×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Pentagon Wants Disposable War Satellites

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the i-thought-we-were-past-the-disposable-camera-fad dept.

The Military 120

Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has invited manufacturers to propose squads of disposable mini-satellites costing about $500,000 each, capable of providing reconnaissance to soldiers at the press of a button. 'We envision a constellation of small satellites, at a fraction of the cost of airborne systems, that would allow deployed warfighters to hit "see me" on existing handheld devices and in less than 90 minutes receive a satellite image of their precise location to aid in mission planning,' says the agency. The U.S. Army already has access to drone aircraft to provide intelligence from the skies, and last year they announced that new helicopter-style machines equipped with 1.8 gigapixel cameras will soon go into service in Afghanistan. However, DARPA says such unmanned aircraft cannot cover extended territory without frequent refuelling. The SeeMe constellation will consist of some two-dozen satellites, each lasting 60-90 days in a very low-earth orbit before de-orbiting and completely burning up, leaving no space debris and causing no re-entry hazard. 'With a SeeMe constellation, we hope to directly support warfighters in multiple deployed overseas locations simultaneously with no logistics or maintenance costs beyond the warfighters' handhelds,' says program manager Dave Barnhart."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

120 comments

Expensive (2, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362575)

$500,000 per satellite with a 2-3 month life? Pretty expensive. Does that include the cost of launching it too?

Re:Expensive (2)

Magada (741361) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362609)

Wanna talk costs? This is a re-purposed FOBS [wikipedia.org] .

Imagine how expensive it would (will?) be for other nuclear nations to track these launches and determine if they should start nuclear Armageddon or not.

I can only see this being used in a shooting war with China or Russia.

Re:Expensive (1)

Bomazi (1875554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363961)

They are over 100 launches per year and over 8000 objects being tracked in Earth orbit, including about 500 active satellites. So having a few dozen additional satellites in orbit at any given time will not make tracking any more difficult than it already is.

As for the weapon bit, these satellite would be no more likely to be weapons than any other. Given their low number I don't see how this would make other nations uneasy. Plus deterrence works you know.

Re:Expensive (4, Insightful)

shortscruffydave (638529) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362617)

If you look at how much it costs to drop a Tomahawk missile onto a target then this could start to look more cost effective. If good satellite imagery/intel can point you more accurately onto where the bad guys are, then maybe you only need one missile instead of two or three if you're not so sure where your target is. Still not small beer, but it's all relative.

Re:Expensive (2, Insightful)

fredrated (639554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362845)

We don't even know who the 'bad guys' are when they are sitting next to us, how the hell are we going to tell them from low earth orbit?
Besides, what good does it do when we are the bad guys? Do we start shooting ourselves? (Might actually be a good idea).

Re:Expensive (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39362621)

$500,000 per satellite with a 2-3 month life? Pretty expensive. Does that include the cost of launching it too?

Its not expensive at all even considering other "normal" military hardware.
For instance the phoenix missile carried onboard the F-14s cost 500 000 dollars each or a HARM missile can cost up to 900 000 $.

Indeed (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39363211)

In the business of government, where you spend other people's money, there is no such thing as a financial loss. In fact, government failure is typically used as justification for yet even more spending (quite unlike what happens in private industry).

The bigger your budget, the better positioned you are to exploit that cash flow for personal gain.

Did I just imply that the people running the business of government are there entirely for personal gain, the exact opposite of what they preach?

I didn't have to, because history already proved it.

Re:Expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39363309)

with no logistics or maintenance costs beyond the warfighters

still, I would expect that the lifetime and thereby refresh-rate of these satellites should at least count to maintenance costs...

Re:Expensive (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39362645)

How much can that satellite save is the question. It doesn't have to save much in the way of life and materials to offset its own costs.

Re:Expensive (1)

zlives (2009072) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366121)

in other news... "Satellites to save upwards of 50 gallons of fuel(gasoline not rocket fuel) per deployment"

Re:Expensive (1)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362663)

It could if they launched them with a big batch on each rocket, the way unis do with cubesats.

