Real Genius (1985)
Operation Crossbow is all I could think of when I read they wanted to put laser weapons in space.
France is threatening to stick submachine guns on its next generation of satellites as part of an "active space defense" strategy that would enable it to shoot down other space hardware. That demented idea is part of a broader review of the country's approach to space that has absolutely nothing to do with President Donald …
For the machine guns in space I guess someone's been watching Battlestar Galactica or The Expanse.
If it's in The Expanse it's probably doable in real life some day, the question is if we would want to... And the answer is no, because if it were used Earth would be locked in a cage of shrapnel.
"Looks like real news from where I'm sitting 32 years later."
The scariest thing about that clip is that it could have been broadcast just yesterday as part of a real news programme and no one would have thought it was a 30 year old clip. The newsreaders still fit the look and presenting style, ie cookie cutter presenters.
If direct war breaks out involving two or more spacefaring countries against each other, you better not plan to depend on satellites for your TV or other telecommunications needs, because orbit is quickly going to be full of far too much shrapnel to track once the 'first strike' happens.
Maybe that's Fermi's "Great Filter", civilizations do something stupid and are unable to reliably launch anything off their planet ever again so they see no point in trying to communicate with anyone else.
Surely all you need to do is launch a few large magnets and let attraction take its course... Over time, all the magnetic junk will be caught by the magnets and then the coalescing balls of junk will sweep up everything in their paths - as they get bigger, they sweep up more junk. Problem solved! :-)
If only Willie Coyote physics worked in the real world .... Yet Another Anonymous coward
How very odd 0ne would not Believe IT to be easily so. ....... and with all of these new-fangled entangling tools and exciting programs streaming ....... well, Future Instruction Sets which be Virtually Free Online for Protocol Command and Control Advancement Testing/Stealthy Firing ......for Simply Complex Range Finding Purpose.
One wouldn't want to be bedevilled and bewildered, bedazzled and bewitched in the draughty halls of delusion whenever the real chambers of delight are so heavenly a confection/desire/satisfaction/temptation
:-) And that all simply says is the above be demonstrably true .... and readily available for Future AI Testing with the Best of ALTuring Type Applications which Never Forget the Insatiable Pleasures Presented for Delivery. .... and they be for All to Enjoy and Employ ...... with Immaculate Desire to Satisfy Exhaustively and to Heavenly XSS. :-)
* ... Oh Well
A clean way to take out a satellite would be to deploy a spinning disk of black mylar coated with a gecko type adhesive. By positioning it in an orbit that will intersect the satellite with a smallish relative velocity of about 100mph its tiny mass would mean the impact would cause no debris but it would envelope and disable the satellite,
100 mph would definitely cause a lot of debris. You don't think if you flung a piece of mylar at a solar panel it wouldn't break? Satellites are extremely flimsy, because every pound is precious. It would be very easy to break off pieces with even a 10 mph relative speed, let alone 100.
A 20m radius disk of 5 micron mylar weighs less than 10 grams
Even at 100mph the impact energy is only 6 joules and spread over all the satellite.
To put that energy in context, take a nice rubber band that will stretch fully to about 200mm. That's about 2J of stored energy. Alternatively if you twist it about 100 times you will have over 7J stored.
♫ 'When I was a young man I carried a gun* & used to play wars with the ARes" ♫ (to tune of Bogle's 'the band played waltzing matilda')
*defined as an M60 GPMG - the recoil on that was quite savage. Could image the satellite being nudged out of orbit by the recoil.
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Any sort of space weapon system will require certain things. Assuming it's not being controlled from the ground, it will need a way to locate and track a target. It will need propulsion and maneuvering capability. And really, that's all you need. Instead of shooting or ramming the target into shrapnel, match speeds and grab it in a space tackle. Then fire the drive to push the intact target out of orbit, and/or set it spinning. Various ways to grab on, testing would find the best way.
