Beta
×

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!

The United States Space Arsenal

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the Q-36-explosive-space-modulator dept.

Space 297

ntmokey writes "When China tested a missile on its own satellite in January, the nation's aggressive statement immediately raised eyebrows among the world's other space-faring nations. Popular Mechanics looks at the implications of a conflict in space — including debris that could render space unusable for decades — and examines the United States' own space arsenal."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Star Wars (5, Interesting)

nlitement (1098451) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671023)

Whatever happened to the Strategic Defense Initiative?

Re:Star Wars (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671049)

Whatever happened to the Strategic Defense Initiative?

Forget that! What happened to the other 49 states?!

Re:Star Wars (3, Insightful)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671109)

What happened ? It worked. It broke the economy of the Soviet Union. Of course, the technology largely didn't work. Like the x-ray space weapon proposed by Edward Teller.

Re:Star Wars (5, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671157)

It worked. It broke the economy of the Soviet Union.
What a convenient post-hoc rationalization for a monumental waste of money that is. I guess that may have accelerated the fall of the Soviet Union by a month or two, at a cost of billions, but I'll bet the ROI from giving Stingers to the Afghanis was at least a million times better. (Just imagine how things would be in Iraq now if the insurgents had more than RPGs and light machine guns to bring down our helicopters and airplanes).

Re:Star Wars (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671219)

I guess you think Jimmy Carter was a great president too. And giving the Afghanis weapons was a good idea ? Where have your been since 9/11/2002 ?

Re:Star Wars (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671683)

Where have your been since 9/11/2002 ?
You're off by a year...

Re:Star Wars (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671967)

9/11/2003?

Re:Star Wars (5, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671981)

Nice way to not address the poster's points, and instead resort to rhetoric.

The Soviet Union collapsed because of a coup, a radically reformist government, and breakaway republics. The Soviet Union's economic might declined radically from the sixties to the eighties. The Soviets themselves recognized this and wrote about this. It's one of the main issues that brought Gorbachev to power. There was already wide discontent because their industrial production couldn't provide their people the sort of standard of life that the west's did, because of widespread corruption, repression, and so forth. Soviet military spending during Reagan didn't even match their inflation rate. After the 1982 Afghanistan disaster, Andropov made it an economic strategy to disengage from foreign conflict. The big military expenditure boosts in the late Soviet Union's history were the waste that was Afghanistan and their two-way Cold War with China as well as America (largely because the two couldn't agree on what was the "right" form of Communism).

Here's an article [jstor.org] from 1991, published in International Affairs, analyzing the (already circulating) claim that the US military spending increase caused an increase in Soviet military spending, bringing about the country's downfall. The full article isn't online but you can read the abstract.

Re:Star Wars (4, Informative)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671437)

I happen to know several people who were on the citizen's committee that came up with the idea. The whole point was for it to look like something we just might be able to pull off so that the Soviet Union would have no choice but to try to copy it and bankrupt themselves in the process. You see, we could afford to build all that stuff, provided we could get it to work, but they couldn't. When they tried, it brought their creaky economy crashing down, and their government soon followed. Believe or not, I don't care, but the people I know who were involved in the planning all tell the same story.

Re:Star Wars (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671635)

We did a lot of this sort of thing, like intentionally leaking information about incredible technology that we had developed (but we thought was impossible to make), but was the kind of thing the Soviets would spend a whole bunch of money on to keep up.

In some cases, it backfired, and the Soviets came up with creative ways to develop technology that we were only pretending we had. I wish I could think of a specific example, but it slips my mind at the moment.

Re:Star Wars (5, Insightful)

tftp (111690) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672011)

When they tried, it brought their creaky economy crashing down

Your theory is fine, and your friends are entitled to their own views; however USSR never "tried" to make its own Star Wars hardware. USSR's ABM efforts were identical to USA's work and resulted in the ABM-limiting treaty that stood for decades, until Bush tore it up. The reason is that USSR's scientists did some calculations on a napkin and concluded, correctly, that it's impossible to build such a system at this time that would actually work (1000's US's missiles flying in and 100% intercept.) It's still impossible, decades later. Given the number of missiles that both camps had, the system indeed had to have very impressive reliability, or else it would be complete waste of money. So USSR never built one. After Reagan announced his SDI USSR just sent more money to shipyards and built a bunch more of nuclear submarines, that's it. After Bush's démarche Putin also did the same - ordered a bunch of warheads that make zigs and zags at reentry speed.

And if you are interested in why the USSR fell, it's not even because of economy. It was bad, but there was no hunger yet. It might have been, though, if the USSR was allowed to rot some more. But it never happened, and "the people" in the street were as surprised with these developments as anyone in the West. The real reason is that when Gorbachev wanted to liberalize economy he accidentally liberalized the political life, and there were plenty of opportunists waiting and ready to insert themselves into the corridors of power. That's what they did, and that's where all the independent republics got their leaders from. Russia got Yeltsin, and that was not even the worst outcome. Gorbachev saw it happening but wasn't ready to defend the old way. For that he was briefly detained, and the conspirators tried to involve the army to put the toothpaste back; it did not work. So that's how it happened, and I did not even need to talk to anyone to offer you this overview.

Re:Star Wars (-1, Flamebait)

MarsDefenseMinister (738128) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671255)

More like the 600 ship navy and the other programs of Ronald Reagan. He was a great man who led us to victory in the cold war, may he RIP. Of course, it helped that the enemy that we faced was morally bankrupt and couldn't have possibly won the cold war.