Expense Reduction (2)

VernonNemitz (581327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362681)

It seems to me that another and even cheaper solution to the problem of long-duration flight is being ignored. Just combine a balloon for lift with propellers for movement. Because most of the need for fuel goes into keeping it aloft --use the balloon for that part. The good old zeppelin shape can reduce the effect of wind on it (not that it needs to be very large, for a reconnaissance drone). And if the balloon was transparent plastic, it would be harder to see from the ground.

Re:Expense Reduction (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362745)

Paint it something like sky blue or gray and it'll be even more difficult to see than transparent plastic, plus you're not limited to using materials that are transparent.

Re:Expense Reduction (1)

JBMcB (73720) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362781)

The only problem with that is now you have to deal with balloons or zeppelins falling all over the place - possibly into enemy hands to be re-used. They can also be detected, so the enemy knows when to duck and cover.

Satellites (especially micro-satellites) are difficult to detect without sophisticated gear, and when they are done you can de-orbit them and they'll burn up in the atmosphere.

Re:Expense Reduction (1, Insightful)

M. Baranczak (726671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366009)

How about this one: stop invading other countries just for the hell of it. I bet that would reduce the expenses.

Re:Expensive (1)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362695)

A mere billion dollars a year gets you 2000 of them. Or, with that short orbital life, 500 on-the-job sky at any time. But they'd only be useful on Arras where it's not cloudy a lot. No using them to spy on Seattle.

Re:Expensive (4, Interesting)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362697)

No problem, cut the education and health care budgets to finance this. Things that matter should go first!

Re:Expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39365523)

No problem, cut the education and health care budgets to finance this. Things that matter should go first!

Nice sound bite.

Barack Obama ran on a platform that basically said "Spend on health care and education, cut 'defense' spending". (He promised to withdraw from Iraq, close Gitmo, etc.) Yet once in office, his defense policy/spending is pretty much the same as "that warmonger BOOOSH!!!!"

Hmmm, what happened?

EIther Senator Obama (read: not responsible yet) was a liar and a latent BOOOSH acolyte, or the real world intruded once he became President Obama.

Take your pick: either Obama (and BOOOSH!!!!) are lying warmongers and you're SOOOO much smarter than both, or both those Presidents live in the real world and you live in Fantasy Land.

Re:Expensive (3, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365919)

No problem, cut the education and health care budgets to finance this. Things that matter should go first!

Actually, this is a pretty good choice. These programs typically have negative value, harming the US by driving up the cost of education and health care. The military has a lot of things to cut as well. And health care and military spending covers two of the biggest items in the federal budget.

Re:Expensive (2)

SillyHamster (538384) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366411)

To add on to your point: Notice how the federal gov't didn't have the responsibilities of healthcare or education for the first 100~ years.

On the other hand, it's always had the responsibility of protecting our country from foreign threats. It really shouldn't be that hard to discern which items should be a higher priority for our federal gov't.

I can buy myself cough medicine and pay for a visit to my doctor.
I can buy a book or search the internets to educate myself.
I cannot buy myself a warplane or a warship to defend against a foreign gov'ts army, or to fight and destroy terrorists overseas. (And if I could afford it, my neighbors might not care for me having a private army/navy)

Re:Expensive (0)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366765)

I'm sorry but your argument is quite retarded, for a number of reasons.

the federal gov't didn't have the responsibilities of healthcare or education for the first 100~ years.

Ah, the good ole times of generalised illiteracy and high mortality. How I miss them.

it's always had the responsibility of protecting our country from foreign threats.

If the troops are supposed to protect your country, what are they doing on the other side of the world fighting illiterate peasants that live in caves and bear 30 year old AK47s?

I can buy myself cough medicine and pay for a visit to my doctor.

