" and that Global Strike simply aimed to "expand the choices that we might be able to offer to the president in crisis."

Senior military and space officials of the European Union, Canada, China and Russia have objected publicly to the notion of American space superiority.

They think that "the United States doesn't own space - nobody owns space," said Teresa Hitchens, vice president of the Center for Defense Information, a policy analysis group in Washington that tends to be critical of the Pentagon. "Space is a global commons under international treaty and international law."

No nation will "accept the U.S. developing something they see as the death star," Ms. Hitchens told a Council on Foreign Relations meeting last month. "I don't think the United States would find it very comforting if China were to develop a death star, a 24/7 on-orbit weapon that could strike at targets on the ground anywhere in 90 minutes."

International objections aside, Randy Correll, an Air Force veteran and military consultant, told the council, "the big problem now is it's too expensive."

The Air Force does not put a price tag on space superiority. Published studies by leading weapons scientists, physicists and engineers say the cost of a space-based system that could defend the nation against an attack by a handful of missiles could be anywhere from $220 billion to $1 trillion.

Richard Garwin, widely regarded as a dean of American weapons science, and three colleagues wrote in the March issue of IEEE Spectrum, the professional journal of electric engineering, that "a space-based laser would cost $100 million per target, compared with $600,000 for a Tomahawk missile."

"The psychological impact of such a blow might rival that of such devastating attacks as Hiroshima," they wrote. "But just as the unleashing of nuclear weapons had unforeseen consequences, so, too, would the weaponization of space."

Surveillance and reconnaissance satellites are a crucial component of space superiority. But the biggest new spy satellite program, Future Imagery Architecture, has tripled in price to about $25 billion while producing less than promised, military contractors say. A new space technology for detecting enemy launchings has risen to more than $10 billion from a promised $4 billion, Mr. Teets told Congress last month.

But General Lord said such problems should not stand in the way of the Air Force's plans to move into space.

"Space superiority is not our birthright, but it is our destiny," he told an Air Force conference in September. "Space superiority is our day-to-day mission. Space supremacy is our vision for the future."
Only if they have brought back Advanced Alien Technology through the StarGate.  ;D

Now back to our Regularly Scheduled Programming.
We will be hearing the usual hypocritical and hysterical crap from "Pink Lloyd" and the rest of that brigade about the "militarization of space" and how it is such a bad thing that the Americans are doing it, but it was perfectly O.K. for the USSR to deploy a working Anti Satellite (ASAT) system back in the 1980s, or Russia retain and upgrade a BMD system first deployed in the 1970s.

We are simply seeing a replication of the evolution of air power in the early part of the last century. The first American aircraft were operated by the Signals Corps, and the first military use of aircraft was as observation planes (today's analogy = spysats). Other uses was improved "geomatics" (using air photos to make accurate maps), weather observation and directing artillery (done today with various radar and mapping satellites and the GPS constellation). It dawned on both sides that this was too much of an advantage for the other side, and fighter planes soon appeared to drive away the observation planes. More fighters were needed to escort "your" observation planes, and it soon dawned on everyone that fast, armed airplanes could also affect the ground battles as well. We are now at the point that it is technologically feasable to create the equivalent of "fighter planes" for space operations, and escorts and ground attack space vehicles will follow in time.

If the United States is not thinking about this, it is certain that Russia, China, the EU and India are (these countries have current or near term space capabilities, as well as nuclear weapons; probably the most effective near term offensive space arnament available). It is only prudent that the US start making plans, and so long as we are content to shelter under the American defense umbrella, I don't think we should expect to be taken seriously unless we also have something to contribute in this arena.
Hell everyone must have seen it comeing the only good side for us canadians if there is a space arms race  were allies with the wealthest country .. even if we dont put arms in space someone will sometime .. its not alway good to be the first one but i think this is one of them. just hope they dont shoot at the lil green men

a_majoor said:
We will be hearing the usual hypocritical and hysterical crap from "Pink Lloyd" and the rest of that brigade about the "militarization of space" and how it is such a bad thing that the Americans are doing it, but it was perfectly O.K. for the USSR to deploy a working Anti Satellite (ASAT) system back in the 1980s, or Russia retain and upgrade a BMD system first deployed in the 1970s.