Re:Star Wars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671407)

The end of the cold war wasn't a "victory", it was an inferior economic system collapsing on itself.

Re:Star Wars (0, Offtopic)

MarsDefenseMinister (738128) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671745)

Inferior when measured against what? Oh wait, that must be US. As in, the USA. And last I checked, we're still here (just got to keep it safe from Hillary and Captain haircut).

The true genius of Reagan (2, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671693)

> Of course, it helped that the enemy that we faced was morally bankrupt
> and couldn't have possibly won the cold war.

Yup, but the genuis of RWR was in realizing that the way to defeat the Soviets was by breaking the taboo on SAYING that. Before Reagan 'all right thinking people' believed: (or were too afraid to disagree with in public)

1. That socialism was the future.

2. That the Cold War was either just a dick size contest between two 'great powers; equally bent on world domination' or just the death rattle of the West as we finally accepted the socialist future. Basically either a moral equivelence or the West as villian.

Reagan was having none of that crap, he pronounced the Soviets as "The focus of evil in the modern world", "destined for the dustbin of history" and summed up the Cold Was simply as "We win, they lose."

By actually saying these things it forced people to either accept it or argue against it. Because when the Cold War was just a dick size contest most of Europe could straddle the fence or even dangle their feet over the wall onto the Soviet side. But once Reagan called em 'Evil" those people had few choices. Argue that they weren't evil (a very hard argument to make) or admit it and say "yay evil!" Morally bankrupt people (the French come to mind) don't mind making a deal with the devil, so long as people don't KNOW they are making a deal with the devil, appearances matter.

So yes, SDI, the defense buildup, the 600 ship navy, etc. helped financially bankrupt the Soviets. Arming the Afgans and causing the 'invincibility' of the Soviet military machine to come into question helped defeat the Soviets. But the biggest weapon was the Will & the Word. Ronald reagan's having the courage and clarity of moral vision to speak truth to power forced Evil to retreat.

The current problem's solution is equally obvious.

Re:Star Wars (5, Insightful)

Enlightenment (1073994) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671873)

Of course, it helped that the enemy that we faced was morally bankrupt and couldn't have possibly won the cold war.
It frightens me that people actually associate "morally bankrupt" with "couldn't have possibly won." The two don't necessarily go together.

Re:Star Wars (2, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671459)

What happened ? It worked. It broke the economy of the Soviet Union. Of course, the technology largely didn't work. Like the x-ray space weapon proposed by Edward Teller.
To elaborate on the previous reply directed your way, read this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rise_and_Fall_of_ the_Great_Powers [wikipedia.org]

He compares the Great Powers at the close of the twentieth century and predicts the decline of the Soviet Union (the book was originally published on the cusp of the Soviet collapse, the suddeness of which Kennedy did not predict), the rise of China and Japan, the struggles and potential for the EEC, and the relative decline of the United States. He highlights the precedence of the "four modernizations" in Deng Xiaoping's plans for China--agriculture, industry, science and military--deemphasizing military while the United States and the Soviet Union are emphasizing it. He predicts that continued deficit spending, especially on military build-up, will be the single most important reason for decline of any Great Power.
If you read the book, you'll see the fact-based analysis showing that the USSR was in serious trouble going into the 80's. As Kennedy describes it, the USSR struggled to support a first-rate military on a third-rate economy. The sorry state of Soviet-style agriculture was telling. A third of the harvest rotted in the field, a third rotted in transit, and a third rotted on the shelves awaiting purchase.

And before you go promoting Ronnie Raygun as the conqueror of the USSR, read up on Able Archer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Able_archer [wikipedia.org]

Able Archer 83 was a ten-day NATO exercise starting on November 2, 1983 that spanned the continent of Europe and simulated a coordinated nuclear release.[1] It incorporated a new, unique format of coded communication, radio silences, participation by heads of state, and a simulated DEFCON 1 nuclear alert. The realistic nature of the exercise, coupled with deteriorating relations between the United States and the Soviet Union and the anticipated arrival of Pershing II nuclear missiles in Europe, led some in the USSR to believe that Able Archer 83 was a genuine nuclear first strike.[1][2][3][4] In response, the Soviets readied their nuclear forces and placed air units in East Germany and Poland on alert.[5][6] This relatively obscure incident is considered by many historians to be the closest the world has come to nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.[7] The threat of nuclear war abruptly ended with the conclusion of the Able Archer 83 exercise on November 11, which, coincidentally, was also Armistice Day (alternatively called Remembrance Day).[8][9]
Reagan was incapable of understanding how the Russians could possibly think we'd plan to shoot first in a nuclear war. "Don't they know we're the good guys?"

Re:Star Wars (3, Insightful)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671573)

If you read the book, you'll see the fact-based analysis showing that the USSR was in serious trouble going into the 80's.

Of course it was — just as Reagan was taking the office (in 1981). USSR's attempts to keep up the arms-race, including SDI — duly decried by the Soviet newspapers daily — helped kill it, instead of allowing it to survive (again) on higher oil prices and slave labor.

Millions of people of the former USSR, myself included, have a lot to thank Ronald Reagan for. The fact, that various Commies (and Commie-sympathizers) still hate him, only adds to the guy's credits.

Re:Star Wars (4, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671619)

Of course it was -- just as Reagan was taking the office (in 1981). USSR's attempts to keep up the arms-race, including SDI -- duly decried by the Soviet newspapers daily -- helped kill it, instead of allowing it to survive (again) on higher oil prices and slave labor.

