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May 24, 2003

SPACE IS OURS!....Via Priorities & Frivolities comes this EE Times article about the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency in charge of our spy satellites. With the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty out of the way, it looks like total dominance of space is the next step:

The nation's largest intelligence agency by budget and in control of all U.S. spy satellites, NRO is talking openly with the U.S. Air Force Space Command about actively denying the use of space for intelligence purposes to any other nation at any time—not just adversaries, but even longtime allies, according to NRO director Peter Teets.

....Beginning next year, NRO will be in charge of the new Offensive Counter-Space program, which will come up with plans to specifically deny the use of near-Earth space to other nations, said Teets.

The program will include two components: the Counter Communication System, designed to disrupt other nations' communication networks from space; and the Counter Surveillance Reconnaissance System, formed to prevent other countries from using advanced intelligence-gathering technology in air or space.

I wish I had some idea what this meant. Does it mean that we just want to have lots and lots of satellites, more than anyone else? Or does it mean that we want to develop ways of shooting other people's satellites out of space?

Whatever. I'm sure if our allies don't like it, it must be a good thing.

Posted by Kevin Drum at May 24, 2003 08:24 PM | TrackBack


Comments

It sounds like shooting them out of space, or at least making it so they're just orbiting chunks of metal instead of anything that actually does anything...

What about commercial satelites, though? Suppose there's an American company that takes pictures of the earth (Actually, there are several) and sells them to people? Would this be targeted, too? Would there just be laws passed? Can anyone come up with cloaking technology so their satelite isn't detected? And then maybe put some weapons on theirs and go around shooting the American satelites shooting the other satelites? I see a sci-fi book in the making here...

Posted by: Dolphinling at May 24, 2003 09:51 PM | PERMALINK

"Does it mean that we just want to have lots and lots of satellites, more than anyone else? Or does it mean that we want to develop ways of shooting other people's satellites out of space?"

My guess is, both. It's only money, right?

Posted by: The Mighty Reason Man at May 24, 2003 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

"to disrupt other nations' communication networks from space"

The way I read that, it sounds like it includes jamming signals, too. Imagine that; Al Qaeda might be using satellite phones, so all satellites that could be used to transmit those signals must be jammed.

If I thought the Administration had any interest in getting along with the rest of the world this would worry me.

Posted by: Linkmeister at May 24, 2003 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

"to disrupt other nations' communication networks from space"

The way I read that, it sounds like it includes jamming signals, too. Imagine that; Al Qaeda might be using satellite phones, so all satellites that could be used to transmit those signals must be jammed.

If I thought the Administration had any interest in getting along with the rest of the world this would worry me.

Posted by: Linkmeister at May 24, 2003 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know why MT did that.

Posted by: Linkmeister at May 24, 2003 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

Just to be flippant for a moment:

Anyone else notice the similarities getween the Bush administration and the Borg?

"Resistance is futile! You will be assimilated into the New World Corporate Order!"

On a serious ending note, the Bush administration has just declared war on everyone else in space. I'm beginning to wonder if these clowns aren't rogue Scientologists who took L. Ron Hubbard's disgusting science-fiction vision of A future and are trying to make it THE future.

Posted by: pessimist at May 25, 2003 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

Look into "Rebuilding America's Defenses", page 54 onward.

Posted by: Felix Deutsch at May 25, 2003 04:55 AM | PERMALINK

Pessimist:

No, not L. Ron Hubbard.Leo Strauss. Or at least Strauss as understood by Irving Kristol. Go here and here.


" I'm beginning to wonder if these clowns aren't rogue Scientologists who took L. Ron Hubbard's disgusting science-fiction vision of A future and are trying to make it THE future."

Posted by: tristero at May 25, 2003 08:51 AM | PERMALINK

Re other peoples' satellites, it's more likely that we'll try to kill them rather than simply "jam" them, and it's more likely that we'll do so either by permanently "blinding" them with earth-based high-energy beams (e.g. lasers, masers) or by smashing or destabilizing them with "brilliant pebbles"-like space-based projectiles. Satellites are pretty delicate critters, considering both their structure and their orbital mechanics, and it doesn't take much to render them useless.

Posted by: bleh at May 25, 2003 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

tristero - I was being facecious about L.Ron Hubbard. I know about Leo Strauss, and Karl Rove, and too many others to list here, but it did strike me as a bit coincidental that the scenarios about to play as written by PNAC are so much like the drivel that Hubbard pumped out.

Posted by: pessimist at May 25, 2003 05:02 PM | PERMALINK

bleh,

Don't want to smash them because then they become shrapnel that could destroy American satellites in the same orbit. More likely an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weapon that will fry the circuitry rendering it useless.

Posted by: Patrick Taylor at May 25, 2003 09:08 PM | PERMALINK

>What about commercial satelites, though? Suppose
> there's an American company that takes
> of the earth (Actually, there are several) and
> sells them to people? Would this be targeted,
> too? Would there just be laws passed?

Satellite imaging systems owned by U.S. companies are already required to have "shutter control" capability as a condition of their licensing (yes, satellites have to be licensed). The system must be able to turn off imaging over any area of the earth specified by the U.S. Gov't. This has been true for many years, since the first proposals for non-government-owned imaging systems forced the gov't to think about how to regulate them.

So far, shutter control hasn't been used; in the recent conflicts, the gov't simply bought all available images, thereby avoiding complaints (and possible lawsuits) about arbitrarily depriving companies of income, and also getting the use of the images for itself.

A more general comment: I design satellite systems for a living. Yes, "space control" -- which is a DoD mission, and has been for some time -- includes developing ways to shut down other people's satellites either temporarily or permanently, as well as developing ways to protect our own satellites (and, interestingly, to detect if someone is attacking our satellites; if a satellite just stops transmitting, how do you tell the difference between a random failure and an attack?) In practice, actually destroying other people's satellites has not been a very high priority, although many years ago we did develop a token ASAT (antisatellite) capability using missiles launched off an F-15, mostly in response to the USSR demonstrating a (rather clumsy) antisatellite weapon of its own.

Historically, satellites have been one of the most stabilizing factors in global confrontations. Currently, the U.S. is far more dependent on satellites for both military and civilian activities than any other country. Destroying someone else's satellites would set a *really* bad precedent, even if it produced a short-term gain for the US. It would be right up there with assassinating heads of state or, well, invading a Middle Eastern country....

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