Someone with a better grasp of orbital mechanics than me can address this, but I don't believe it takes too much to deorbit a satellite. They only have so much maneuvering fuel, and a second Tackle can be sent if needed. It's tough for most satellites to do much useful work with a 30 RPM (unplanned) rotation, and again only so much fuel for the cursing ground controllers to resist it. Once the target is sufficiently out of control and not being boosted now and then, it might drop into the atmosphere on its own.
Relatively simple, inexpensive, effective, and no extra space junk created. Could work.
I don't know (and couldn't talk about it if I did), but my bet is that the major powers -- the US, China, Russia -- have long had the hardware in place to disable the other major power's surveillance and military communications satellites in the event of serious conflict. On paper at least disabling that stuff is not difficult. Satellite orbits are well known within a day or two of launch and they are not very maneuverable. They make supertankers look agile. Taking advantage of the satellite's orbital velocity, it is not difficult (on paper) to hit them with a spread of "buckshot" traveling at speeds on the order of 50000 km/h. That's maybe 5 times the speed of a very high velocity armor piercing round. Even grain of sand sized particles would likely punch serious holes in the lightly built targets. It may, BTW, be easier to disable satellites with a ground based system than a space based one. Trust me on this. This has surely all been thought through by the military of every country with even a token space launch capability.
This is what worries me most about various 'rogue' states' space/missile programs. If they want to level the playing field and deny their enemies the advantage of space-based surveillance and communications, they don't have to achieve the capability of stable orbits themselves. They just need to throw some debris across the paths of a few satellites and start the cascade.
(icon: How can you hear that they are black helicopters?)
"Cascade is putting it a bit strongly, I'd say. Sure they would make low earth orbit a substantially more dangerous place, but if you're just hitting a couple of satellites and then waiting for debris to take care of the rest - we'll, that's likely to be a long wait.
Decades. Long enough for your movement and its cause to be long forgotten. So the strategic value is pretty much zip.
Depends on how much junk they can shoot up there at once before their launch sites get flattened. LEO is apparently 309,038,244,000 cubic miles - I bet there's some funky military mathematician's who've worked out just how much junk to fling, and of what size shrapnel, to optimally disrupt satellites in as short a period of time possible.
I'd suspect that the volume of strategically useful orbits - covering your enemies' territory or your mutual battlegrounds etc - is much smaller.
And since you may both want to see the same battleground areas during a conflict, denying the orbits to your adversary makes it dangerously likely that you will also deny them to yourself.
They just need to throw some debris across the paths of a few satellites and start the cascade.
I remember reading that it's possible to get up to LEO(*) using the largest Estes rocket motors in a multi-stage configuration. Mind you, an order for a few hundred maximum size motors to be sent to Iraq/Yemen/Afghanistan is going to be looked at with a degree of curiosity.
(*) Lacking the horizontal component necessary for orbit, so the rocket comes straight back down again.
"If they want to level the playing field and deny their enemies the advantage of"
If they've got a nuke on the end of one of them, then they could blow it up in orbit.
Bugger denying your satellite communications, you'll wreck much of the worlds electrical grid.
Then hope everyone else is too busy knifing their neighbours to come glass you.
It's not something Russia/China would try. But the Norks? Stone age for everyone!
The Soviets and the Yanks had ASAT quite early on, by the mid-seventies at the very latest. The Chinese were next, then the Indians.
You want a boondoggle, you get ASAT ASAP. You want fraud posing as defense, and you've got some space power status, you get ASAT. You want to pose as some sort of superpower, you get ASAT.
ASAT are like nukes. You can't afford to use them. And like the Maginot Line, they fossilize and petrify your defense forces.
then the debris is likely to knacker your own kit a few orbits later.
Near Earth space is rather large. News media alarmism notwithstanding, the short term chance of debris/stray rounds striking other satellites is (probably) rather small. Long term might -- and I emphasize MIGHT -- be a different story if a very large number of weapons ae involved. In any case, I think it is (probably) possible to arrange the weaponry such that the orbits of the weapon payloads have low perigees and any stuff that misses its target burns up within a few revolutions. Mostly that translates to "within a few hours". That's a cocktail napkin "calculation" and is not backed up by hundreds of simulations showing it to be true. Doubtless folks somewhere have run those simulations. I'm not privy to the results.