The US already has ASAT, deployed from the F-15 fighter aircraft.   I would not call the Russian " galosh" a credible ABM system.   A total of 64 launchers were deployed around Moscow ONLY but they reduced this number to 32 in 1980.   The 1972 ABM treaty allowed for 100 such launchers.   The "galosh" is not up to the task as it is easily saturated by multiple warheads.
While it is true Galosh is a limited ABM system, it has been in service all these years while "Safeguard" was shut down in 1975, and the US is starting BMD R&D from scratch. Galosh is also supplimented by various high altitude SAM systems. This would be like the United States continuing the Safeguard system and supplimenting it with hundreds of Patriot missiles scattered across the US. As for the American ASAT system, I never heard that it was deployed (although we never hear about a lot of things...)

The point about the "Pink Lloyd" comment is that you and I never hear a word from them unless the system in question is being considered by the United States, regardless of how many other nations have similar systems or capabilities. I can't imagine how they believe Chinese space weapons make them safer while US ones do not.....
a_majoor said:
While it is true Galosh is a limited ABM system, it has been in service all these years while "Safeguard" was shut down in 1975, and the US is starting BMD R&D from scratch. Galosh is also supplimented by various high altitude SAM systems. This would be like the United States continuing the Safeguard system and supplimenting it with hundreds of Patriot missiles scattered across the US. As for the American ASAT system, I never heard that it was deployed (although we never hear about a lot of things...)

The point about the "Pink Lloyd" comment is that you and I never hear a word from them unless the system in question is being considered by the United States, regardless of how many other nations have similar systems or capabilities. I can't imagine how they believe Chinese space weapons make them safer while US ones do not.....

Russian high-altitude SAMs do not have the capability to react threats such as ICBMs, neither does the US patriot system.  The US cancelled the safeguard system due to rising costs and for technological reasons.  I wrote extensively about "galosh" and safeguard for security studies in school.  The US ASAT system was developed in the late 1970s, early 1980s.  It was basicaly a giant missle slung under the F-15 on the centerline station ( where a fuel tank is usualy carried).  The fighter would go straight up to its maximum altitude and fire the muti-stage missle towards space.  The last stage of the missile  was the kill vehicle that would destroy a satelite by impact.  The technology is proven but efforts in R&D were re-directed towards beam weapons.
NRO editorial on the subject

"Star Warsâ ?

Given the reaction to this week's report that the Air Force has requested, and President Bush will probably issue, a national-security directive on the military use of space, you might be excused for thinking America was about to build a Death Star. We don't know yet what the Air Force wants - but that hasn't stopped the usual disciples of peace from bristling at it, whatever it is. This is a good time, then, to consider the merits of a bold space-weapons program.

Not all technologies the Air Force might seek are Star Wars fare. They might include, for example, satellite-jamming systems and satellites that could target and destroy other satellites, which some defense experts think could be operational in 18 months. Other programs, such as a space plane that could attack targets halfway around the globe in 45 minutes, are farther down the horizon.

The debate over such technologies is closely related to the debate over missile defense. Critics of the Air Force's space aims get especially upset about space-based interceptors, which, unlike ground- and sea-based interceptors, could target a missile during its slow ascent over enemy territory. Worries about costs and technological barriers are raised, but they shouldn't close the door even to research and testing.

Moral squeamishness about "weaponizing" space is even harder to understand. If North Korea or Iran launched a ballistic missile at us or one of our allies, that would pretty well weaponize space. The question is whether we would be able to defend ourselves.

