- GRAND FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA
-- To secure and own the realm of space - the ultimate high ground.
- That desire is driving U.S. military strategists to blueprint
new and novel approaches to using space, including protecting orbiting
assets that provide critical warning, intelligence, communications and
navigation to the warfighter on Earth.
- There is growing military advantage to utilizing space,
along with civilian dependency on a variety of satellites. This being the
case, a worry is that enemy nations may well challenge America,s superpower
status in space.
- Such anxiety was underscored in the 2001 report of the
Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and
- "An attack on elements of U.S. space systems during
a crisis or conflict should not be considered an improbable act. If the
U.S. is to avoid a Space Pearl Harbor,, it needs to take seriously the
possibility of an attack on U.S. space systems," the Commission warned.
- Space surge
- Barbara Wilson, Chief Technologist at the Air Force Research
Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio has been busy of
late working with future thinkers to identify long-term challenges in space
science and technology and how best to turn those possibilities into realities.
- Speaking at the Space Technology & Applications International
Forum (STAIF-2003), held in February in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Wilson
outlined a far-ranging stratagem for U.S. military mastery of space.
- A key to space dominance works its way from the ground
- An essential element for the military space tactician
is on-demand "space surge," Wilson said. What,s essential is
the ability to launch or move space platforms on demand to where they are
needed in less than two hours. That means moving into and through space
with aircraft-like precision and operations. Having that ability means
military space forces could place assets rapidly anywhere they are needed
in the near-Earth aerospace domain, Wilson said.
- Nervous system
- Another potent possibility is linking space, air and
ground assets into an intelligent sensor web - an extension of our nervous
system. By freely zooming between the "large picture" to narrowly
focused views, then the space warfighter can sense and react as a coherent
organism, making use of every piece of information, Wilson said.
- In order to put fewer warfighters in harm,s way, the
battlefield itself would be one where autonomous robots -- on the ground
and airborne -- could execute a war. The dawn of the virtual warfighter
is not too distant, Wilson speculated.
- While it may not be advisable to fool around with Mother
Nature, Air Force space thinkers are studying ways to "harness the
immense powers of the environment" for military purposes. Putting
a yoke on lightning, wind and rain to turning tornadoes on a dime can keep
in check, slow down, and even halt an enemy,s operations on the battlefield.
- Shields up
- Wilson outlined an "aerospace power network",
the ability to collect or generate large quantities of energy on orbit.
Power beaming to space or in space is vital to military space planners
who need power "wherever and whenever" it is needed for true
global presence, she said.
- The Star Trek cry of "shields up" is not too
far-fetched, Wilson said. Making space a sanctuary for military hardware
requires that they are invulnerable to attack perhaps using something
best described as "electronic armor". If space vehicles are attacked,
there is need to rapidly recover, reconfigure and replenish assets.
- Performing autonomous on-orbit servicing of space assets
is central to "owning the realm of space," Wilson reported.
- Discreet and secret
- One U.S. agency has been quietly building a lean and
mean military space prowess. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
(DARPA) in Arlington, Virginia is aggressively working on discreet pieces
of a much larger space enterprise.
- DARPA is not widely known and rarely discussed in the
mainstream media - and they seem to like it that way. In fact, the ability
for you to read this article on the Internet comes compliments of DARPA,s
pioneering work in computer networking.
- DARPA began as a space agency, when the beeping tones
of the Soviet Union,s Sputnik 1 in 1957 caught many Americans asleep at
the switch. Those transmissions from the first satellite of Earth also
signaled to many that the United States, Cold War adversary had seized
"the ultimate high ground."
- DARPA is now investing time, talent and money into the
- Unhindered access
- In Fiscal Year 2002, the Secretary of Defense directed
DARPA to begin an aggressive effort to ensure that the U.S. military retains
its pre-eminence in space by maintaining "unhindered U.S. access to
space" and "protecting U.S. space assets" from attack.
- DARPA is focusing its efforts on five thrusts:
- Access and Infrastructure: rapid and affordable access
- Situational Awareness: Knowing what else is in space
and what it is doing.
- Space Mission Protection: Protecting U.S. assets in space
- Space Mission Denial: Preventing adversaries from using
space to harm the U.S. or its allies.
- Space-Based Engagement: Sensing, communications, and
navigation to support military operations down on Earth.
- RASCAL to the rescue
- Three out-in-the-open DARPA space programs several projects
surely remain highly classified -- are RASCAL, short for Responsive Access,
Small Cargo, Affordable Launch; Orbital Express; and the Space Surveillance
- RASCAL is designed to place small payloads in orbit on
a moment,s notice by launching them from a high-speed, high-altitude aircraft
that eliminates a large and expensive first stage booster. In mid-March,
DARPA picked Space Launch Corporation of Irvine, California to design,
develop and reduce the risk of critical RASCAL technology.
- The hope is for RASCAL to offer mission turn-around within
24 hours of payload arrival. Recurring launch costs for the RASCAL would
be $750,000 per launch for a 165-pound (75-kilogram) payload tossed into
a high Earth orbit. If the program remains on track, the launch system
would first hurl two demonstration payloads into space in fiscal year 2006.