It should be pointed out that because of Newton's inconvenient laws of motion, actual space warfare probably isn't going to look anything like Star Wars and similar movies. Nowhere near as photogenic.
"Taking advantage of the satellite's orbital velocity, it is not difficult (on paper) to hit them with a spread of 'buckshot' traveling at speeds on the order of 50000 km/h"
Hmm, not sure it is really that easy to /take advantage of the target's orbital velocity/ in order to shoot it down. Anything you launch into a rendezvous orbit will, of necessity, have an orbital velocity that is equal or very close to that of your target, assuming the orbits are synchronized.
You might try to hit your target "at an angle", i.e. launch it into an orbit that is inclined against your target's orbit, with the orbital elements carefully set to deliberately provoke a collision at some point, but if your relative inclination is low (making it relatively easy to hit the target), so will be the relative speed. Conversely, as the relative inclination increases, so does the difficulty of arranging for a collision.
You could of course carry this idea further by using a relative inclination > 90 degrees, i.e. launching your "buckshot" into a retrograde orbit, ideally at a relative inclination of 180 degrees with your target. The only question is how many other satellites, including your own kit, such a Weapon of Orbital Mass Collision would take out both before and after the encounter with its intended target (and how you would go about stopping it once the deed is done...) XD
The most promising strategy for attacking a satellite is probably arranging for a classical rendezvous orbit and then lob your destructive energy of choice (in the form of either electromagentic radiation or accelerated matter) at it from close range.
Disclaimer: I'm not an expert, just someone who has played quite a few hours of "Orbiter", so I might be missing something.
All satellite orbits are in or pass through equatorial plane. Send a satellite up into an elliptical orbit in equatorial plane. Apogee and perigee chosen to cover all the satellite types you want to eliminate. Then just launch proximity mines into circular orbits of the correct altitude.
Rocket science is easy, its just the detailed calculations that are hard.
I'm more of an arm-wavy, broad picture rocket scientist!
"It may, BTW, be easier to disable satellites with a ground based system than a space based one."
It is - and THAT is why the laser broom system keeps getting knocked into the long grass.
Anyone who has one not only has a feasible way of bringing down debris/dead stuff, but also has a way of disabling anything else that happens to pass over.
As for the French: The moment they do this they're going to find their systems mysteriously failing in orbit or becoming wildly intermittent. It's not in anyone's interest to have that shit up there and the displeasure will become known. Perhaps Arianes might start 'failing' during the launching process more regularly too.
For all politicians to be required to carry a health warning.
"Caution! Allowing this politician to speak, act or sign anything, may result in death, destruction of property, loss of health and wealth or planetary loss."
Why do we vote in people who can be put in charge of things they don't, won't or can't understand?
Why do we vote in people who can be put in charge of things they don't, won't or can't understand? ... Chris G
Why do intelligence services permit it is a greater question to try avoid answering, Chris G? One cannot hold the people who be totally ignorant of critically important situations responsible, can one? The buck stops right at the top of the intelligence service tree.
Is it anything more or other than just a lack of necessary prime leading intelligence?
It appears then that such services are definitely fraudulent, and not at all what they are portrayed or purported to be?
I don't understand what process politicians go through which makes them experts on everything. When they talk about my sphere of specialisation or about things which require logic and/or common sense, it seems to me that 99% of the things that 99% of them say is complete bollocks.
But maybe I'm getting it wrong, maybe they talk sense about all that other stuff that I don't know about...
Then go into full moral outrage ban EVERYTHING mode - see SNP plan to ban - strip clubs, porn and anyting else they deem "normalising misogyny" and all while ignoringthe will of the Scottish Parliament who voted AGAINST banning porn not that long ago.....
Then again in Nippy's world its keep trying till you get your own way and stuff the party full of rad fems full of moral outrage, authoritarian tendencies and misandry
"I don't understand what process politicians go through which makes them experts on everything. "
They are good at the process of getting selected, and OK at getting elected.
They expend most of their energy and ability getting and holding power in their own party. This is a pretty difficult thing (lots of smart people all trying to manipulate each other).