Any notion that space is now a pristine, weapon-free zone is pure fantasy. The irresistible power of our military depends, to a large extent, precisely on its use of space. What is a GPS satellite that guides a precision bomb to its target, if not the component of a weapon system? Even the Clinton administration's 1996 National Space Policy - which the New York Times tendentiously describes as "emphasizing a more pacific use of space" - says that "national-security space activities shall contribute to U.S. national security by," among other things, "countering, if necessary, space systems and services used for hostile purposes."

In any case, further weaponization of space is probably inevitable. An instructive analogy could be drawn with the high seas: Although never the sovereign domain of any one nation, rival powers nonetheless vied for control of them, and it was Britain's naval prowess that allowed it to enjoy unrivaled dominance during the 19th century. It's naïve to think that today's powers won't compete for control of space in much the same way. Does anyone doubt that China, for example, will have moral scruples about deploying space weapons as it is becomes able to do so?

Fortunately, most countries are not yet able to do so, and the U.S. has a vast technological advantage over any potential foe. Now is the time to channel that advantage toward a benevolent American domination of space. Doing so may not be popular, but it will make us - and the world - safer.

A short article on the FALCON program, which seems to be what the initial article in the thread was reffering to. Just a note, the Common Aero Vehicle (CAV) is conceptualy similar to the MAnoeuvring Reentry Vehicle (MARV) once proposed to allow US nuclear warheads to take non ballistic paths on re-entry into the earth's atmosphere. This was suggested as a way to defeat Soviet ABMs and allow the use of smaller warheads since they could (in theory) be actively guided for pin point accuracy. The development of the MIRV changed the equation, since missiles could carry 3-10 warheads with a MIRV bus and saturate an area with nuclear weapns instead.


Nov 2003, DARPA and the USAF have just released contracts to start development for their FALCON program, which is an acronym for Force Application and Launch from CONtinental United States.
It is to be developed in two parts with the SLV expected to be complete by 2010 and a HCV expected by 2025. Nine contractors were selected to perform a phase one level systems definition for the SLV.

The goal of the joint DARPA/Air Force Program is to develop and validate in flight technologies that will enable both near term and far term capability to demonstrate affordable and responsive space lift capabilities.

The SLV will be designed to place small satellites into a Sun Synchronous Orbit with a payload ranging from 200 Lbs up to 1000 Lbs at a 450 mile orbit at a 79 degree inclination.

In addition, a total launch cost of less than 5 million dollars or less is desired. Existing launch systems are costly and in limited supply so the solicitation specifically requested innovative technologies to reduce launch cost and improve launch responsiveness.
Emphasis will be on incremental flight-testing using a building block approach.

USAF wants to build the means to attack any target on the globe within 12 hours of an order to do so. That requirement stems from an April 2003 Air Staff study titled 'Long-Range Global Precision Engagement.' In it, the Air Force, working with the Joint Staff and Office of the Secretary of Defense, put strike capabilities into three categories: prompt global strike, prompt theater strike, and persistent area strike.

USAF believes the products of Falcon will fulfill, to a great degree, the prompt global strike element. The ability to conduct prompt global strike would dissuade or deter enemies because they would know that the US could 'hold at risk or strike high-value targets anytime and anywhere on the globe,' said the study. Such a technology would also eliminate the need for intratheater buildup before conducting a strike.

.::: Phase I - System Definition ( 3rd Quarter 2003 - 2nd Quarter 2004)

Task I - (SLV*)

FALCON Phase I, Task 1 (SLV) contractors will receive between $350,000 and $540,000 each for their Phase I effort.
Task 1 contractors are listed below.