- Refuel, upgrade, and extend
- Another DARPA space endeavor is Orbital Express. This
project will demonstrate the feasibility of using automated spacecraft
to refuel, upgrade, and extend the life of on-orbit spacecraft. Doing so
lowers the cost of doing business in space and will provide radical new
capabilities for military spacecraft.
- Spacecraft that are highly maneuverable makes them more
difficult to track and to evade). Orbital Express permits satellites to
be reconfigured to keep pace with changing military missions or as technology
- Lastly, DARPA is developing a ground-based, wide-aperture,
deep field-of-view optical telescope. This telescope will search for very
faint objects in geosynchronous orbit. That makes it perfect to keep an
eye on new and unidentified objects that suddenly appear with unknown purpose
- Satellite-guided drones
- DARPA is working with the Army, Navy, and Air Force toward
a vision of filling the battlespace skies with robotic systems that are
networked with piloted systems. According to a recently released DARPA
plan, the idea is not simply to replace people with machines, but to team
people with robots to create a more capable, agile, and cost-effective
force that lowers the risk of U.S. casualties.
- The increased use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle,s (UAVs),
particular in Afghanistan range of duties, from snooping on enemy positions
to dropping weapons.
- First there was E-mail. Now enter delivery of the E-bomb.
Thanks to Global Positioning System craft can sweep over a target, then
emit a huge burst of electrical energy into the atmosphere. This pulse
of electromagnetic energy acts like a lightning bolt, frying an enemy,s
computers, radios, telephones, and critical communications devices.
- Military space technologists and leading aerospace firms
are jointly developing the Common Aero Vehicle (CAV). An aerodynamically
designed re-entry vehicle, CAV would be capable of maneuvering in Earth,s
atmosphere for increased range and accuracy. The CAV will be able to hold
multiple targets at risk including deeply buried, hard, and mobile targets.
Delivery of CAVs could be one task of a future military space plane.
- A military space plane could carry several CAVs, each
containing multiple submunitions. Payloads under consideration for the
CAV include small smart bombs, numbers of Low Cost Autonomous Attack System
munitions, as well as a hard and deeply buried target penetrator. Also,
a CAV could let loose above enemy territory an unmanned aerial vehicle,
equipped with a special "hunter/killer" package.
- Ready-to-go rocketry
- Expansive military use of space will demand ready-to-go
rocketry. A yearlong U.S. Air Force study was started last month tagged
the Operationally Responsive Spacelift Analysis of Alternatives.
- Numbers of ways to quickly hurl payloads into space are
being reviewed by military space planners, from air-launched boosters to
multi-staged fully reusable, as well as toss-away or partly reusable spacelifters.
- There is no doubt that quick reaction rocketry would
yield a major military space advantage.
- "If truly low cost, responsive access to space becomes
a reality, the military use of space will greatly expand and it will contribute
dramatically more than it has thus far to both conflict and avoiding conflict,"
said James Wertz, President of Microcosm, Inc. in El Segundo, California.
- "The use of responsive, low cost space assets has
the potential to provide vital information that is quicker, better, and
lower cost than more traditional methods," Wertz said. "Unfortunately,
space today is neither responsive nor low cost," he said.
- Military space assets have become so common place that
their use during war has become routine in ways that most did not expect,
said Roger Handberg, a military and civilian space expert in the Department
of Political Science at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
- "That means their importance becomes even more central
which heightens insecurities about their vulnerability to enemy attack,"
Handberg said. "Therefore, logically, even more effort will go into
the issue of space control and counterforce application in order to preserve
- Handberg said that actual placement of weapons in space
doesn,t seem to be in the cards quite yet, "but the logic drives one
in that direction...although the most likely means of attack are electronic."
- "Cyber warfare will become an absolute priority
for the Strategic Command in order to protect assets," Handberg said.
- High on the agenda for military space strategists is
a space bomber. But such a craft is not likely to carry a crew.
- Handberg said that justifications for human military
spaceflight have to be much stronger than they are presently. Modernizing
and expanding the more traditional forces now absorbs the Pentagon budget,
- "There is no mission presently for the military
that can,t be accomplished by using robotic vehicles. In fact, humans make
the missions more difficult and shorter in duration," Handberg said.
- Gaining trust
- Be it 21st century military or civilian space progress,
lowering the cost of access to space remains paramount and that is tied
to having far greater trust in launchers.
- That,s the view of Stephen Johnson, associate professor
here in the Space Studies program at the University of North Dakota.
- "The reason that we drive cars and fly airplanes
without tremendous costs is that the operators trust that the vehicles
are going to work the vast majority of the time. And when they are going
to break down, they show observable and predictable symptoms," Johnson
- "With launchers, we have no such experience. We
do not trust them and so we test every component of every launcher every
flight," Johnson said.
- Frequent flights
- How do we gain such trust? Only by having frequent flights,
Johnson added. "In today's space environment, there is simply not
enough demand to achieve this trust. There are not enough payloads to fly
into space," he said.
- Johnson proposes that the government change its procurement
strategy by concentrating on the creation of hundreds of small satellites,
each of which must be individually launched, and then purchasing rides
from industry for the ride.
- "New technologies make this strategy possible, even
for things like reconnaissance satellites, which could now be designed
as constellations of microsats instead of one huge satellite. Once the
government leads, others will follow," Johnson concluded.
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