Millions of people of the former USSR, myself included, have a lot to thank Ronald Reagan for. The fact, that various Commies (and Commie-sympathizers) still hate him, only adds to the guy's credits.
Thanking Ronald Reagan for his leadership is like thanking Mr. Magoo for his driving.

Re:Star Wars (1)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671663)

It worked. It broke the economy of the Soviet Union.

That's a bit of a stretch. Event if it had any effect on the USSR whatsoever, it scared other nations to the point where China, having pushed for treaties banning space weapons, felt nervous enough to develop their own.

This will in turn cause those Americans who view any attempt by any other country to have close to equal millitary power as an affront to God to develop the next generation of space weapons, kicking off another arms race. Violence begets violence, fear begets fear, stupidity begets stupidity.

Star wars, the program not the movie, was short sighted and stupid, like so many other millitary activities.

Re:Star Wars (2, Insightful)

salimma (115327) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671741)

Star wars, the program not the movie, was short sighted and stupid

is, not was. Remember the ABM interceptor tests where the target was only hit when they fitted a beacon on it? Forget about sifting through decoys, they had a hard time hitting even a single target.

Re:Star Wars (1)

myth_of_sisyphus (818378) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671827)

Christopher Hitchens said it best:

"Ronald Reagan was neither a fox nor a hedgehog. He was as dumb as a stump. He could have had anyone in the world to dinner, any night of the week, but took most of his meals on a White House TV tray. He had no friends, only cronies. His children didn't like him all that much. He met his second wife--the one that you remember--because she needed to get off a Hollywood blacklist and he was the man to see."

"Ronald Reagan used to alarm his Soviet counterparts by saying that surely they'd both unite against an invasion from Mars. Ronald Reagan used to alarm other constituencies by speaking freely about the "End Times" foreshadowed in the Bible. In the Oval Office, Ronald Reagan told Yitzhak Shamir and Simon Wiesenthal, on two separate occasions, that he himself had assisted personally at the liberation of the Nazi death camps."

Better question... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671115)

What happened to your mom jokes?

Re:Star Wars (1)

colganc (581174) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671119)

The article makes it sound like it is now called the MDA. Missile Defense Agency.

Re:Star Wars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671347)

Jar-Jar Binks became president.

To the parent of this post... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671359)

Lick my balls, queer. Pimply faced star wars kid.

Re:Star Wars (2, Insightful)

shiftless (410350) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671475)

That was a ploy used by Reagan to worry and bankrupt the Soviets. (It worked.)

Re:Star Wars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671865)

Whatever happened to the United States of America?

David Parnas: It didn't work. That's what. (2, Informative)

BillGatesLoveChild (1046184) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671911)

David Parnas, a Software Scientist, who formerly served on SDI Committees and who had no moral qualms about death and destricion ended up quitting SDI and debunking it when he realized the whole program wasn't plausible and a huge waste. It still isn't BTW, but politicians don't get science: billions of dollars regularly flushed down the toilet after it.

http://klabs.org/richcontent/software_content/pape rs/parnas_acm_85.pdf [klabs.org]
http://www.wordyard.com/2007/01/05/parnas-sdi/feed / [wordyard.com]

I think you mean (5, Informative)

Inoshiro (71693) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671031)

The United States' Space Arsenal.

It really makes no sense for one state to be united.

Re:I think you mean (2)

Icarus1919 (802533) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671069)

Actually, if you want to be pedantic, the proper grammar is The Space Arsenal of the United States. According to The Elements of Style, the grammar bible, one is to use the form -Chris's book- rather than -Chris' book-, unless the entity is famous or well known, in which case it's much better to use something like -the Book of Moses- rather than -Moses's book-. However, that is still preferable to -Moses' book-.

Re:I think you mean (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671195)

You misunderstood. The reason you don't say "Chris' book" is because Chris is singular.
The apostrophe does indeed follow a plural "s". "United States' space arsenal" is correct.

Your pedantry is weak (2, Funny)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671555)

it's much better to use something like -the Book of Moses- rather than -Moses's book-. However, that is still preferable to -Moses' book-.

Actually, The Elements of Style expressly contradicts you. It states that one should use the form "Chris's book" unless the proper noun is a biblical persona. So "Moses' book" or "Jesus' book" is proper.

Re:I think you mean (2, Funny)

g0dsp33d (849253) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671163)

I totally agree, I promote civil unrest and anarchy in my state too.

Re:I think you mean (1)

Lije Baley (88936) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671173)

Washington State: You'll never get the Easterners to unite with the Westerners. And you'll never get the Westerners to understand that their crowded little, tree and water-filled slice is not the entire state.

not a threat....yet (4, Interesting)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671047)

Most spacecraft -- including spy sats -- are in low Earth orbit, which stretches 1240 miles into space. As the Chinese test proved, such targets could be hit with medium-range missiles tipped with crude kill devices. GPS satellites are far higher, orbiting at about 12,600 miles. Many communications sats are in the 22,000-mile range. Destroying them requires a much more powerful and sophisticated long-range ballistic missile

Most of the strategic targets are in a much safer place, sure they could easily knock out our spy satellites, but there are alternatives to those.

Re:not a threat....yet (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671655)

Most of the strategic targets are in a much safer place, sure they could easily knock out our spy satellites, but there are alternatives to those.
Like what?
Spy planes?

Do you really want to give the Chinese another opportunity to dissect a surveillance aircraft? Or maybe we could fly 'em over Russian airspace... I'm sure Putin would love that.

Perhaps I'm being overly snarky, but I don't really see any other good alternative to the existing network of spy satellites.

