Military Space Ops

Not all space, but very space reliant. Waiting to see the actual text, but some interesting implications if a/ accurate and b/ the USA follows through with some of this.

WASHINGTON — The long-delayed Missile Defense Review, which will be formally introduced by President Donald Trump at the Pentagon Thursday, will call for research and investments to ensure America’s security for the next several decades: laser technology, the F-35 as an ICBM killer, and potentially putting interceptors in space.

Trump will roll out the report at 11 a.m. Thursday as part of his third visit to the Pentagon since taking office.

A senior administration official, speaking to reporters ahead of the report’s release, confirmed a number of new technologies that Defense News has learned are highlighted in the report. The official told reporters that overall, the review looks at “the comprehensive environment the United States faces, and our allies and partners face. It does posture forces to be prepared for capabilities that currently exist and that we anticipate in the future.”

Technological changes
Much of the technology discussed in the MDR will require many years of development, and in some cases will never come to fruition. But the following points give a good sense of the let’s-try-everything approach the Pentagon is putting forth with the report:


Turn the SM-3 and F-35 into ICBM killers: The SM-3 Block IIA ship-launched interceptor is designed for dealing with regional threats. But the Pentagon intends to test the weapon as a counter-ICBM system in 2020, as part of a goal of creating an extra layer of protection for the homeland. In essence, the department wants to offer as many options as possible, scattered around the globe, for making sure nothing gets through the safety net.
The department has previously said the F-35 could be used in some capacity for missile defense, but the MDR calls for the testing and development of a new or modified interceptor which could shoot down a ballistic missile in the boost phase; expect early R&D funding for such a weapon to be in the FY20 budget request. There is also the possibility of using the F-35, equipped with its array of sensors, to hunt and track mobile missile units, which is a key part of North Korea’s doctrine.


Lasers on drones: The idea of using directed energy weapons, more commonly known as lasers, to take out a missile in the boost phase is not new, but it has received a boost in the past year in comments from technological leaders inside the building. In theory, putting a drone equipped with a laser high in the air at around 60,000 feet would keep it safe from any missile defense systems, while providing overwatch on potential launch sites. However, this idea feels more far-flung than others, in part because both the scaled up laser that would be needed for such capabilities has yet to be invented, let alone paired with a system that would be able to stay that high for long periods of time. In the meantime, DoD is developing a low-power laser demonstrator to evaluate and test what technologies would be needed to make such a system a reality, despite the fact that airborne laser weapons are perhaps the hardest directed energy system to develop.

Space-based sensors: In the FY19 defense authorization bill, Congress required the missile defense agency to fully study and prototype ways to increase the space-based sensor layer. It’s been another focus area for Griffin during his time in the Pentagon. “A space-based layer of sensors is something we are looking at to help give early warning, tracking and discrimination of missiles when they are launched,” the administration official said. “We see space as an area that’s very important as far as advanced, next-level capabilities that will help us stay ahead of the threat.” Just what that layer looks like, however, remains to be seen. Expect some form of disaggregated architecture, relying on many smaller systems rather than the expensive, highly-capable systems that the U.S. has traditionally relied upon. Hosting sensor payloads on commercial satellites could also be in play. The hope is to demo some form of space-based sensor layer by early in the 2020s.

Space-based interceptors: Perhaps the most controversial of the ideas being considered in the document comes from the idea of having interceptors placed in orbit to take out ballistic missiles. Picture a satellite equipped with 10 rockets that, when triggered by the sensor net, can target and launch against an incoming missile. The MDR does not call for investment in space-based interceptors at this point. Instead, the department will launch a study, lasting perhaps six months, to look into the most promising technologies and come up with estimates for cost and time; after the study is done, the department will look to move forward if it makes sense.
But don’t expect lasers in space anytime soon, with the administration official saying nothing has been determined, only that “we’re going to study it and we’ll see whether or not it’s feasible.”


Countering hypersonic weapons: A Defense Intelligence Agency report released this week said that China is leading the world with hypersonic weapons, systems capable of going at Mach 5 and able to move too quickly to be defeated by current generation missile defenses. Russia has also invested heavily in that technology. So it’s no surprise the MDR calls for investments in ways to protect against such weapons.

Third missile defense site: Right now, the U.S. has two homeland missile defense sites for its Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, in Alaska and California. Could a third site be considered?
“That’s something we have been considering,” the official said. “We’ve done environmental impact study on three potential sites. So we’re ready to move forward if its determined that that’s something that would really enhance our posture with respect to Iran. But no decision has been made about a third interceptor site yet.” One option noted in the MDR is to temporarily or permanently operationalize the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Center in Kauai, Hawaii. That system is currently used just as a test facility. The document, as ordered by Congress, must include milestone targets for developing new capabilities. It requires statements of five- and 10-year programmatic goals for developing capabilities, “as well as desired end states and milestones for integration and interoperability with allies, and a statement on the role of international cooperation,” per congressional guidance. However, the new technologies presented as option in the report are not broken down in great detail in the report; those details are more likely to appear in the FY20 budget requests that correspond with the new capabilities.