You can, how good for you. Many can't. What about cancer treatment? Can you afford it?

I can buy a book or search the internets to educate myself.

You can, how good for you. Many can't.

I cannot buy myself a warplane or a warship to defend against a foreign gov'ts army, or to fight and destroy terrorists overseas.

You're comparing completely disproportionate things. If you can afford the doctor, why can't you afford a gun? If you can afford a hospital, why can't you afford an army?

Re:Expensive (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367009)

Typical tripe. All these services without a clue as to how you'll pay for them. My view is that if you want health care, education, or any other good that just so happens to benefit you selfishly, then you ought to break out your own wallet for it.

You're comparing completely disproportionate things. If you can afford the doctor, why can't you afford a gun? If you can afford a hospital, why can't you afford an army?

There are a few zeros of cost difference between going to the doctor and running your own aircraft carrier. And as the prior poster noted, will you complain just a little if I happen to run my own aircraft carrier and use it against enemies of the US as I see fit?

Re:Expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39367449)

You can pay for anything if you prioritize it. I'd rather have a public option for healthcare than army that's busy trying to police the world. What are the odds that you'll be a casualty in a terrorist attack at some point in your life? What are the odds that you or a family member will need cancer treatment at some point in your life?

Re:Expensive (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367909)

I'd rather have a public option for healthcare than army that's busy trying to police the world.

Here's my take. You can always pay for your own health care. Meanwhile "policing the world" is technically within the US's national security job duties and actually has some justification for why the federal government should be involved.

Re:Expensive (1)

zlives (2009072) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366147)

can we use the homeless hotspot technology advancement to get a better "picture". I am sure deploying swarms of homeless people at 20 bucks a pop would be even more cost effective :)

Re:Expensive (2)

strack (1051390) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362889)

if you combine that with a reusable falcon 9, much like what spacex announced they would be developing over the next few years, this starts to make more sense.

LV Bags (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39362983)

Welcome to our sac louis vuitton [sacmagasinfr.com] : aud-lvbags.com. sacs louis vuitton [sacmagasinfr.com] a professional LV shopping place .We can offer many kinds of louis vuitton replica [replicalou...stores.com] products,like lv suhali leather bags,lv stephen sprouse,lv belt ,lv wallets ,etc.The more important is we can offer free shipping and no tax.Besides,all of the produts are taken by our own studio .You will get what you have seen in our website . Belive us you will get 100% satisfaction of our service and items . Now what are you waiting for? just action. High quality and cheap items will offer you a ideal chose. louis vuitton outlet [replicalou...stores.com] Happy shopping .Thanks LV Bags http://www.sacmagasinfr.com/ [sacmagasinfr.com]

Re:Expensive (2)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363209)

Not to mention didn't we already spend a ton developing those huge wings that are supposed to be able to loiter for days or even weeks at a time using solar power? Between those, the drone planes, drone choppers, and actual manned craft this seems like just another excuse to cut the MIC a big fat check which when we are drowning in debt is the LAST thing we should be doing and if anything we should be cutting back. Cancel the F35, buy the stealth eagle instead, make the Ford the last carrier we buy for 20 years (we have ten while the next biggest military has two, talk about extreme overkill) and quit blowing money on technocrap and instead give our troops a raise and break, stop the endless stirring of shit and the constant redeployments.

Re:Expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39363775)

Disposable = More trash. Let's make EVERYTHING disposable and just bury ourselves in trash now, killing us sooner than we already are.

Look at the "bright side" (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368107)

actually these things are supposed to burn up during deorbit so maybe they could on the way down knock a couple other things out of orbit.

Re:Expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39365217)

Cheaper than refueling or re-targeting a drone? Probably not; not even close.
Maybe it's a low orbit launch systems charrette, or something.

Re:Expensive (1)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365293)

Nonsense. That figure is way too low.

And they need to be bigger.

Whatever keeps them away from the airborne drones patrolling the homeland.