Re:not a threat....yet (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671737)

Most of the strategic targets are in a much safer place
By that, do you mean higher orbit? If we can put something in an orbit, there ought to be little doubt that we could take something in that orbit down.

And what are these alternatives you speak of? Naval vessels with radio interception equipment? Those won't reach inland signals, and are vulnerable to everything from bombers to torpedoes to a couple guys in a speedboat full of explosives.

And the SR-71 isn't nearly as invulnerable as it once was.

United State? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671077)

What's that?

Re:United State? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671339)

I the person, of the United State, in order to form a more perfect identity...

sad but inevitable (3, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671081)

Judging by how humanity acts on Earth it was a logical step to bring war to space as sad as that is. what happened was China took out one of their clunky near-dead weather satellite with a missile [kinetic warhead I believe] which basically tore the hell out of it with sheer speed and mass. They failed a few times before but by the rate their military spending is going it wont be long before they actually out pace us [if not already] this combined with their long standing rivalry with us on economic, political and cyberspace issues we very much need to watch this a lot closer than Iraq/war on terror because of the real implications of possible future conflict.

Re:sad but inevitable (1)

cyanyde (976442) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671097)

It's not exactly hard to imagine lasers and missles and ye olde Rod's of God's helping keep control of the population. Remember, the only way to expand our investment in space exploration is when it involves defending our country.

Re:sad but inevitable (4, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671145)

Could also be the best thing that ever happens to mankind.

In order to fight a war in space, you need a launch capability that is beyond what we have today.

You need it to launch space stations that are bigger and stronger than the flimsy tin cans that we have in orbit now.

All the arguments that have been presented for not putting nuclear reactors into space suddenly become irrelevant.. Nuclear propulsion will become a standard feature of spacecraft. Big fat military dollars would then be poured into research to develop better than nuclear propulsion systems, not to mention weapons.

To fight a war in space you really need a working space-based economy. Which also happens to give you something to fight about: control of that economy. A working space-based economy is a necessity to colonization of the solar system - also something to fight over. Colonization of the solar system is essential to the survival of the species.

Re:sad but inevitable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671279)

That is the odd thing. Real war time is normally very good for innovations. Khan, Alexander, Roman Empire, Napolean, Hitler, and FDR spurred some of the best economies and innovations known. Even now, a number of us remember what the 60's were like and know that the cold war was a waste of money, but pushed us in numerous ways that were good.

Re:sad but inevitable (4, Insightful)

imkonen (580619) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671367)

It's an interesting theory, but I think you're way too optimistic. It's an incredibly unstable situation, because combat in orbit involves almost no defensive options. There are no land formations to hide behind, and no air resistance to slow down projectiles, which is why satellites can be taken down without bothering to mount explosive warheads on the missiles (it's my understanding that is why they are called "kinetic kill vehicles"). Then all the debris created by space conflict becomes a danger to everyone's satellites. The result is that if the player with a satellite disadvantage has satkill technology, they can level the playing field and make it so nobody has any space capabilities. It doesn't help at all to be better at space combat than your opponent as long as your opponent is above a minimum technological threshold (which China is essentially at right now).

Re:sad but inevitable (3, Informative)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671519)

There are no land formations to hide behind, and no air resistance to slow down projectiles, which is why satellites can be taken down without bothering to mount explosive warheads on the missiles (it's my understanding that is why they are called "kinetic kill vehicles").
Nope. The reason why missiles have explosives on them is because a direct hit is very difficult to achieve. What's more likely to hit a bird flying by, a solid slug or a pellet spray from a shotgun? With proximity-fused weapons (cannon shells, missiles) the idea is that the weapon is not likely to hit the target but will pass very close. The proximity system uses radio waves to detect the object and will explode the weapon the moment the range increases. To show the likelihood of a direct hit, the Air Force would conduct live fire exercises with real missiles against real drone targets like remotely controlled F-4's. The training missiles had the warheads removed. Most missiles would pass within proper kill proximity of the drone and very few would actually strike it, causing damage.

Newer missile designs are becoming accurate enough that the warhead can be dispensed with, the impact of the weapon alone will be sufficient. The Brits have found their smart bombs so accurate, they are replacing the actual bomb with a concrete casting, leaving the guidance system and fins the same. This kind of weapon can be used to plink tanks in civilian areas. 2 tons of concrete dropped on a tank from 10,000 feet means no more tank, an explosion would be overkill at that point. It also means that you can hit a tank sitting outside a school and not even break the windows. That's a win for any civilians unlucky enough to be nearby.

As for space weapons, the insane velocities involved with orbital speeds is what also makes an explosive redundant. A fleck of urine almost took out the cockpit window on a previous shuttle flight. Nothing is likely to survive the impact of a kinetic kill vehicle, assuming the defense contractors can get the thing to hit without having to rig the demo.

Re:sad but inevitable (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671541)

Gah. You're talking about space warfare as if we have already tried it. The reason why it's so easy to knock out a satellite is because they are designed with no defensive capabilities. The reason why debris is such a hazard to spacecraft today is because they are made as light as possible to reduce launch costs. Why is it that people always equate changing the status quo with the sky falling. We can adapt.

Re:sad but inevitable (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671805)

"The reason why debris is such a hazard to spacecraft today is because they are made as light as possible to reduce launch costs."

In the early 80's a 0.3mm speck of paint travelling at 17,500mph punched a hole 3/4 of the way through the space shuttle's windshield - what sort of shielding material were you thinking of using to prevent more substantial chunks of debris from vaporizing the entire spacecraft?

Re:sad but inevitable (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671889)

Windows are a luxury.

