Satellite Jam



EE Times reports the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has released a long-delayed report on the military uses of space (pdf), on the eve of a Strategic Space Conference and Milcom.

The report asserts that U.S. “will oppose the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit U.S. access to or use of space.”

Some analysts have interpreted this as signaling opposition to a proposed U.N. ban on weapons in space.

The Union of Concerned Scientists opposes space-based weapons and destructive weapons that target satellites, even from the ground. It made the most comprehensive satellite inventory yet to start a dialogue about the best use of space on their Satellite Database. DARPA funds hundreds of special projects, many with “dual use” funtionality.

Another concern is the loss of U.S. space competitiveness. Radarsat-2 was a cautionary tale with respect to both ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) and technical assistance agreements with the United States. The export of US spacecraft and launchers like the EELV may also be a priority.

Billions in corporate welfare programs for both Boeing and Lockheed have funded two largely redundant Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) programs for the Boeing Delta 4 and Lockheed Atlas V. The companies underbid them, thinking the commercial market would pick up the slack. It didn’t.

Taxpayers got stuck with the bill.

There is no demand for a big launcher right now or in the next five years,” said Phil McAlister, an industry analyst. “None of the private-equity guys [who have purchased several large commercial satellite operators] are looking at monster satellites, especially if the only ride is on a relatively unproven rocket”.

Congressional leaders are asking how the government’s contribution to the EELV rocket project grew from $17 billion to almost $32 billion in a few years.

The military’s new rocket program is $14.44 billion over budget and counting, raising questions about how long taxpayers can subsidize two of America’s biggest aerospace companies to keep them in the launch business, reported Florida Today.

The Air Force’s rocket overrun is about as much as NASA spends in a year for all its projects. It’s more money than President Bush asked Congress to provide to help Florida rebuild after four hurricanes. And it is three times what NASA has overspent so far on the International Space Station, something that drew cries of waste and mismanagement from Congress.

The DOD’s space budget has grown from $15.7 billion in FY2002, to a FY2004 request of $20.4 billion, to a projected $28.6 billion in FY2008. Here are some highlights from Spaceref.com.

After much rangling, a merger of EELV projects was devised. Only last week, Lockheed Martin and its joint venture with the Boeing received anti-trust clearance from the Federal Trade Commission. The United Launch Alliance would combine the production, engineering, test and launch operations associated with U.S. government launches of Boeing Delta and Lockheed Martin Atlas rockets. SpaceX challenged the antitrust legality of the launch services monopoly. Lockheed Martin also plans to sell its ownership in International Launch Services, (ILS) to Space Transport Inc. Space Transport was pursuing the $10 million Ansari X-Prize for civilian space flight, which was won in October 2004 by Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne.

Domestic space companies want to liberalize the ITAR rules and expand their market. The new Space Policy would expand international arms trade, something both Boeing and Lockheed are good at.

Could a “Space Pearl Harbor” be possible? Satellite jamming appears to be on the increase.

China has fired high-power lasers at U.S. spy satellites flying over its territory, reports Defense News. News of the incident surfaced during a long anticiapted trip to Chia by NASA administrator Mike Griffin. Pentagon officials, however, do not want to anger Beijing, which is a leading U.S. trading partner and seen as key to dealing with North Korea and Iran, says Defense News.

“It was a test”, said NRO Director Donald Kerr. Kerr did not specify the spacecraft that has been illuminated by the Chinese laser.

China’s “test” is not the first incident involving a ground lasers. On Oct 17, 1997, the Pentagon conducted a test using their Mid Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL). They fired at an experimental Air Force satellite dubbed MultiSensor Technology Integration 3. The satellite was disabled but the Air Force did not get the data from the satellite it had hoped for.

“The illumination of somebody else’s satellite for destructive purposes would be a huge porovcation and could lead to war, said Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center, a Washington think tank.

Intentional satellite jamming has happened before.

Many space systems remain unprotected from a range of threats, say experts at SpaceSecurity 2006 (pdf), a comprehensive Canadian assessment, that says hostile satellite threats are increasing.