Space-based interceptors and drones with lasers: the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Review wish-list revealed
 
Interesting FT article on the lack of progress on the UK / MOD strategy on 'space'.

Not sure how much of it to take as gospel, but there is a hint of interservice rivalry as it appears the latest update (an audit of the current UK military space capabilities) was delivered by Sir Gordon Messenger, a Royal Marine. According to the article, he apparently stepped in after the RAF, who have the responsibility in this area, failed to settle on a vision.

Anyway, attached is the article which is interesting enough in a mildly frustrating sort of way....

Subscribe to read | Financial Times

edit to add. Also there is a frustrating paywall thing
 
Considering how 'well' the Soviet space shuttle turned out in the 1980s, I'm not sure there's too much to be concerned about here.

'The Russian News agency RIA Novosti reports the new automated shuttle is in an advanced stage of development for ROSCOSMOS — Russia’s national space agency. But the release of the image comes just days after President Vladimir Putin said he would ask his military to prepare a response to the possible deployment of weapons in space by the United States. And a fast, manoeuvrable, cargo-carrying spacecraft would open up a variety of space-based combat capabilities.

'The proposed winged rocket design carries no crew. But its autonomous intelligence is intended to carry payloads into space before returning to refuel and reload. Using an existing rocket motor design for propulsion and a winged lifting body for the return flight, the reusable spacecraft is intended to deploy its cargo quickly — moving through the upper atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. The report says the craft should be able to fly at seven times the speed of sound at 160km height. It will also be capable of travelling out to a height of 500km. Designer International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) says the space drone is intended to have a lifespan of 50 missions.

'General director Yuri Bakhvalov told RIA Novosti the protype is expected to undergo the first of five flight tests in 2023.'

Russia’s new secret space weapon revealed
 
Two stories of particular interest to Britain:

Orbex partners with SSTL for maiden launch at UK spaceport

The Orbex Prime vehicle is a completely re-thought and re-engineered rocket, designed to deliver small satellites into Earth’s orbit.

Thanks to its architecture, Prime launchers are up to 30% lighter and 20% more efficient than any other vehicle in the small launcher category say the firm, packing more power per cubic litre than many heavy launchers.

“This is in part due to its unique choice of bio-propane as a fuel, a clean-burning, renewable fuel that cuts carbon emissions by 90% compared to old-fashioned hydrocarbon fuels. The Prime vehicle will launch satellites to altitudes up to 1,250 km (776 miles), inserting them into sun-synchronous or polar orbits.”


A launcher built in the UK?

Skynet 6: Private sector innovation 'critical' to meeting UK defence SATCOM needs

Not another PFI!
 
Interesting FT article on the lack of progress on the UK / MOD strategy on 'space'.

Not sure how much of it to take as gospel, but there is a hint of interservice rivalry as it appears the latest update (an audit of the current UK military space capabilities) was delivered by Sir Gordon Messenger, a Royal Marine. According to the article, he apparently stepped in after the RAF, who have the responsibility in this area, failed to settle on a vision.

Anyway, attached is the article which is interesting enough in a mildly frustrating sort of way....

Subscribe to read | Financial Times

edit to add. Also there is a frustrating paywall thing
As VCDS, it is in Gen Messenger's remit to comment on such things:

From his bio on defnet:

VCDS is responsible for:
  • deputising for CDS (in particular as Military Strategic Commander)
  • co-ordinating delivery of top-level decisions-making, implementation and monitoring progress
  • leading senior military judgement for the future development of the armed forces including the definition and delivery for military capability requirements; and being capability sponsor for capital projects and programmes
  • Defence Board lead for military personnel and training (including Reserves)
  • leading the preparation of the armed forces input to SDSRs
  • (with CDS) conduct of the military strategic dialogue
He also has a quote opening Chapter 5 of JDP 0-30 introducing space power:

"There is a national ambition to gain and maintain a competitive edge in space." General Sir Gordon Messenger, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff
 
Two stories of particular interest to Britain:

Orbex partners with SSTL for maiden launch at UK spaceport

The Orbex Prime vehicle is a completely re-thought and re-engineered rocket, designed to deliver small satellites into Earth’s orbit.

Thanks to its architecture, Prime launchers are up to 30% lighter and 20% more efficient than any other vehicle in the small launcher category say the firm, packing more power per cubic litre than many heavy launchers.