Re:sad but inevitable (3, Insightful)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671645)

"It's an incredibly unstable situation, because combat in orbit involves almost no defensive options"

I'm sure someone said that about Sea Warfare once, and it was true until Aegis anti-missile and torpedo decoys were developed. Every battlefield has it's differences and there are many for which defending is difficult without technology. The only real area where you can hide behind things is land battles, and I don't think anyone would suggest that Sea and Air warfare 'Involve almost no defensive options' as there are possible options, they're just not natural to the terrain.

Combat in orbit is no more unstable than combat in air, or combat at sea. The only difference is that the wreckage can remain in orbit. That seems at first to be a big deal however there are ways to deal with that, just as there are ways to deal with sat-kill vehicles. Combat in orbit will be no different than any other battlefield once countermeasures are deployed, I seem to recall an attitude of 'We shouldn't try to combatify air because of (list of reasons) which will inevitably make it a more dangerous and horrible place to fight and end humanity' which seems to be how many people treat space right now. As Fallout once said, "War. War never changes."

Re:sad but inevitable (1)

SpaceballsTheUserNam (941138) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671625)

"You need it to launch space stations that are bigger and stronger than the flimsy tin cans that we have in orbit now." To make bigger targets? And what does a propultion system matter when its in the aim of a billion gigawatt laser. If anything I would think the trend would be towards micro-sat/stealth-sat technology. And maybe land based drone swarms and supersonic spy planes to serve at satalite/space alternatives.

Re:sad but inevitable (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671739)

You gotta understand how arms races work. Stealth is great, and yes, it would be an approach that is taken, but that's just one direction. To defend against a Big Fucking Laser you just need a mirror.. and dumb ballistic weapon will just be intercepted with another dumb ballistic weapon. So, pretty soon you need fighters.. and that will always mean people (no matter how much people want to claim UAVs are the future). You can't launch them from the ground to space whenever you need them.. that takes at least 12 minutes. You need to station them in space. Which means you need proper space stations. Which means you need a force to defend them, etc.

Re:sad but inevitable (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671929)

You know, I'd love to see you participate in one of my projects [slashdot.org] . You're obviously interested in giving this sort of conversation thought.

our feature presentation ... (2, Funny)

weighn (578357) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671245)

it was a logical step to bring war to space as sad as that is.
Look on the bright side, there's gotta be some great film ideas in these developments.
a war in space ... a far far away star ... wars ... ok it needs some work, maybe some dialog, character development, kooky monsters for the kids. Come and see me in a few years.

Re:sad but inevitable (0, Flamebait)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671307)

Which is really yet another way Bush royally fucked us over. Yes this is off topic, but I don't give a shit. There are countries we actually needed to keep an eye on. Iran, North Korea, the PRC, etc. Iraq was not one of them. Now we've pretty much blown our hegemonic wad over this bullshit, leaving us in an extremely vulnerable military position. Let alone our economic situation which is poised to collapse any day now (even more than it already has, starting with the hedge fund market). Of course none of the responsible parties are ever going to be brought to justice (i.e. spend the rest of their lives in the Military Prison for International War Criminals at Hague in the Netherlands). Bush is going to piss off to his Ranch in South America. I'd guess the rest of them have similar arrangements made.

Re:sad but inevitable (3, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671507)

WTF world are you on and what drugs have you been taking. My god, I haven't heard that much easily refutable bullshit in a generic Bush bash in a long time. Are you forgetting that the people your talking to have the internet and can look some thing up? Or that the economy isn't tanking, We have the capacity to deal with North Korea and Iran even with Iraq.

We are in not more of a vulnerable position the we were before Iraq. We have more then half our military force free to do whatever if absolutely needed. Sure, we would need help from other countries, but even if they refused, we have weapons not even in the arena currently that would put an end to anything that threatening. Our goal in the cold war was to fight a world war on two fronts. We have scaled the military down a bit but not that much. We also had a goal that is being realized even more today were we could fight the war without risk to solders.

Now, don't take what is happening in Iraq to mean it would happen anywhere else. The only Reason we aren't waisting Iraq is because we are trying to save it. If another country starts something, we aren't going to be worried about saving it. We won't be worried about rebuilding it. We won't be worried about much of anything outside not losing at that point in time. This means the big guns come out and we kick some ass. You act like we are defenseless. We aren't, we aren't even close. So go pull your little skirt up over your head and cry somewhere else.

Something to note, even if we disarmed the nuclear warheads and loaded conventional explosives, we have enough ICBMs to wipe Iran or N. Korea clean. Sure, we would have some get away, but it would be small enough and dispersed enough the police forces could deal with it.

Life isn't all rosie with peaches and cream. But it isn't bad either. give it a break and just fucking look around man.

Re:sad but inevitable (3, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671535)

Which is really yet another way Bush royally fucked us over. Yes this is off topic, but I don't give a shit. There are countries we actually needed to keep an eye on. Iran, North Korea, the PRC, etc. Iraq was not one of them. Now we've pretty much blown our hegemonic wad over this bullshit, leaving us in an extremely vulnerable military position. Let alone our economic situation which is poised to collapse any day now (even more than it already has, starting with the hedge fund market). Of course none of the responsible parties are ever going to be brought to justice (i.e. spend the rest of their lives in the Military Prison for International War Criminals at Hague in the Netherlands). Bush is going to piss off to his Ranch in South America. I'd guess the rest of them have similar arrangements made.
Oh, dear. You must really hate America. Only someone who hates America could have such nasty things to say about the patriots leading our fine country. I will pray for Jesus to open your eyes and make you love your nation again.