SpaceSecurity 2006 says satellite threats include, in order of decreasing likelihood:

  1. electronic warfare such as jamming communications links
  2. physical attacks on satellite ground stations
  3. dazzling or blinding of satellite sensors
  4. pellet cloud attacks on low-orbit satellites
  5. attacks in space by micro-satellites
  6. hit-to-kill anti-satellite weapons
  7. high-altitude nuclear detonations (HAND)

Other potential threats include radio-frequency weapons, highpowered microwaves and “heat-to-kill” ground-based laser ASATs.

Directed energy attacks, such as laser dazzling or blinding and microwave attacks, move at the speed of light, so that advance warning is very difficult to obtain. Countercommunications operations — interrupting the signals sent from the ground to satellites that try to disrupt U.S. military or civilian spacecraft, is the U.S. defensive strategy, said Gen. Lance Lord, the four-star general in charge of the Colorado-based Air Force Space Command. The so-called Counter Communications System was declared operational back in 2004. The ground-based jammer uses electromagnetic radio frequency energy to knock out transmissions on a temporary and reversible basis, without frying components, the command said.

The simplest form of directed energy weapon makes use of a ground-based laser directed at a satellite to temporarily dazzle, or disrupt, sensitive optics. Optical imaging systems on a reconnaissance satellite or other sensors, such as the infrared Earth sensors which are part of the attitude control system of most satellites, would be most susceptible to laser interference.

Because the attacker must be in the line of sight of the instrument, opportunities for attacks are limited to the available territory below the satellite.

On-board satellite-specific laser sensors can detect either the key laser frequencies or radiant power. Such capabilities could trigger a variety of protection measures, such as automated mechanical shutters, which may be able to prevent damage, depending on the sophistication of the attacker. Only US satellites are known to have such capabilities.

Another approach would be to place sensors on every satellite to allow the detection of nearby satellites and negation efforts. While no actor has fully developed these capabilities, the US Radio Frequency Threat Warning and Attack Reporting (RFTWARS) program aims to develop a lightweight, low-power radio frequency sensor suite to attach to individual satellites to provide situational awareness. The US is also developing capabilities for individual spacecraft to detect enemy space negation attempts through its Rapid Attack Identification, Detection and Reporting System (RAIDRS) program, a largely classified program.

In GEO, modest shields can prevent the destruction of a non-imaging satellite by laser heating. Protection against microwave weapons, which use high-powered short pulse beams to degrade or destroy unprotected electronics, can be provided by over-voltage and over-current protection circuits within a satellite’s receivers.

The US currently leads the way in both systems protection policy and technology to protect from directed energy attack. Commercial satellites however, typically lack protection from laser or microwave attack.

Besides the US, only the France and Russia are assessed to employ means such as higher orbits or spectral filtering on reconnaissance satellites to provide protection from directed energy attacks.

In 2005 the US furthered its lead in space situational awareness capabilities with a number of programs, including the Autonomous Nanosatellite Guardian for Evaluating Local Space (ANGELS), the Space Surveillance Telescope (SST), the Deep View radar, and the Large Millimeter Telescope. These programs highlight the growing importance of space situational awareness in GEO for the US military.

ANGELS would augment ground-based surveillance capabilities by providing on-orbit monitoring of a space asset using small nanosatellites. With first launch projected for 2009, ANGELS would initially be attached to a host satellite placed into GEO, and would separate from the host to carry out such tasks as monitoring space weather conditions, detecting ASATs, and diagnosing technical problems with the host spacecraft. The space-based situational awareness of ANGELS would fill current protection gaps by providing continuous monitoring of “keep out zones” in immediate proximity to assets in GEO.

Other satellite operators – primarily direct-to-home video suppliers – have begun stacking satellites in the same orbital slot (“hot bird” slots). For example, the 91-92 degrees West slot in GEO houses a Brazilsat, two Galaxy satellites, and a Canadian Nimiq satellite while 13 degrees E houses a variety of European Hot Birds.

Ground segments and communications links remain the most vulnerable components of space systems, susceptible to attack by conventional military means, computer hacking, and electronic jamming. A number of intentional jamming incidents targeting communications satellites have been reported in recent years and Iraq’s acquisition of GPS-jamming equipment for use against US GPS-guided munitions during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 suggests that jamming capabilities are proliferating.