Re:Expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39365841)

they should arm it too so at EOL, they can aim it at something and blow it up

Would have limited use (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368181)

of course i would hope that some sort of "redaction" charge is on the satellite but since these things are designed to burn up on reentry having any sort of charge would be a waste of weight.

(of course if the De-Orbit course just happens to intercept one of %Other Nations% sats then its "gravy")

Sounds familiar... (3, Interesting)

icebrain (944107) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362587)

I think Dale Brown had something like this in some of his novels... called them NIRTSsats or something.

Re:Sounds familiar... (2)

Enry (630) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362707)

Yep. Need It Right This Second Satellites.

I figured the military already had these in operation. It's a pretty obvious and inexpensive concept.

Re:Sounds familiar... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39362875)

dale?

Collision Risk? (1)

jkflying (2190798) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362605)

With quite a few of these up at any one time (to cover a wide area), and with their locations likely classified to prevent external interference, isn't there a risk of these causing safety problems with rocket launches?

International regulations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39362623)

Posting as AC, because I'm not entirely sure about this, but I'm pretty sure various international treaties/regulations require anything in various states of NEO to be made semi-public. What I'm saying, I suppose, is no country should just be putting things in orbit without letting the international community know (for fairly obvious reasons, IMO).

Re:Collision Risk? (4, Informative)

necro81 (917438) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362629)

The launch of a rocket isn't a secret, and the resulting orbit isn't, either. Even if the satellite makes an orbital change afterwards (unlikely, given the price and how expensive orbital maneuvers are), it's probably large enough to be trackable on radar. Even if it isn't clear what it is in the database (a spy satellite? a rocket fairing? ET?), those who care will know that it's there and can plan around it.

Re:Collision Risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39363009)

The launch of a rocket isn't a secret, and the resulting orbit isn't, either. Even if the satellite makes an orbital change afterwards (unlikely, given the price and how expensive orbital maneuvers are), it's probably large enough to be trackable on radar. Even if it isn't clear what it is in the database (a spy satellite? a rocket fairing? ET?), those who care will know that it's there and can plan around it.

Probably true (I'm not knowledgable in the field, but your points sound reasonable). However, I wonder how many satellites you'd have to put up before there are so many of them that it's not really feasible to plan around them. And if it came down to it, I wonder how cheaply they could launch dummy satellites so that one is coming by every few minutes and the enemy doesn't know which ones are the real ones.

Re:Collision Risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39364385)

I imagine their response would be two-fold.

First, that doesn't matter for the sort of asymmetric warfare we've been engaged in because they have trouble working cellphones.

Second, the ones that CAN track small satellites can't necessarily do much of anything about it. What are you going to do? Go hide? We're covering the whole region, and can relocate the sats quickly.

Re:Collision Risk? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365821)

Even if the satellite makes an orbital change afterwards

A routine operation which is typically done frequently for surveillance satellites, I might add.

it's probably large enough to be trackable on radar

What radar? Not every target has access to radar.

Even if it isn't clear what it is in the database (a spy satellite? a rocket fairing? ET?), those who care will know that it's there and can plan around it.

How do you plan around 100% coverage of your location? At $500k per satellite for 2-3 months of service, the US can easily afford full time coverage of the world (aside perhaps from the polar regions).

Re:Collision Risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39368445)

Maybe. But when I launch my super death ray laser satellite, I will simply apply a coat of this:

http://www.amazon.com/Laser-Veil-Anti-Stealth-Coasting/dp/B003LL1JUA

And they'll never know what I'm doing! MuuuuuHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Re:Collision Risk? (2)

rgbatduke (1231380) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362977)

To quote Doug Adams: "You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."