Brexit is, in part, a result of the Tories trying to deal with their euroskeptic wing by challenging them, and turns out it was closer than DC thought.
The other issue is that "a crisis is too good to waste". So you only really get to push a legislative agenda in response to a perceived crisis. Thus they are all keen on some crisis, but ideally one that is controllable (man made rather than natural) and not understood well. So they want to perpetuate the crisis until they get the reins of power.
With brexit, it's a very handy crisis, which no-one wants to try and solve until it's first wrecked their opponent.
The notion that none of them have any way of actually dealing with it may have escaped them, since the oppertunity to knife the opposition, or even better, their internal opponants, is too good to miss.
Today I learned bullets contain oxidiser meaning they fire in a vacuum. Who are they going to shoot though? To defend against other satellites they would need them to be able to shoot all directions and a way of aiming them which could require some hefty calculations and the ability to identify them as a target correctly, plus if they get disabled how are they going to do that?
The sharks will be carried externally,
They are still working on attaching launch engines onto remoras, to carry the laser equipped sharks into orbital space, but once they do, just look out, okay.... It will be frikkin awesome!
There will be bits of satellites, and sharks, and -we need some way to get squids up there-, and probably bears, because russia.. and all sorts of stuff falling out of the sky all over the place...
The russians had a 20mm auto canon (and tested it) in the 1970's fitted to modified Salut space stations - the Almaz project.
The US proposed under kennedy to have nukes on space stations. - and what do you think the X-39 is for?
China and possibly India have proven the tech previously.
Why shouldn't ESA/the french?
Machineguns in space would be just another weapon up there. The concern on corrupting the orbits is not as much as is painted. What goes up, eventually comes down. It might take 20 years. Targets are likely LEO spysats, so decay relatively quickly.
"The US proposed under kennedy to have nukes on space stations. - and what do you think the X-39 is for?"
Not quite - and the USA already knew full well what a nuke in space could do thanks to a series of tests in the late 1950s that abruptly ended with Starfish Prime - which is when "EMP" became part of the lexicon. There's a bloody good reason there's never been another one.
When the Orion project was pitched to Kennedy some twats dressed up the proposed station as a fortress in space bristling with weaponry - as he'd already been trying to de-escalate the nuclear arms race (pending atmospheric test ban treaty) he was horrified at what _would_ send the soviets into a screaming tizzy fit and essentially shut the whole thing down the next day. If they'd kept to the mars probe plans history might well be a lot different.
Watch "To Mars by A-Bomb" sometime.
Defense against what, a collision ? No laser can help with that, you'd have to blow the incoming satellite apart. I don't think they're planning on adding gigawatt lasers to already hefty spy sats - Ariane would need a new class of boosters to lift all that mass. Machine guns are likely not enough either, and the recoil will really mess with the orbit and cost fuel to get back to where it's supposed to be.
So this looks more like seeing another spy sat getting into position to shoot yours, and you preempt the attack by retaliating first. That puts you in shoes of the attacker, especially if you misinterpret the maneuvering.
The whole idea is ridiculous. Much better to lose a satellite, blame it on whoever is responsible and not get blamed for the cloud of debris that will take them all out.
On the other hand, it's my government we're talking about. They couldn't get troops to Afghanistan with the proper equipment, so I don't worry much about them getting a laser-equipped satellite into space. This is just political posturing.
"the recoil will really mess with the orbit and cost fuel to get back to where it's supposed to be."
The recoil need not mess with the orbit if the weapon is built to simultaneously fire an equal number of rounds in the opposite direction out into space. That might kill an alien on some faraway planet in a few million years' time, but the alien government would probably cover it up anyway.
(However, I agree the whole idea it totally stupid and should be binned immediatley).
Kosmos-2251 and Iridium 33 did the job quite satisfactorily without the bother of having to have weaponry on them. It's kinda like driving a car while blind drunk. You don't need special weaponry to take out anybody else.