    * Air Launch LLC, Reno Nevada
    * Andrews Space Inc., Seattle Washington
    * Exquadrum Inc., Victorville California
    * KT Engineering, Huntsville Alabama
    * Lockheed Martin Corp., New Orleans Louisiana
    * Microcosm Inc., El Segundo California
    * Orbital Sciences Corp., Dulles Virginia
    * Schafer Corp., Chelmsford Massachusetts
    * Space Exploration Technologies, El Segundo California

In FALCON Phase I Task 1 (SLV), contractors will develop conceptual designs, performance predictions, cost objectives, and development and demonstration plans for the SLV*. The SLV will provide a low-cost, responsive launch capability capable of placing a small satellite or other payload weighing approximately 1,000 pounds into a low Earth orbit at a total launch cost of less than $5,000,000 (excluding payload and payload integration costs).

Task II - (HWS*)

FALCON Phase I, Task 2 (HWS), contractors will receive between $1,200,000 and $1,500,000 each for their Phase I effort.
Task 2 contractors are listed below.

    * Andrews Space Inc., Seattle, Wash.
    * Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Palmdale, Calif.
    * Northrop Grumman Corp., Air Combat Systems, El Segundo, Calif.

In FALCON Phase I Task 2 (HWS), contractors will develop conceptual designs, concepts of operations, and a demonstration plan and identify critical technologies for the Hypersonic Weapon Systems portion of the program, which includes the CAV*, the ECAV*, and the Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle.

The Common Aero Vehicle will be an unpowered, maneuverable, hypersonic glide vehicle capable of carrying approximately 1,000 pounds of munitions, with a range of approximately 3,000 nautical miles.

The Enhanced Common Aero Vehicle would be a more advanced design that offered substantially greater range and improved maneuverability.

The reusable Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle will be an autonomous aircraft capable of taking off from a conventional military runway and striking targets 9,000 nautical miles distant in less than two hours.

.::: Phase II - Design & Develop (2nd Quarter 2004 - 3rd Quarter 2007)

Task I - (SLV)

In FALCON Phase II, the Task 1, SLV, objective is to demonstrate and flight-test all significant characteristics of the operational launch vehicle.

One or more SLV agreements/contracts will be extended into Phase II as the result of a competitive down-select among Phase I participants.

Phase II will develop an SLV design in parallel with CAV development. Coordination and information exchange between SLV and HWS contractors will take place during Phase II to integrate the physical and functional characteristics of the SLV and Enhanced CAV.
Deliverables will include refinement of CONOPS* for each SLV approach, a detailed flight demonstration plan of each booster system, and flight-test of a single low-cost booster design.

Task II - (HWS)

In FALCON Phase II, the Task 2, HWS, objective is to flight-test a CAV and develop critical designs for Enhanced CAV and HCV* demonstration systems incorporating flight-ready hypersonic technologies.

Up to two HWS agreements/contracts will be extended to Phase II as the result of a competitive downselect among Phase I participants.
Phase II will execute an integrated plan to evolve both CAV and HCV designs and mature associated critical technologies.
This task will mature key enabling technologies applicable to both the Enhanced CAV and the reusable HCV design.
Extensive analytical and experimental effort will be conducted to bring a suite of these technologies to flight-readiness (TRL = 6). The HCV design will be evolved further and performance predictions made based on the revised design.

The CAV, Enhanced CAV, and HCV demonstrator preliminary and critical designs will be developed and risk mitigation plans enforced for all flight experiments planned.

Coordination and information exchange between SLV and HWS contractors will take place during Phase II to integrate the physical and functional characteristics of the SLV and Enhanced CAV in preparation for an integrated SLV/Enhanced CAV flight test in Phase III.

The government's decision to progress from Phase II to Phase III will, in part, be based on the delivered Phase II products which best address the below combination of information or events to meet the stated objectives:

  1. Successful flight demonstration of an affordable, responsive booster SLV.
  2. Successful 3,000 nautical mile, 800-second flight-test of the CAV demonstration system with a simulated unitary penetrator payload.
  3. An Enhanced CAV critical design that will demonstrate a 9,000 nautical mile, 3000 second mission capability.
  4. A HCV demonstrator critical design that incorporates at least three hypersonic technologies identified in Phase I; these three technologies will be developed to at least TRL = 6.