Even near-Earth space. People worry about being hit by things falling from orbit, or hitting things up in orbit, but 10-50 meteorite falls occur every day (source: American Meteor Society) -- meteorites that are macroscopic, that is, since meteor dust is constantly drifting down everywhere from the millions of impacts on the upper atmosphere every day (I've collected these micrometeorites -- it is very easy -- and they fall at a rate that thickens the Earth's surface by a millimeter every few decades). How often do they hit something? Do I live in fear of being brained by a falling rock? Even with the "densely" populated Earth's surface, odds are that nobody within a hundred miles of you will even see a single meteor actually fall to the ground within their visual field in their lifetime. And we don't worry much about the "launch" of valuable resources (such as jet airplanes) that drive through this veritable hail of death every day. Rocket launches, OTOH, happen a few times a year. Having 100 or so more microsatellites up there won't even double their already existing risk, since rockets actually have to launch into the shitstorm of small meteors that are impacting the upper atmosphere all of the time. These are harmless to us -- nearly all of them come apart before they reach the ground -- but even a centimeter sized chunk of rock moving at a relative velocity of ~10 km/sec might as well be an anti-tank projectile to a rocket or satellite.

Your documented risk of death by bee-sting, shark bite, mad cow disease, being killed by a bullet fired into the air at random, choking on a bite of your food, being struck by lightning, or contracting a fatal disease from e.g. a tick or flea or animal bite are all way, way larger than the incremental risk to rockets by a few dozen satellites thrown up into a spaced orbit that keeps a patch of ground visible by one or more all of the time.

rgb

Old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39362611)

The Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) program has been funded for at least 5 years now and has already done some significant work in this area.

An interesting idea would be... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39362627)

... a satellite station that has a bunch of child satellites on board that can launch them to whatever location is required, limited fuel to position themselves on arrival and be done.
This way you can up a bunch of them all at once.

The only downside is it can be blown up and there goes a lot of dosh.
Of course, this is only speaking of full-out war, which we aren't in. (yet)

This could likely be built much cheaper now that they are designed simply to be fired out and align at a fixed location / acceleration or whatever.

wow (-1, Offtopic)

nidaye (2596037) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362683)

You could be the focus among the people; you could be the one who never ordinary. http://www.replica-aaa.com/ [slashdot.org] "> replica Hermes is looking for its host, the highest quality, the best color and the best service is what we can provide to you. You deserve to have one.

too expensive (1)

eyenot (102141) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362731)

Disposable, miniature satellites that provide communications relay and/or photographic coverage can be manufactured for closer to $5,000 a piece. What is DARPA thinking?

Re:too expensive (1)

JBMcB (73720) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362839)

The military micro-sats are going to have military grade encryption, and the photographic gear those things use are a bit specialized. Think ultra-low f-stop, high-zoom aberration-free compact lenses.

Disposable (2)

Taibhsear (1286214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362811)

Only in the military can you label a $500,000 piece of equipment as "disposable"...

Re:Disposable (0)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362867)

Heroes are "disposable". Serving the military of a free nation is as much of an honor as it is a sacrifice. Equally so.

Re:Disposable (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363115)

I'll agree with you when every member of congress offers up their children and grand children to stand in front of all the heros when we go to war. The rich need to pay the price of war before they ask the poor to do it.

Re:Disposable (0)

LQ (188043) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363223)

Serving the military of a free nation is as much of an honor as it is a sacrifice

It is scary that a lot of people regurgitate this military honour crap at the drop of a hat. The point of an army is to kill or intimidate foreigners and to project national power. And the world's most indebted nation wants to spend even more on doing so.

Re:Disposable (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363405)

Of course. When you get fucked over, and are utensil to fuck others over, you better invent some stories of how it's all very good and honourable, and how you're not a useless twit, cynically used and thrown away. That always happens, it's all they have. Empty words they need to repeat so reality won't seep in.

So no, they don't regurgitate it at the drop of a hat -- they regurgitate it *all* the time, internally, it's just that at the drop of a hat they turn on the speaker.

