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Artist rendering of gravity tractor - image courtesy of B612 Foundation
DailyTech's International Space Updates for January 2007

Some experts seem to agree that it is only a matter of time before an asteroid or meteor strikes Earth in the future. While millions of them are aimlessly floating around in space, 200,000 to 400,000 of them come within range Earth, according to reports. That is why NASA astronaut Edward Lu wants NASA to deploy a spacecraft which would be able to divert asteroids so they will not run into the planet. In theory, the craft's gravitational pull would change the asteroid's orbit. UK researchers are planning on using a superior telescope located in Hawaii to help locate Earth-threatening asteroids.

India has successfully recovered the Space capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE-1), a capsule that has been orbiting around the Earth at an altitude of 637km. The SRE-1 floated in space for 11 days before splashing into the Bay of Bengal earlier in the week. The Indian space agency used the SRE-1 to test its ability to accurately track and recover a space capsule landing back on Earth. The head of the team that created the capsule said that “the mission is a great success.”

Chinese space officials still continue to claim that its anti-satellite test is not a hostile act. The Chinese government confirmed that on Jan. 11 it launched a missile aimed at destroying an aging weather satellite, and the test has the United States and Japan worried. While the Chinese previously discussed its plans with U.S. Officials, both the Japanese and U.S. Governments want clarification on the future intentions of the Chinese.  With some form of a space war on the minds of many government officials, this recent incident only has more people worried.



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20 Years Later
By Ringold on 1/24/2007 9:08:53 PM , Rating: 5
How things change:
http://www.nasawatch.com/archives/2007/01/todays_n...

quote:
Picture this: a TV commercial featuring a space station orbiting overhead where people speak Russian and laugh at capitalists back on Earth. How scary - or at least that's what the McDonnell Douglas public affairs folks wanted everyone else to think back in 1988. Flash forward nearly 20 years. McDac is gone. And the space station with Russians on board? Well, we're up there with them. And the capitalists who actually use a space station? They speak Russian - and they are still laughing at us back on Earth because we can't commercialize much (if anything) on the ISS.


Other then that.. I think we're only pissed at the Chinese because we didn't do it first. Had the tables been turned, we'd of told everyone else we were testing a critical national defense system and they can take their complaints to the UN (heheh).

Not that I hold China to a double standard myself.. I just hope we have similar capability and just aren't silly enough to show it. Let our enemies figure it out when they start a war and 30 minutes later their satellites go silent and they dont know how.




RE: 20 Years Later
By Goty on 1/24/2007 9:30:50 PM , Rating: 2
We've done it, too (shot an orbiting object down with a ballistic missile, that is). I think all the worrying is really just jealousy =P. China's economy depends too much on exports for them to piss everyone off.


RE: 20 Years Later
By masher2 (blog) on 1/24/2007 11:09:17 PM , Rating: 2
The German economy in 1938 depended heavily on exports as well. That didn't stop them from starting WW2. Nations very often don't act in their own best interests when it comes to war. I'm not implying that China will start WW3, of course. I'm simply pointing out that economic dependency is no sure indicator of geopolitical behavior.


RE: 20 Years Later
By tmarat on 1/25/2007 3:56:09 AM , Rating: 2
Both USA and Russia have this capability to shoot down a satellite. As far as I know they tested such systems in mid 80s. And are now working on next generation systems based on lasers.

Russia and China had been trying to get USA to sign an agreement on demilitarizations of space. USA so far always avoided such agreements. In the latest strategy (or something like that) USA outlined its ambitions and actually stated it has the right to stop other nations from accessing space.


RE: 20 Years Later
By cheetah2k on 1/25/2007 4:52:31 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
USA outlined its ambitions and actually stated it has the right to stop other nations from accessing space.


You have to be joking! I'd love to see some references to this! Although, I wouldn't put it past the US to take this seriously - just look at their US biased foreign policies!


RE: 20 Years Later
By ivanv4 on 1/25/2007 8:09:08 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Both USA and Russia have this capability to shoot down a satellite. As far as I know they tested such systems in mid 80s. And are now working on next generation systems based on lasers.


Thats correct, USA researched ASAT for this porposes, mounting a missile on a special F-15.