*this post doesn't need a sarcasm tag, it needs a sarcasm suppository*

It's not often on Slashdot... (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671503)

... that I get to reference a nearly 50 year old article as insightful commentary on the issue of today.

In the Feb 4, 1958 issue of The Atlanta Constitution noted historian Arnold J. Toynbee [wikipedia.org] wrote about just this issue. He represented that the competition with china over space as if it were a game of football was a perilous and ill considered game.

Now if some kind soul would just tell me where to get the text of that article I would be immensely grateful.

Re:sad but maybe not inevitable (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671783)

...their long standing rivalry with us on economic, political and cyberspace issues we very much need to watch this a lot closer than Iraq/war on terror because of the real implications of possible future conflict.
Why are we assuming it's all about us? Could the Chinese have other concerns than trying to match the US militarily?

If I were the Chinese leadership, I'd be more scared of my own people. Look at it from their point of view: the US does not seem to be able to get it's political leadership together to really crush someone since WWII. Vietnam, Korea, Iraq 1, Iraq 2, etc. ( Ok, we crushed Grenada, but they could have been taken out by the SWAT team from any major US city )
But their own people are becoming more educated, wealthier, and more connected. They are slowly becoming a middle class, which as any historian can tell you, is the group that usually starts successful revolutions. The current leadership remembers Tienamin Square. The people who survived that are starting to reach middle age, and maybe thinking of trying again, but this time with better planning and better communications. If they start a revolution, it would sure be nice to be able to cut of all communication with the rest of the world in 24 hours.

Re:sad but maybe not inevitable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19672023)

I wasnt aware the chinese public could privately build anything that the chinese government would consider worthy of building an anti-satellite defense system.

How can we clean it up? (2, Interesting)

nebaz (453974) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671083)

What I'd like to know is what can we do to clean up the space junk that is already up there? I know eventually everything will burn up in the atmosphere, but that could take hundreds of years. Maybe I've watched a few too many Sci-Fi shows, but could they send up a satellite to look for some debris and zap it with a laser to vaporize it?
What happens if we set of a nuke in the upper atmosphere? Will debris be vaporized? Would it cause other problems? Maybe I'm just being naive, but I think we need to think about this.

P.S. Space Roomba?

Re:How can we clean it up? (1)

edgr (781723) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671103)

What happens if we set of a nuke in the upper atmosphere? Will debris be vaporized? Would it cause other problems?
Yes, of course it would cause other problems. It would vapourise some debris, but also cause other debris by destroying a whole lot of the useful satellites up there.

Re:How can we clean it up? (5, Informative)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671123)

space tethers take care of larger space junk see here: http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News .asp?NewsNum=264 [technovelgy.com]

but could they send up a satellite to look for some debris and zap it with a laser to vaporize it?
nice idea but think about how precise you would need to be to take out chunks the size of a pebble spaced out [they are not clumps anymore they drift] from anywhere with any efficiency without blinding higher satellites.

What happens if we set of a nuke in the upper atmosphere?
This: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_altitude_nuclear _explosion [wikipedia.org]

Re:How can we clean it up? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671125)

Once space junk does become a real problem, we'll just make stronger satellites that can get hammered and survive.

Re:How can we clean it up? (1)

weighn (578357) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671159)

There's a bit [af.mil] of thought [esrin.esa.it] gone into that [utexas.edu] problem [harvard.edu] .

Apart from the technology not being ready yet, we are faced with the usual trouble of how to get heavy hardware up there. Laser systems, magnets and giant Hoovers are not generally lightweight items. There's also the issue of whether we want to have nuclear stuff in orbit.

I wonder if this would work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671181)

Take a sheet about a mile wide and hold it at all 4 corners and basically grab everything while you set up an orbit that basically covers a big part of the earth.

Then when it's full, you tie four corners together, and drop it on china.

Frickin' commies.

Re:How can we clean it up? (1)

MorderVonAllem (931645) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671333)

Why not just push it all towards the sun? It'd take a bit to get there but would burn up long before it got close. Like a big fishnet capture them and fire it off...instantly vaporized

Re:How can we clean it up? (2, Interesting)

CNTOAGN (1111159) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671569)

In one of my Aerospace classes we looked at this problem for a semester. Several designs were discussed, and I don't remember the ones that were instantly discarded due to cost, material science inadequacies, and the ability to actually deploy the system.

The obvious problems are: Space is big - lots of room up there the debris isn't all going in the same direction, they are hauling ass and can't be tracked A good portion of the debris isn't metallic - paint, plastic, even organic (the russians dumped their shit into space for 15 years)

What we came up with was a 3 tier approach - very strong magnets placed on hardened satellites would act as beacons for roughly 40% of the space junk. Large expandable surfaces (think solar arrays x 100) that were carbon fiber based would act as sweepers catching maybe another 20%, and lastly for satellite protection, you would simply deploy many redundant systems and even dummy systems leading the satellites to catch the severe hits when it is a head on collision.

One of my professors, who worked at the JPL for many years and retired to teach, said our approach was going in the right direction in what NASA and other space agencies were working on, but the simple fact is, there isn't a solution - unless we invent some magical substance that can take the extreme energies that are generated in 20000 kph impacts even with the extremely low masses of the particles.

I remember when the Chinese did this 6 months ago - I said, "Thanks assholes - you just dumped a shit load of crap into LEO"

Re:How can we clean it up? (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671991)

very strong magnets placed on hardened satellites would act as beacons for roughly 40% of the space junk.
Wouldn't any magnet strong enough to catch a significant amount of junk also slingshot it into eccentric and less-predictable orbits? Not only that, but what wouldn't it decrease the orbital lifetime of other satellites that pass nearby?