Re:Disposable (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363439)

The point of an army is to kill or intimidate foreigners and to project national power

No. The point on the army is to follow orders of the executive branch. Men/women in uniform follow orders from the top on down. As a unit, they just don't decide to go on a conquest like a bunch of pirates. Those that run off to go on a shooting rampage are often dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.

Re:Disposable (1)

Simply Curious (1002051) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363991)

The job of the military is to follow orders of the executive branch. The point of the military is to kill or intimidate foreigners and to protect national power.

Re:Disposable (0)

Johann Lau (1040920) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363321)

Serving the military of a free nation is as much of an honor as it is a sacrifice. Equally so.

Yeah, namely "not at all".

Re:Disposable (1)

kikito (971480) | more than 2 years ago | (#39364855)

> Serving the military of a free nation is as much of an honor as it is a sacrifice

What about a non-free nation?

Re:Disposable (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39368099)

Free nations are democratic. It's the people (civilians) whom elect their representatives whom in turn command the military. As a serviceman, your protecting your nation and its interests via the will of the people.

Non-free nations are governed by a ruling body or person. However the structure may be, they don't reflect the will of the population. That's an important key distinction. As such, being as serviceman means that you're duty is to protect the regime first and foremost, not the people of the county however you would like to think otherwise. There's no honor in serving a nation that doesn't have an implicit or explicit approval of the people by and large.

I would have loved to have this (5, Interesting)

CPTreese (2114124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362821)

I was in OIF 06-08 and I would have loved to have this intel a couple times. Once I was sent out to recover a vehicle that had been blown up, and due to terrain requirements, I had to take a road that hadn't been traveled on for some eight months. Consequently we didn't know it was heavily defended with IEDs and had huge ditches from rain runoff (pretty common in desert environments). It took my convoy about 24 hours to travel 5 kilometers because we had to improvise material to fill in the holes enough for the trucks to travel over. The satellite coverage wouldn't have helped with the IEDs but it might have helped give me a better idea of the road conditions.

Another time I was leading a convoy of about 30 vehicles and the route I chose had been blocked by another unit the previous day. It can be an emotional event to turn around that many vehicles in some Iraqi towns.

Re:I would have loved to have this (1)

El Torico (732160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362893)

Would a UAV overflight provide the same intel?

Re:I would have loved to have this (3, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363097)

Yes it would have, giving teams like that their own private UAV to control and fly ahead so they can look for baddies setting up an ambush would go a very long way. Problem is it would give the baddies a heads up that someone was coming.

I think AWACS with gyro telescopes giving visual high def intel would be a better and cheaper way.

Re:I would have loved to have this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39363349)

AWACS is an air-to-air surveillance platform, it has no gyro telescopes and it would cost megabucks to develop and install them.

JSTARS is the look-down manned aircraft you would THEORETICALLY want to have overhead trying to find potential bad guys, but it really isn't designed to find anything other than vehicles (it is primarily a flying radar platform). Since IEDs are often emplaced by pedestrians, the MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR JSTARS would be useless (sure, they could drive to the ambush site some of the time...).

At $500K a pop, these satellites really are inexpensive, especially when you have NO risk to US/Coalition personnel, no risk that the mission will be discovered due to aerial surveillance platforms overhead, and high-quality/timely intel results.

Re:I would have loved to have this (0)

Johann Lau (1040920) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363433)

Oh noes, the baddies. Facing the peeps who order you around, that's totally for whimps -- let's hunt some baddies. False Dichotomy Accomplished.

Re:I would have loved to have this (1)

CPTreese (2114124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363715)

Problem is it would give the baddies a heads up that someone was coming.

In my experience I don't think the "baddies" would have known anything. Our UAVs were the RAVEN variant. It was recently shown on Acts of Valor. Its a pretty small airplane that operates on a battery power source. When it reaches an altitude of 300ft (100m) you can't hear it.