.::: Phase III - Weapon System Demonstrations (3rd Quarter 2007 - 2009)

Phase III will consist of a single task identified as Weapon System Demonstrations.
The objective is to flight-test an integrated SLV/Enhanced CAV system, and flight-test Enhanced CAV and HCV demonstrators to validate system and technology performance.

Phase III will be performed over a 30-month period during which the Enhanced CAV will be flown integrated with the SLV.
The CAV payload flown in the integrated CAV/SLV flight demonstration may be scaled relative to an operational CAV commensurate with the capabilities of the SLV flight demonstration system.

The balance of the Phase III effort will focus on demonstration of reusable technologies that are considered key to enabling future development of a hypersonic cruise vehicle.

Many of these same reusable technologies are expected to benefit Enhanced CAV designs as well. Key technologies will be integrated into an HCV demonstrator and flight-tested using a similar test approach taken in demonstrating the CAV.

Powered as well as unpowered versions of the HCV demonstrator may be tested to permit technology validation for longer duration flights and assessment of the implications of integrating propulsion systems with the vehicle design.
The USAF isn't the only force interested in space weapons:


Space Vulnerabilities Threaten U.S. Edge in Battle
By Robert K. Ackerman
June 2005

A Boeing Delta IV, the U.S. Air Force's newest heavy-lift launch vehicle, blasts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Once the realm of only a handful of nations, space access is opening up to many other nations, which promises to erode U.S. superiority in that arena.
America's near-monopoly on intelligence and other satellite capabilities is coming to an end.

The proliferation of space technologies around the world poses a threat to the space assets on which the U.S. military is relying to ensure battlespace supremacy in the 21st century. These technologies, once available only to a select few, now are opening the door to both the widespread exploitation of space and the denial of U.S. space systems during times of crisis.

This development could affect future U.S. military operations in a number of ways. The edge that U.S. forces have in using space assets almost exclusively will weaken as other nationsâ ”and even terrorist organizationsâ ”are able to take advantage of space-based capabilities. This might include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets that could be used to lift the veil off of U.S. force operations. Even the satellite communications that form the backbone of mobile operations are within reach of adversarial forces.

Countermeasures against U.S. space assets also are becoming easier to acquire. More countries than ever now have launch-to-orbit capabilities, which increases the possibility of rogue nations placing antisatellite payloads in space to attack U.S. orbiters. And, some emerging technologies offer the potential of empowering terrorists with inexpensive antisatellite measures that could remove vital U.S. orbital assets from the battlespace.

Not only are previously restricted space technologies becoming more commonplace, but also the cost of their deployment and use is dropping. In effect, the dues for joining the spacefaring club are shrinking, and membership is growing.

These conclusions are part of a report assembled by the U.S. Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Titled â Å“Challenges to U.S. Space Superiority,â ? the report describes how the overwhelming U.S. superiority in space will erode as a result of several trends already underway.

Foremost among these trends is the proliferation of space technologies that previously have been limited to technologically advanced countries with large bankrolls. The availability of smaller satellites that are less expensive to build and cost less to launch is allowing more nations to place assets in orbit.

Many countries now are developing satellites for remote sensing, communications, navigation, imagery and missile warning. Not only are many of these capabilities for sale or rent, but their continuing evolution also is bringing down the cost of acquiring such systems. The near-monopoly on intelligence and other capabilities generated by these satellites will disappear as new orbiters come online. U.S. military forces no longer will have the luxury of being able to conceal their activities from enemy satellites because they pass overhead only on rare occasions.

Remote sensing capabilities have improved to the point where commercial satellites now are able to provide imaging resolution that was available only to the military less than a generation ago. And, that capability is becoming less expensive. Today's best commercial remote sensing satellites can provide slightly better than 1-meter resolution. But, a customer can attain better than 3-meter resolution by paying only $18 million for a remote sensing platform and the launch services necessary to place it in orbit, the report states. This includes the ground services necessary for downlinking the imagery.

Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites have improved to where they also can provide 3-meter resolution, and this will lead to more of these orbiting sensors being deployed. They can image day or night and through a variety of adverse weather conditions, including heavy cloud cover.

Panchromatic and multispectral remote sensing imaging systems with a ground sample distance of less than 3 meters now can be built on a satellite bus no larger than a big-screen television, the report adds. These sub-500-pound satellites, along with other small imaging orbiters, are bringing launch costs within reach of many countries. The report observes that nations that previously lacked indigenous space capabilities are buying their own satellites and pooling their data with subscribed partners. Countries such as Algeria, Nigeria, Turkey and South Africa have taken this approach to space access.

Even ballistic missile early warning (BMEW) and electronic intelligence (ELINT) satellites, historically the purview of only the United States and Russia, soon will be showing up in other nations' inventories. The report predicts that Russia will deploy a next-generation ELINT system and more BMEW satellites by 2010, and France and China are establishing testbed systems in both disciplines.

Communications satellitesâ ”the core of network-centricityâ ”are serving all manner of customers, including foreign armies and terrorists. While only a few nations can develop their own orbiters, many are purchasing commercial off-the-shelf communications satellites to build their own global information infrastructure. These and other nations also are leasing a full range of communications capabilities from commercial service providers. Even individuals can purchase handheld satellite telephones and modems for worldwide links.

Satellite navigation has found a home in many applications, and several nations are joining the United States in orbiting constellations. Joining the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) will be China's BeiDou and Europe's Galileo systems. China already has three BeiDou satellites in orbit, but they cannot provide the three-dimensional (3-D) precision location inherent in GPS and GLONASS. More satellites are planned for the constellation, which will add this and other capabilities. Europe's Galileo, when it comes online in 2010-2012, would provide 1-meter 3-D accuracy. Improvements planned for GPS, GLONASS and BeiDou will bring those three systems in line with Galileo's design performance. This will allow other nations to choose among the systems or to incorporate receivers capable of interoperating with all four constellations.

This February 2005 image from DigitalGlobe shows a complex at Arak, Iran, that is believed to harbor nuclear research that may be aimed at developing a weapon. The image is an example of how commercial remote sensing platforms can provide high-resolution imagery that used to be available only to a handful of governments.

The report declares that the U.S. reliance on space for military operations makes its assets a primary target for adversaries and terrorists. Space systems generally comprise three elements: a space element consisting of satellites, a terrestrial element that includes supporting ground facilities and a link element that connects the two previous elements. Foes can hinder or destroy U.S. space assets by attacking satellites as well as by attacking ground facilities or networks. The report emphasizes that â Å“the deception, disruption, denial, degradation, or destruction of space systems or services could seriously affect U.S. warfighting capabilities.â ?

Both military and commercial space assets are threatened, and the military relies on both for some of its communications, weather reporting and navigation. Three types of offensive counterspace operations are identified: ground segment attack or sabotage, electronic attack and space segment attack using antisatellite systems.

Even low-technology groups such as terrorists can disrupt space assets through ground attack. Critical ground facilities associated with U.S. space systems can be struck by organized terrorists or by foreign special operations forces. All an adversary needs is to glean information about which ground facilities are criticalâ ”especially those that offer a single-point-of-failure vulnerabilityâ ”and where they are located. The report adds that many fixed U.S. satellite communications, data reception and control facilities are described in open-source materials.

Electronic attack can take two forms: uplink jamming or downlink jamming. All military and commercial satellite communications systems theoretically are susceptible to both types of jamming, the report states. Uplink jamming targets a satellite's radio receivers, including sensors and command receivers, and it usually requires high-power transmitters. It can have global effects if the satellite receiver is used by customers located over a large area.