Why is it shocking? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671111)

China shocked the world with its recent antisatellite missile test.
What is so shocking about an obvious method of warfare? Did people really think that space could be a conflict free zone? Even if a country has signed treaties to ban use of such weapons, they still do it (or have the capability to do it within short notice after canceling their agreement).

What -could- be considered shocking is that they'd litter their own skies with junk debris, thus making it harder for them (and everyone else) to use space in the future.

Space junk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671147)

Why worry so much about space junk? Just push for affordable private sector space flight, and before you know it, you'll have soverterestrial salvage crews!

War in space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671191)

Better there than here.

Ronald Reagan said no, began arms reduction (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671221)

Reagan was a moderate who stopped the hardliners like his vice-president Bush from arming space. Instead he listened to his people and worked towards arms reduction which ended the cold war.

He also didn't change his policy when he was shot by a complete looney.

Where did all the moderates go? Even Obama seems like a hardliner to me.

nothing like a bit of historical revisionism (1)

weighn (578357) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671299)

What about how he left office with a budget deficit larger than the combined total of all of his 39 predecessors, the icy freeze in relations with the Soviet Union, sending military supplies to Iran in blatant contradiction of stated policy, having no clue about what his national security advisers were doing and the human rights abuses in Central America?

But I guess he looks pretty good compared to the current fella.

Re:nothing like a bit of historical revisionism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671713)

Right on. Making a Saint out of Reagan is one of the sadder spectacles in modern politics. I mean, the "Most Popular President of Our Times" (according to all the pundits, anyway) had miserable approval ratings throughout his last year in office -- up until the revelations came out that he had Alzheimer's, at which point a lot of people decided that maybe he really wasn't aware of all the shit going on at the White House, and his final month's approval ratings came up just short of the last-term approval ratings garnered by Bill Clinton, the Man Whose Penis Destroyed America, according to the same pundits. But truth was he had been a demagogic right-winger since his days as governor of California. He was never the moderate he sometimes claimed to be, and anyone with half a brain knows what he meant when he said the Democratic party "left him" and not the other way around. (*cough!*civilrights*cough!*)

Re:Ronald Reagan said no, began arms reduction (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671547)

Someone please mod parent funny.

Re:Ronald Reagan said no, began arms reduction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671651)

So who started the arms reduction talks then, Bush? The guy starting the new space war? Did you know a single war satellite powered with Tritium falling to the earth could end civilisation as we know it? I guess thats fine for you if you already live underground and travel around in an armored car with filtered air.

Oh I know what it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671719)

Peace makes for bad press and doesn't sell newspapers. At first there was a huge discussion in the media and such about putting weapons in space. So when Reagan began arms reduction talks after the Star Wars program was cancelled it barely made news...?

Our duty is clear... (1)

sharkey (16670) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671261)

To build and maintain those robots.

Re:Our duty is clear... (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671661)

China is taking over the tops of very tall mountains?

USA tests (5, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671275)

so if china does it it's shocking, i wonder what it'd be called if you yanks did it

Re:USA tests (3, Interesting)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671319)

"Today the United States blew up one of it's satellite creating an expanding cloud of debris. It's purpose was to show to the world it's military might and not to fuck around with them."

Yeah, I think shocking would cover it.

Re:USA tests (1)

barry99705 (895337) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671323)

The 4th of freaking July!

Re:USA tests (2, Informative)

LabRat (8054) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671341)

we would call it history [wikipedia.org] We yanks have had the demonstrated ability to shoot down satellites for more than 20 years.

What's shocking about the Chinese effort is that most folks tend to underestimate them in the progress they've made in their space program. What they don't take into account is that they are able to stand on the shoulders of giants...they won't need nearly as much time to develop theirs as we did since most of the "hard work" of basic designs and calcs has already been done and is readily available in textbooks. All it takes is money and will at this point...something they have plenty of due to the trade imbalance and their desire to be taken seriously as a world power.

Re:USA tests (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671403)

Of course. "We Have Always Been At War With Eurasia."

Re:USA tests (0)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671623)

A US fighter pilot has accidentally shot down a LEO satellite some years ago with a regular air to air missile.

Re:USA tests (2, Informative)

LabRat (8054) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671887)

Heh, no. There are no air-to-air missiles in the U.S. inventory with enough energy to do it "accidentally"...the AIM-54 (phoenix) would be the only one that would *remotely* have a snowball's chance in hell of making it that high, and you'd have to put the plane into a ballistic profile at max attainable altitude to do it..hardly an "accidental" scenario. Even then, there's no way the phoenix would have enough umph to go the additional 100+ miles straight up (I'd have to do the calcs to figure it's max altitude, and I'm feeling lazy tonight...but since it only has a max *horizontal* range of a little over 100 miles it's pretty clear that traveling 100 miles vertically against gravity isn't going to happen)...especially considering it only has aerodynamic surfaces for guidance so there'd be no way for it to maintain course at extreme altitude and would corkscrew wildly like an inflated balloon that's been let go to fly about the room while the solid booster was burning. Not to mention the F-14 (the only plane that carried the missile) doesn't have an optimal thrust/weight ratio that would provide best initial energy to the missile. The YF-12 was to carry a predecessor phoenix called the AIM-47 that had a bit longer range, but it's basically the same story besides the fact that both were very short-lived projects. The Soviets, on the other hand, had a couple of missiles that might have come closer...the ones that were designed to kill the SR-71. A decent write-up on several of these missiles can be found here [blogspot.com] though I haven't cross-checked all the facts for accuracy.