RE: 20 Years Later
By masher2 (blog) on 1/25/2007 9:46:00 AM , Rating: 2
> "USA...stated it has the right to stop other nations from accessing space.

Utter and complete rubbish. Allow me to quote from the US State Dept website:
quote:
This is why our new policy reiterates the long-standing principle that the U.S. is committed to the free access and use of space by all nations ...
http://www.state.gov/t/us/rm/78679.htm


RE: 20 Years Later
By tmarat on 1/25/2007 10:28:16 AM , Rating: 2
"Only last August, President Bush laid out a new US national space policy which said Washington would "preserve its rights, capabilities and freedom of action in space" and "dissuade or deter others from either impeding those rights or developing capabilities intended to do so".

It also threatened to "deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to US national interests". "

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6278867.st...


RE: 20 Years Later
By masher2 (blog) on 1/25/2007 10:39:21 AM , Rating: 1
Deterring someone from attacking US capabilities is a far cry from denying a nation the right to access space itself. Essentially, the US said no more than, if you hoist a space weapon for use against us, you can expect that we'll shoot it down.


RE: 20 Years Later
By tmarat on 1/25/2007 12:49:33 PM , Rating: 2
It also threatened to "deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to US national interests". "

That includes spying satellites. Or any satellite that can take pictures, might even be agricultural.

China shot down that satellite to pressure USA to sign a treaty banning putting weaponry in space. All hooray from US government is hypocritical, for me at least. If you do not want anybody developing weaponry that can be used in or from space, do not do it yourself. Or at least sign some treaties putting limits on that.


RE: 20 Years Later
By masher2 (blog) on 1/25/2007 1:16:04 PM , Rating: 1
> "That includes spying satellites. Or any satellite that can take pictures, might even be agricultural."

If you read that statement as meaning the US would be randomly shooting down foreign spy satellites, you misinterpreted it, that's all.

And, as others have pointed out, the main objection to China's demolition of a satellite wasn't the capability itself, but the vast cloud of debris it created. Is China going to pay for any satellites it disables? I don't think so.


RE: 20 Years Later
By tmarat on 1/26/2007 4:35:52 PM , Rating: 2
That statement does not mean US will shoot foreign satellites in a random way. But if a conflict does occur with a smaller nation, US government will find various excuses to shooting down communication satellites (saying they are used for military purposes or something else). It won't be a problem considering original justification for war in Iraq were WMD and majority of USA population believed it. It also means USA does not want any treaties putting limits on space warfare.

In the bigger frame, the worrying thing for the USA were not the debris, but the fact of China getting more and more advanced. Worrying is the proposition that in a possible conflict China might be able to shoot the US reconnaissance satellites out of the sky.


RE: 20 Years Later
By iNGEN on 2/20/2007 2:25:31 PM , Rating: 2
10-20 years from now, when the terrorist threat (irregardless of whether you think it is real or imagined) has been eliminated the next population motivating threat to be addressed will be asteroids. There is always a "grave threat" posed to the free peoples of the world. It sounds funny now, but mark my words, the next "threat" will be asteroids.


The Ultimate defense
By TimberJon on 1/25/2007 10:53:58 AM , Rating: 2
If they have hostile satellites, or ballistic missiles, helicopters or planes, whatever it is. It cannot survive against a kinetic projectile such as the round a (more developed) Rail Gun can eject.

A good cyclic rate, auto-loadable rounds, a reliable power source and maybe a sensor system like that on THAAD or better, and the sucker can take just about anything out of the sky with low cost. There are, of course, factors involved with keeping the projectile on-target.. but I think it will be diffused at Mach7 or better.




RE: The Ultimate defense
By masher2 (blog) on 1/25/2007 11:01:04 AM , Rating: 2
> "There are, of course, factors involved with keeping the projectile on-target.. but I think it will be diffused at Mach7 or better.."

If you're referring to the Mach-7 railgun from an earlier DT article, that speed is nothing compared the orbital velocity of a satellite. The upper range on that railgun was 95 miles, which takes you only to the very lowest of orbital ranges. At that altitude, the shell's upward velocity is going to be zero....so the kinetic energy for the kill would have to come from the satellite itself. Still doable, of course...but not really possible without a guided shell.