The US leads in developing doctrines and advanced technologies to temporarily negate space systems by disrupting or denying access to satellite communications, and has deployed a mobile system to disrupt satellite communications without inflicting permanent damage to the satellite. In 2005 Libya and Iran carried out state-sponsored jamming of satellite communications. China continued to be a major target of satellite jamming. Significantly, the APSTAR VI communications satellite, designated “jam-proof” by China, was jammed in 2005, allegedly by the Falun Gong.

The US increased its lead in space situational awareness technologies in 2005 with research and development into ANGELS and the Deep View radar. These dual-use systems could facilitate targeting for space systems negation. Some actors in Europe have begun discussions on the option of pooling existing space surveillance capabilities as well as developing additional independent capabilities of their own, to be less reliant on US data.

In 2005, the US and China continued to work on directed energy technologies. The US is pursuing lighter, smaller, and more durable solid state laser designs, which have not yet been able to generate the same level of continuous power as other types. The existing American Starfire laser range was fitted with a sodium-beacon laser with possible ASAT applications. Northrop Grumman and Raytheon continued development of the advanced high-power chemical oxygen-iodine laser for the MDA Airborne Laser project. Research in China continued on laser frequencies and adaptive optics, which can help to maintain laser beam quality over long distances. Though not a dedicated program, this basic research could eventually support ground-based and airborne ASATs.

In 2005, more advanced work on ground-based kinetic kill weapons was conducted in China, Russia, the UK, and the US. The US conventional kinetic-energy ASAT program was awarded a contract to develop three advanced kill vehicles. The US continued to research and develop its Ground-based Midcourse Defense system and Russia upgraded the A-135 anti-ballistic missile system. China, EADS, and the UK conducted basic research into kinetic kill vehicles for missile defense. Such kinetic kill interceptors could serve as ASATs.

Boeing’s Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) system, scheduled for a December 2008 launch, is a constellation of satellites for tracking space objects.

A Russian rocket launched this July carried South Korea’s Arirang-2 satellite into orbit. The satellite will be used for disaster monitoring and mapping,. The multi-spectral camera is capable of 1 meter resolution. South Korea launched its first multipurpose satellite Arirang-1 in December 1999 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, aboard a Taurus rocket made by Orbital Sciences.

It took Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) seven years to build Arirang-2, at a cost of 263.2 billion won (US$276 million). With the launch of Arirang-2, South Korea has a total of nine satellites in space.

Japan will launch an intelligence-gathering satellite in early September to watch over secretive North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. It will be launched atop the domestically developed H2-A rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center (above), according to the space agency JAXA. It will be the third intelligence-gathering satellite Japan has launched.

The list of private spaceflight companies keeps growing.

The largest “trophy” satellites are switchboards in the sky that deliver up to 20 kW. They’re based on platforms like the Boeing 702, Loral 1300, Lockheed Martin 2100AX and EADS Astrium/Alcatel AlphaBus.

According to the World Satellite Communications & Broadcasting Markets Survey, revenues of the FSS industry totaled $7.6 billion in 2005. Demand was driven by HDTV, military communications and private corporate networks. Of the 4,535 transponders in service in 2005, 57 percent were for TV broadcasting services and 28 percent in North America. The United States has 413 satellites in space snooping for the government, checking on the weather and relaying the latest pop music, according to UCS’s Satellite Database. That’s more than the 382 the rest of the world has spinning above the Earth.

Hawaii can uplink to two-thirds of the world’s population in the U.S., China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and India. Perhaps an ASAT-equipped diesel sub, running Air-Independent propulsion and armed with supersonic torpedos will turn the lights out.

Space news resources include; ComSpaceWatch, SpaceRef, SpaceDaily, Space, Space News, SpaceFlightNow, Florida Today, Houston Chronicle, Washington Post, HeadlineSpot, CBS News, CNN, MSNBC, AeroAstro, AeroSpaceCorp, Ball Aerospace, NASA SpaceTech 5, SpaceDev, SpaceQuest, Satellite Database, Satellite ComLinks, Microsat Systems, Orbital Science, Russian Space Web, Surrey Satellite, Swales Aerospace, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems, UAV Forum, UAV News, AeroVironment, Insitu Group, Open Source UAV Projects, Lloyd Wood, Very Long Baseline, Atacama Large Millimeter Array, Green Bank, Mauna Kea, Allen Array, Tactical User Antenna, Military & Aerospace Electronics and NASA TV.

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Posted by Sam Churchill on .