Instead, I think you are referring to the ASAT tests conducted by the Air Force using a F-15 in the 1980's (I linked it in my post above, but here it is again: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-satellite_weapon [wikipedia.org] ). That was a specially-made missile for the task..and its success was no accident.

Re:USA tests (1)

clragon (923326) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671723)

so if china does it it's shocking, i wonder what it'd be called if you yanks did it
they already have, back in 1985...

This is probably just to justify the increasing military spendings in the US. If anything, the Americans should be celebrating that the Chinese is around 20 years behind in this field of weaponry.

Please also look at this article I found [ft.com] :

China's destruction of an obsolete weather satellite, similar to past tests conducted by the US and the Soviet Union, exploits this failure. Both China and Russia have for years urged the US to agree to a ban on space weapons and the use of force against satellites, but the US refused to negotiate, instead announcing a policy last year that boldly asserts US national rights in space.
According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] , too, China has been trying to negotiate with the US on banning space weapons. Yet the US would rather not do it [theregister.co.uk] .
Of course, don't expect any of this to be on your local newspaper...

Re:USA tests (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671979)

so if china does it it's shocking, i wonder what it'd be called if you yanks did it

Decades old history?

Yellow Journalism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671305)

And not because it is about China so don't assume the comment is rascist.

Look it up in wikipedia.org and who owns the magazine.

Covert wars on earth extend to space (1, Interesting)

jihadist (1088389) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671317)

Right now the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Eurasia and Asia are jockeying for who will be the next big power, the next Pax Romanum of the modern world.

It's clear to everyone but Americans that the USA will become a cross between Brazil, Mexico and Russia, e.g. dysfunctional, within the next 25 years, and so a successor is needed.

No one wants to acknowledge this little war of ours on earth, but we're getting ready with spying [yahoo.com] , infowar [cnn.com] and infoterror units [infoterror.com] , military hacking units [nytimes.com] and of course virtual realities [theregister.co.uk] .

Who's going to win? Whoever can stop playing pussyfoot and acknowledge the goal first, of course. My money is on the Chinese or Europeans.

my favorite cold war short story (5, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671409)

I forget the name but it was written years and years ago. It's from the perspective of a young canadian watching the first return trip to space since WWIII. He thinks back to how things were before the war, the assumptions made around the globe. The US and USSR were so intent on mutually annihilating each other that no concern was given to any other nation, including the one most of the warheads would be flying over. The Canadians developed a secret WWIII plan. Special tunnels were carved into mountains, angled at the trajectories the missiles would be sure to follow over the pole. Gigantic atom bombs were created in a secret program. These bombs were placed at the bottom of the tunnels and the intervening space was filled with aerodynamic shrapnel. When the button was finally pushed and the missiles flew on their way, the Canadians pressed a button of their own. Their bombs went off and powered what were essentially giant shotguns, blasting debris into unstable orbits. The blast destroyed most of the warheads in the first exchange and continued to remove large fractions of each subsequent exchange. There was a bit of luck with bombers being more vulnerable to interception than prewar doctrine had anticipated with the net result being both sides running out of weapons before civilization was destroyed.

So our narrator is watching the first rocket trying to get back into space in the twenty years since the war. The night sky is still full of shooting stars as the debris comes back down into the atmosphere. All but the highest of the pre-war satellites were destroyed and nothing new has been able to survive making it through the shrapnel cloud. The thought is that most of it will deorbit in the next hundred or so years. The hope is that armored rockets might be able to survive impacts. The narrator sees this new rocket struck by debris and destroyed, the astronauts lost along with it. Mankind survived the war but lost space in the process.

The story probably isn't as scientifically accurate as one could hope but it still has emotional impact, an visceral truthiness.

Debris only weapons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671469)

I think the threat from a debris only weapon (small tungsten carbide balls/cubes?) is something a rogue nation can do cheaply .. no need to develop sophisticated technology other than being able to get up into space.

Future jobs? (2, Interesting)

Ub3rT3Rr0R1St (920830) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671491)

Parting a little from the premise of the article's main idea, I can't help but point this out...

With the mention of "space debris", making space unusable: Well, wouldn't this give us a brief glimpse into the possible job descriptions of the future? Crews of "space garbagemen" drifting off into the abyss to clean up this debris.

It seems quite interesting to think about it. What new occupations will arise if space, or another planet were conquered and colonized? Would there be scores of men, eager to become a part of this great new frontier? Will they become unionized?

We can only speculate.

Re:Future jobs? (3, Interesting)

MasamuneXGP (824006) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671733)

Funny you should bring this up. If you're interested in a quite realistic story about the eventual necessity of space debris collecting, you may want to check this out. [animenewsnetwork.com]

debris (1)

blindd0t (855876) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671677)

...debris that could render space unusable for decades

I can hear Farnsworth already: "Maybe we bring all that debris down with some sort of space elevator!"

(I'm not aiming for this to be flamebait)

Han Solo said it best.... (4, Funny)

martin_henry (1032656) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671803)

...when he said "Great, kid. Don't get cocky"

Far bigger problems (2, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671867)

Popular Mechanics looks at the implications of a conflict in space -- including debris that could render space unusable for decades

If there is a conflict big enough to F-up space, I am sure that there will be far worse problems back home such that space junk would be the least of our worries.

could render space unusable for decades (4, Funny)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671933)

What? All of it?
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?