The report cites an incident that took place in July 2003 when someone bent on disrupting digital television and radio broadcasts to Europe and the Middle East intentionally jammed two transponders of Telstar 12, a commercial communications satellite. The report states that both transponders carried programming â Å“likely to be offensive to the Iranian government.â ? These broadcasts included the U.S. government's Voice of America Persia as well as private commercial radio and television channels.

Downlink jamming can take many forms, and it can affect communications links as well as satellite navigation signals. While its effects largely are local, it requires much less power to be effective. During the Iraq War, Saddam Hussein's forces employed GPS jammers against coalition forces. This attempt to disrupt GPS systems ultimately failed, but it brought home that adversaries will attempt to neutralize U.S. space-based assets, according to then-Air Force Secretary James G. Roche.

Russia openly markets a device that it claims can block GPS signals, and some GPS receivers reportedly have been jammed by systems built from parts purchased at hobby shops. The report notes that a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) satellite data reception facility was inadvertently jammed by nothing more than a malfunctioning automobile alarm in its parking lot.

The most difficult form of attack to execute would be using antisatellite systems. These likely would be low-altitude, direct ascent interceptors fired into low earth orbit; low-altitude, co-orbital interceptors that would be launched from the ground into a low earth orbit; high-altitude short-duration interceptors deployed from a large space vehicle into a parking orbit from which it would attack a geosynchronous satellite; or long-duration orbital interceptors that would sit in a storage orbit until ordered to inspect or attack a U.S. satellite. These long-duration orbiters could include space mines, orbiting interceptors and space-to-space missiles.

Russia has the most advanced antisatellite attack capability of any nation or organization. Defense analysts believe that its antiballistic missile interceptors may have inherent antisatellite capability. A Russian arms catalog actually illustrates a co-orbital antisatellite system's flight profile right up to impact on a target satellite.

In addition to explosive or kinetic kill vehicles, antisatellite weaponry includes directed energy systems. They tend to be more difficult to obtain or develop than kinetic vehicles and their capabilities are limited, but they offer the advantage of a single system being able to hit multiple targets.

Ground-based lasers can damage thermal control, electro-optical, structural and power generation components on low-earth-orbit satellites. Airborne high-power lasers operating above much of the atmosphere also can damage components on low-earth-orbit satellites. Even low-power lasers, which could be deployed in orbit on small satellites, can blind or damage sensors by operating at the same wavelength as the sensor. The report states that open sources claim China has the ability to blind U.S. satellites.

Several countries are developing radio frequency beam weapons that emit intense beams either in narrowband or wideband configurations. These weapons could be ground- or space-based and could offer single or multiple shots.

And, many countries are learning how to identify and track U.S. satellites. While Russia long has had a network of ground-based space object surveillance and identification sensors, other countries are developing or acquiring the capability. The report cites China, France, Japan and South Korea as nations that are developing these sensor systems. Other countries that cannot indigenously develop space object surveillance sensors can purchase them to build their own networks.

But even if buying or building a sensor network is beyond reach of a country or a terrorist organization, adversaries can obtain low-earth-orbit satellite tracking data from the Internet. Many global amateur satellite watching associations post tracking data on the Web, including that of reconnaissance satellites. Nations or nongovernmental organizations that do not want to rely on these amateur groups easily can duplicate their low-technology methods, the report notes.

Web Resources
National Air and Space Intelligence Center: www.wpafb.af.mil/naic
U.S. Air Force Space Command: www.peterson.af.mil/hqafspc
U.S. Strategic Command: www.stratcom.mil
And of course who is the biggest "fear monger of US "space weapons"? Read the article and find out.....


Hyperventilating over 'space weapons'
By James Oberg

Is the sanctity of the heavens about to be violated by the United States making a unilateral introduction of aggressive weapons that could spark a destabilizing arms race? Is the White House about to unleash an unprecedented expansion of regions to fight over in the future?