Re:I would have loved to have this (2)

CPTreese (2114124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363655)

It might have helped but UAVs were allocated to the shooters. I was just a simple support guy. If a satellite was already flying overhead and all I had to do was download the images to my SIPPER computer it would have helped.

also a preventative (1)

ace37 (2302468) | more than 2 years ago | (#39367079)

This isn't only a benefit at the ground level either. In the global warfare type scenarios, just having this capability would be worth a great deal.

If a first world enemy were to fight the US, taking out our satellites would be a very reasonable thing to do. Any systems that depend on satcom would be handicapped until we could get the systems restored, and while the really critical systems would have workarounds set up, many of the lower priority systems would lose some capability.

If the US demonstrates a backup satellite network is available anytime and at a (relative) low cost, that reduces the incentive to develop anti-satellite capability and reduces the risk of losing them. And honestly, putting something reasonably heavy into orbit for $500k sounds cheap to me.

A way to reduce cost (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39362837)

One of the benefits of the military and NASA is the new technology they develop. So, here's an idea for a launch technology that would dramatically reduce the cost of near-earth satellites. Launch them with a big gun.

There was a project called HARP which used a large gun to shoot projectiles at 8000 miles per hour. Their record altitude was 112 miles up. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_HARP [wikipedia.org] Given that HARP used a kludged together gun, it seems likely that they could develop a purpose built gun that would serve the purpose.

Aren't they *all* disposable?? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39363005)

Aren't *all* satellites disposable? I don't recall us going up to grab one and then re-using it.

Re:Aren't they *all* disposable?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39364363)

We used to have the technology to do that - it was called the Space Shuttle

I remember they did recover a satellite once to prove it could be done and they also did a couple of repair and maintence jobs on the Hubble.

Re:Aren't they *all* disposable?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39364425)

Nope. "Westar 6, also an HS-376 based satellite, was launched from STS-41-B on February 3, 1984, to be put into service afterward, but the perigee kick motor... failed during its approach to geosynchronous orbit.... It was retrieved on November 16, 1984, by the STS-51-A.... It was then resold to China, and relaunched on April 7, 1990, as AsiaSat 1."
But, well, yep, now that our ability to retrieve has been scuttled.

Why not a platform? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363067)

It's not actually weaponizing space, but a platform where we have a railgun that fires 8 foot long 16" wide solid steel I beams at the earth at hypersonic velocities. If you could fling one at say 5800mph it would make a nice eco friendly way of taking out a target.

Re:Why not a platform? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39366615)

How is that not weaponizing space?

you FAIL it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39363137)

0resulted in Mthe

Hit that button, bubba! (1)

NikeHerc (694644) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363343)

I can see guys getting uproariously drunk and saying, "Let's launch them suckers!" Up they go, half a million a pop, plus launch expenses.

It's about time (1)

no-body (127863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363345)

That the whole military BS gets defunded !

Won't happen in gung-ho US.

So, learn it the hard way - get extinct!

Re:It's about time (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39364695)

On one hand, I agree with you. On another hand, it seems like the only way we're capable of going into space as a nation is to spend the money through the military. If it leads to more space development then I'm more in favor of it than a new fighter jet.

Re:It's about time (1)

no-body (127863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365543)

On one hand, I agree with you. On another hand, it seems like the only way we're capable of going into space as a nation is to spend the money through the military. If it leads to more space development then I'm more in favor of it than a new fighter jet.

That's yet another strategy to distract from current burning issues:

- project into the future
- propose totally unproven technologies

burning issues:

- overpopulation (no politician is actually touching it - quite the opposite, look at US)
- sustainable human adequate economic systems - capitalism is failing 100 % and so are other's - dictatorships, monarchy and what else have you. To say, it's the least evil (capitalism) is a mediocre idea, why not pursue something which is adequate, how would it look and what would be hindering it?
- depletion of biodiversity on this planet ...