RE: The Ultimate defense
By Ringold on 1/25/2007 11:33:00 AM , Rating: 2
Seems like lasers would lend themselves to this much more easily.

The satellite targets would move along extremely predictable paths, the weather could be studied in depth, not succeeding on the first attempt causes no harm (it'll come around again in a few minutes), and satellites, being vulnerable little balls of electronics as they are, probably wouldn't require much damage to disable.

Not to mention I don't know how anyone would know who it was that did the firing. Unlike the Chinese method of wasting a perfectly good ballistic missile..


RE: The Ultimate defense
By masher2 (blog) on 1/25/2007 11:44:27 AM , Rating: 2
> "takes more than one person to push something like this through..."

True, far easier to intercept with a laser, of course...but tougher to actually knock out the satellite. Collimating a high-power beam across 100+ miles of atmosphere isn't trivial.

BTW, the Chinese have already done this as well...used a laser to blind a US satellite (not one of their own). It was a single test of a low-power laser that did no permanent damage...just enough to temporarily prevent it from functioning properly while over Chinese terrain.


RE: The Ultimate defense
By Ringold on 1/25/2007 4:43:00 PM , Rating: 2
Less trivial than what I had in mind while I was thinking of it, which is the laser's the military would want to use to slice up ICBMs. I figured the distance would be equivalent, but the target softer.

And perhaps that Boeing they're outfitting with a laser could pop off satellites while in a climb attitude? At altitudes in the Flight Level's the thickest part of the atmosphere is beneath the plane.

Of course, this is assuming they ever get that thing to work properly. :)


RE: The Ultimate defense
By masher2 (blog) on 1/25/2007 11:07:16 PM , Rating: 2
You referring to the US ABL (Airborne Laser) programme? If so, you'll probably be interested in this analysis:

Anti-Satellite Capabilities of Planned US Missile Defense Systems:

http://www.ucsusa.org/global_security/space_weapon...


RE: The Ultimate defense
By Ringold on 1/26/2007 10:35:45 PM , Rating: 2
Very interesting.. Well, since those interceptors at Vandenberg & Greely haven't done too well at actual interception of ballistic missiles it's good to know they're not entirely useless.

In fact, the cynic in me suspects now that ASAT missions were of key consideration in their design. I've also read about agencies like the NRO and their slush funds. Nothing would surprise me.

Thanks for the link.


Mine field
By Shadowself on 1/25/2007 12:19:31 PM , Rating: 2
"With some form of a space war on the minds of many government officials, this recent incident only has more people worried."

This is not the bottom line issue at all. The issue is debris.

Yes, there is a significant amount of debris already up there, but most of it is below about 600km. There were a very limited number of fragments at the approximately 800km orbit of the Chinese satellite China "shot down". Virtually all those pieces are too small to destroy a satellite and cause more debris.

In reality it was not "shot down". It was hit and broken up by the weapon. Now there is a cloud of debris orbiting at 800km. This cloud is slowly dispersing. It is kilometers in diameter now and will be several 10s of kilometers in diameter long before the first piece comes back and burns up which will take decades, not years. Some of the objects in the cloud are very significant in size and mass. The debris field has effectively created a mine field at 800km. Remember, this was a polar orbiter. Its path took it (an now the debris field's path takes is) over the entire Earch creating a "shell" at approximately 800km.

Many satellites use the 800km orbit and peacefully coexist by maneuvers which keep them from hitting each other. Little maneuvers are used because moving as little as 20-50 meters is plenty to miss another satellite and 20-50 meters is almost nothing in propellant used. Now these satellites will have to move 10s of kilometers and use much more propellant to be certain to avoid crossing paths with this cloud.

And what if they don't completely avoid the mine field? What if at 780km a satellite gets hit with a piece and it gets destroyed and creates more debris? It just compounds the problem.

What satellites use 800km (approximately)? Oh, just the NOAA birds, the DMSP birds, the future NPOESS birds, commercial sats such as Orbcomm, etc. Now all of them will have to dance around this mine field for several decades to come.




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