Mind you, it's also suicidal, but you don't notice such minor details when you are blind drunk in charge of a hunk of metal traveling at speed ...
whenever I hear that from any public figure ("our independence is at stake"), I get very worried indeed, as it suggests they've gone past the usual crap-spin, and reach for the most stupid of the stupidest buttons to make their stupid nationals "like" what they're planning to do...
Like our lot are ANY better????
Given our govt has opposed - mobile roaming charges abolition, working time directive, minimum wage, permitting homosexuals to serve in the military (and kept chucking people out as long as they could after the ruling)
The thing about a technology-capable species, is that it doesn't have to be smart. It only has to be just barely less dumb than would render it unable to invent technology at all. It absolutely doesn't have to be smart enough also to figure out how to use technology sensibly.
So it wouldn't surprise me at all if the reason we haven't found ET yet is because they all get smart enough to invent tech, yet are still too dumb not to destroy themselves with it, as humanity seems to be hell-bent on.
Getting smarter still, and having a chance of lasting millions of years, may be less likely than eukaryotes evolving from single-celled life. The dinosaurs only lasted so long probably, because of their silly little arms. If they'd had opposable thumbs, they'd have wiped themselves out long before the Chicxulub meteor did them in.
Just think of the programming expertise you'd need to be able to calculate the trajectory of the shells fired by on-board machine-guns!!! Insufficient reaction mass and overly great distance, and the shell falls out of orbit. Too much and the shell takes up a higher orbit. Getting the wrong angle and your shell goes any which way but ...
It makes naval gunnery look like picking one's nose.
Not sure it's either useful or practical either. Given the dispersion of an aircraft cannon is probably a mil or so, I would expect the effective range against another small satellite to be around 2000m, and that's a bit late to be trying to stop it hitting you if it's going say 3000m/s :-)
> and the Oscar-winning film Gravity turned it in a compelling and terrifying disaster movie in 2013
There is a certain degree of analogy: the film was all special effects and barely any plot; the French plan seems quite similar.
['none' icon - nearest thing to a white projection screen!]
"the film was all special effects and barely any plot; the French plan seems quite similar."
The russians came to much the same conclusion about their cannon-weilding salyuts - the intention was to repel boarders when unoccupied but they proved supremely impractical the one and only time they were tested.
If you want to knock out a satellite by disabling its solar panels then using a machine gun is a dumb approach for all the reasons outlined above. Use a paintball gun instead. Low mass, cancel out the inertial effects by puffing some gas in the opposite direction.
Better still, send up a bunch of the graffiti "artists" that ply their trade around here to leave their tags on the solar panels. Don't bring them back. Two problems solved in one go. What is there not to like.
Assuming they are concerned with LEO targets, why not just transmit a focused microwave pulse from a ground station and fry the electronics?
If this were America we were talking about I could answer my own question... Billions to defense contractors for an orbital ASAT capability someday (maybe) or millions for a more reliable but boring solution we could have next week. No contest, we propose the billion dollar "machine guns in space!" solution.
It seems easier for the US military to get approval for expensive spectacular boondoggles than for sane solutions that may actually work... B-2, LCAC or F35 for recent examples. Maybe the French have the same issue or maybe I'm just projecting my own nation's issues on to another?
that suggested using microwave vircator amplifiers, emits terawatt (short) pulses into a directional antenna, can be driven by a Sakharov device. (there are other docs around such as this RG from Romania ; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/40777537_Axial_Vircator_for_Electronic_Warfare_Applications
Now, where in sat might one find a nice cool high-vacuum like environment, meaning that a virtual cathode amplifier/oscillator could be pointed at something nearby (not needing the ground station and the associated distance inverse square power degradation) (inverse square can be defeated a bit by laser conducting plasma channels - but actually having a simple & compact terawatt or two in space means that I'm pretty sure that these will already be in orbit....)
so machine guns in space against a terawatt input to an antenna with gain tuned to a particular target's 'notch' frequency - who will win?
@Kev4d: ignoring atmospheric loss, the free space loss at 2.4GHz for a LEO at 100 miles is 144dB. If you used Jodrell Bank, with a gain of 63dB at 2.4GHz, and put in a terawatt you'd get about 7kw at the target, probably not much more than a medium-sized satellite gets from the sun.