As for your longing to space - human bodies need gravity to function. Bone-density loss in space has not been solved nor radiation exposure or travel times in relation to human life spans. Totally unproven technology and unsustainable to be applied to any relevant number of individuals. Great smoke-screen though. So is the nonsense of people needing a new gadget every two years. Keeps folks happy so it seems....

Good luck! The planet itself won't mind, not the first civilization vanishing nor mass-extinction either...
If you don't see it that way, it won't matter at all

"with no logistics or maintenance costs" ???? (1)

ukemike (956477) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363487)

With a SeeMe constellation, we hope to directly support warfighters in multiple deployed overseas locations simultaneously with no logistics or maintenance costs beyond the warfighters' handhelds," said Dave Barnhart, the programme's manager.

So somehow purchasing and launching 24 new satellites every 60 to 90 days counts as "no maintenance or logistics costs." No wonder the military budget is about a trillion dollars a year. sheesh.

Made in China (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39363523)

I am sure that the price can be reduced if we follow the Apple business model and get this made in China

why not.... (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363887)

Why not lace them up with lost of C4 and let them become mines that you could set for space warfare, should we ever need them....just because they are decommissioned does not mean we can not reuse them for other things...

Misleading title (2)

prisoner-of-enigma (535770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39364601)

"War" satellite? Umm...the article speaks mainly of imaging missions. This is a "recon" satellite. I guess the temptation to scream "war" just won out, eh? Sounds much more sensationalist that way.

cost? (1)

CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) | more than 2 years ago | (#39364629)

I haven't read the article but I'm surmising that it won't be cost effective unless they can come up with a cheap way to get these "squads of disposable satellites" into orbit. At least they burn on re-entry, so they won't contribute to the space-junk problem.

Not needed, and a waste of money. (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39364809)

Sometimes it really is okay to tell the military NO. But this will be green lit without debate, because to debate matters of military spending is unpatriotic.

On-call weaponized UAVs? (1)

swb (14022) | more than 2 years ago | (#39364885)

I always thought that it would be interesting to see weaponized UAVs that could be launched from a high-altitude loitering plane on demand.

When requested, a UAV with a weapon could be released from a loitering plane and then controlled on the ground by the unit requesting it for surveillance and ultimately to engage a target if necessary.

It could be faster than waiting for a manned plane or helicopter air strike as well as providing detailed intel.

instead of throwing away $500k satellites (1)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365405)

how about the US use that money to help people instead. There is no reason to be spending that kind of money on defense when there is literally no threat to the US mainland.

How about (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365665)

Howsabout we just withdraw our military to within our own borders and work on actual healthcare instead?

Only the Pentagon (1)

wolfguru (913659) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365899)

Only the Pentagon could define half million dollar satellites as "disposable" and describe putting "a constellation of see-me satellites" in serveice or a two month period as having "no logistics costs"

Disposable money and waste.. (1)

iridium213 (2029192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366839)

When the military gets over 1/3 of the US budget, $500K would seem like a disposable number. To everybody else, it sounds like they're talking about things as a dictator's wife would speak of shoes.

And doesn't space in the orbital regions around the planet already have a catastrophic amount of space junk as it is? Pretty soon any craft leaving Earth is going to have to be heavily (and I do mean heavily) armoured just to get out or into orbit. How will that make things cheaper and better in the long run?

90 mins? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39366865)

I am trying to imagine how this works.

I am in assistan, sitting in a fox hole. I request on my iphone a sat recon photo from these sats.

The photos arrives 90 mins later, just in time for the other guys to show their buddies on my iphone how they surrounded me, had lunch, a knap, played a few hands of poker, and then shot my ass.

Priorities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39368337)

Will these ever be used for civilian monitoring? Will the info be available to the public, including attorneys, or just prosecuting attorneys, military, and businesses that "need to know?" If the same money was spent on water, food, shelter, healthcare, education, and infrastructure for the struggling public, and if the US government quit sending the military to kill so many civilians, would there be less need for so many privacy-invading satellites?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...