“This is in part due to its unique choice of bio-propane as a fuel, a clean-burning, renewable fuel that cuts carbon emissions by 90% compared to old-fashioned hydrocarbon fuels. The Prime vehicle will launch satellites to altitudes up to 1,250 km (776 miles), inserting them into sun-synchronous or polar orbits.”

A launcher built in the UK?

Skynet 6: Private sector innovation 'critical' to meeting UK defence SATCOM needs

Not another PFI!
Interesting.

There is still life in the British 'space industry' despite years of government neglect. And some areas of genuine innovation. It's good to see

Harpoon successfully captures space debris | University of Surrey
 
Interesting.

There is still life in the British 'space industry' despite years of government neglect. And some areas of genuine innovation. It's good to see

Harpoon successfully captures space debris | University of Surrey
The UK still contributes massively to the space industry across the world. It doesn't have a space program or something like that, but it's a very key supplier - especially in a lot of the key R&D activities - and in some of the more "sensitive" areas. You guys may not be the top dogs but you are vital to the top dogs. If it makes sense.

/ all my opinion from people who I know in the industry.
 
India claims to have conducted an anti-satellite (ASAT) trial.

'Mission SHAKTI' involved a ground-based 'hit-to-kill' weapon, allegedly shown above, which targeted an unidentified Indian satellite acting as a target in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). That they target a LEO object is significant as it would theoretically reduce the amount of space debris generated. China was widely criticised in 2007 when it conducted an ASAT trial of its own against a target in a higher orbit which resulted in the largest generation of space debris ever recorded, much of which remains.

India's test is yet further evidence of how Space is increasingly a contested environment.

Regards,
MM
 
India claims to have conducted an anti-satellite (ASAT) trial.

'Mission SHAKTI' involved a ground-based 'hit-to-kill' weapon, allegedly shown above, which targeted an unidentified Indian satellite acting as a target in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). That they target a LEO object is significant as it would theoretically reduce the amount of space debris generated. China was widely criticised in 2007 when it conducted an ASAT trial of its own against a target in a higher orbit which resulted in the largest generation of space debris ever recorded, much of which remains.

India's test is yet further evidence of how Space is increasingly a contested environment.

Regards,
MM
...you missed Earth's thread on this, then? :)

(Don't rush to find it; you didn't miss much.)
 
Does anyone know any more about the launcher that is going to be launched from the UK? Where will it be built?

What is Bio Propane and has it been used as rocket propellant before?
Article says Calor are supplying the bio gas. Calor have a video about bio-LPG. LPG can be composed of a number of gases. Bio-Propane is very likely produced in a similar way but without containing the other gases. I don't know about previous propane rockets but it is stored under pressure as a liquid. There is plenty of history of liquid fueled rockets.


Orbex unveils new rocket design for UK spaceport in Scotland

Nice. 30% weight savings is very significant as the fuel mass required to lift it is drastically reduced.

More effective antennae in a smaller pre-deployment package helps manage payload budget (mass). This is something the UK is excellent at with decades of experience in microsatellites, thanks to the likes odf Surrey Satellites.
 
Interesting FT article on the lack of progress on the UK / MOD strategy on 'space'.

Not sure how much of it to take as gospel, but there is a hint of interservice rivalry as it appears the latest update (an audit of the current UK military space capabilities) was delivered by Sir Gordon Messenger, a Royal Marine. According to the article, he apparently stepped in after the RAF, who have the responsibility in this area, failed to settle on a vision.

Anyway, attached is the article which is interesting enough in a mildly frustrating sort of way....

Subscribe to read | Financial Times

edit to add. Also there is a frustrating paywall thing
Was chatting a few weeks back with the team that are convinced of the viability of using Cornwall International Airport as the UK's hub for horizontal launch. They'd been at a symposium hosted by the UK Space Agency expecting to hear "This is what we're going to do to help YOU grow the UK space sector." to find that UKSA don't actually have a scooby-doo. They don't even have enough knowledge to answer pretty basic questions.
 
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Article says Calor are supplying the bio gas. Calor have a video about bio-LPG. LPG can be composed of a number of gases. Bio-Propane is very likely produced in a similar way but without containing the other gases. I don't know about previous propane rockets but it is stored under pressure as a liquid. There is plenty of history of liquid fueled rockets.


Orbex unveils new rocket design for UK spaceport in Scotland

Nice. 30% weight savings is very significant as the fuel mass required to lift it is drastically reduced.



More effective antennae in a smaller pre-deployment package helps manage payload budget (mass). This is something the UK is excellent at with decades of experience in microsatellites, thanks to the likes odf Surrey Satellites.

I hope the Internet of Things they plan to deploy in space is secured unless they want it hacked.
 

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