You'd be forgiven for thinking so, based on news reports in recent weeks and on complaints from foreign countries such as Russia and China. According to major U.S. newspapers, a wide range of high-tech armaments may soon be approved and funded, with deployment in space only a matter of time. At that point, reluctant foreign nations will feel compelled to "respond in kind," unleashing an expensive and dangerous new arms race.

But a sober reality check can put the issue into better perspective. If anything is likely to spark a "new arms race," this time in outer space, it's unlikely to be the usual suspects. Gung-ho space-superiority mantras have been coming from U.S. Air Force leaders for decades, but without funding, it has mostly been just bold talk. Space hardware with weapons-like applications has also been around, on Earth and in space, for decades â ” but using it to break things in orbit never made much military sense, then or now or in the foreseeable future.

Nothing here has changed. No, the impetus for a future foreign "reaction" doesn't need a genuine U.S. "action" â ” it only needs the near-hysterical ranting from American newspapers, from lobby groups posing as "information centers" but having long-familiar agendas, and from foreign nations eager to score cheap propaganda points. By whipping up anxieties with little rational justification, these self-serving fear mongers may actually lead to the creation of something well worth fearing: the arming of a new battleground, out in space.

Phantom threats

We've seen it before, nations reacting not to threats but to illusory phantoms, or to badly reasoned deductions. Russia is particularly vulnerable to such manipulation, from the major defensive weapons systems it fielded to counter U.S. armaments that appeared only on the pages of Aviation Week, to scary space hardware it actually built to combat what it saw as "soldier-astronauts" aboard militarized Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle vehicles.

In recent years, historians have revealed that Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev bankrupted his country's space program by demanding that his engineers build a copy of NASA's space shuttle because his advisers persuaded him that the United States wanted to use it for bombing Moscow. Aside from the waste, building such hardware created new hazards to everyone involved.

Now come the newest stories that echo down the interconnected corridors of the American mainstream media, about "killer satellites" and "death stars" and "Rods from God" bombardment systems â ” as if the Hollywoodized terminology wasn't a clue that most of the subject matter was equally imaginary.

Take the opening paragraph of a recent Christian Science Monitor editorial that denounced what it portrayed as "the possible first-ever overt deployment of weapons where heretofore only satellites and astronauts have gone." But history reveals an entirely different reality.

Weapons have occasionally been deployed in space for decades, without sparking mass arms races or hair-trigger tensions. These are not just systems that send warheads through space, such as intercontinental missiles or the proposed global bomber. These are systems that put the weapons into stable orbits, circling Earth, based in space. And these systems were all Russian ones, by the way, most of them predating President Reagan's "Strategic Defense Initiative" to develop an anti-missile system.

But it's not the equipment that's important (that's why the United States never responded to earlier Russian space weapons); it's the offensive capabilities the hardware is supposed to deliver. That's what must be considered foremost before considering the likelihood of responses.

The reality of space

So scary tales about U.S. "death stars" hovering over target countries promising swift strikes from space rely merely on readers not understanding the basics of orbital motion in space. A satellite circles Earth in an ever-shifting path that passes near any particular target only a few times every 24 hours, not every 10 minutes. It's quicker and cheaper to strike ground targets with missiles launched from the ground.

Nor is a space rendezvous robot, such as those under development by half a dozen nations and commercial consortia, a "space weapon" â ” despite media claims that one of them, the Air Force's XSS-11 satellite, could perform as a weapon. Plenty of productive peaceful rationales for these vehicles exist, from refueling to repair to resupply, and they are going to be deployed in large numbers in coming years.

Raising unjustified fears about them and other so-far-totally-conceptual space vehicles may be politically or ideologically satisfying to some, but in the big picture, feeding foreign prejudices and stoking the insecurities of some naturally paranoid cultures is a dangerous game.

James Oberg, a retired "rocket scientist," is a news media consultant and author.