A bigger dish is what you need; however, one with 144dB gain might be difficult to aim cos it'll be about 900km in diameter.
Caution - just got back from the pub so there might be some errors. Don't start building anything without checking the calcs.
If space was closed by junk then ICBMs wouldn't work.
One of the (many) problems faced by Anti-Ballistic-Missile (ABM) systems is that it is perfectly possible to mix a bunch of "junk" in with the ICBM warhead(s). This would presumably be high volume, low mass stuff -- e.g. aluminized balloons designed to have a radar cross-section/signature similar to a warhead. The technical term is "decoys". The warheads will, presumably, be decorated to look like something other than warheads -- a second stage tank fragment perhaps. Eventually, drag will separate the dense warheads from the low-mass decoys, but decoys would make effective mid-flight interception quite difficult if not impossible. I think ABM systems are more popular with politicians than those who design, build and test them.
I'd make a crack about them having thousands of surplus chauchats "never fired but dropped once" but that's kind of like fishing in a barrel.
Please tell me they will use a Browning or even an old, reliable Tommy gun. Dear <insert deity> not another French submachine gun. Seriously.
The whole "no weapons in space" thing was nothing more or less than political posturing. You cannot have economic exploitation without a legal framework. A legal framework is worthless without enforcement. Yeah. Notice those five letters in the middle? "Force". What kind of force is there in space if not military?
So, yes. A balance of terror is required. Actors who rationally value safe access to LEO won't start things, but they WILL credibly signal their ability to deploy ASAT if not full Kessler. And as long as no actors (Iran) that don't particularly care about safe access to LEO get ASAT, you are okay.
France is late to the party, but apparently is playing Reagan's "crazy-scary like a fox" line for some reason.
Yes, but only if there is a British satellite to absorb the German satellite's onslaught first and an American satellite ... late to the party ... to lend a hand ... and a whole crapload of Russian satellites to smack the German one from the other side.
I'll start by disclaiming any expertise in anything, so this is a blue-sky (literally) idea.
Surely a powerful enough laser could heat a satellite in orbit enough to shift it out of position ? Not sure how robust these things are, but it's a damn sight cheaper to throw photons at something than real mass ?
Trying to shoot something in space with a simple projectile is stupid. Calculate, match, then , Send a carbon fiber net from a higher orbit down. Small light easy to deploy. You can make the net *BIG* say 10CM squares, with hair size strands.1/2 klick square deployed.
Best case you drag the mess into the gravity well. Worst you slice it into 10cm bricks, hopefuly tumbling earthward, and your net burns up on the way down.
For those thatkeep trotting out the French retreating, I suggest you check your history.
Check out the numbers killed at the Battle of the Frontiers in ONE DAY. Now compare that to a decade of the Vietnam war. Remind me who quit?
Also anyone that knows anything about Dunkirk, will know, about from Hitler's cock up, it was the French that saved our arses, by staying back to hold of the advance.
Also check the number of troops they deployed compared to the UK when we declared war on Germany.
We had this advantage called the English channel, if we hadn't, it could of been a whole different outcome.
I suspect that current machine guns would be impractical because of vacuum welding of metal surfaces. Using grease to prevent this from happening would cause the grease to disperse volatiles and start to harden. It would be a sad event if the guns (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvhydtOGLMs) were started up and the barrels refused to rotate and the ammunition refuse to feed. Quelle horreur!
Every time someone develops a weapon, someone else feels threatened and develops a trap or a more threatening weapon. I suppose as long as the civilian economy is playing dead, the military industrial complex maggots will keep munching on it until it is gone.....
It is relatively trivial to destroy or disabling satellites with accelerated masses, particularly has you are likely to have some relative orbital speed differences reducing the need for tedious mucking about with cordite etc.
The simple countermeasure is to make sure your satellite explodes into thousands of tiny shards making it a far bigger hazard destroyed than operational.
Unless you can take down a satellite by simply attaching an engine to it and de-orbiting whole, it you are assured of only one thing, cloaking the planet in a blanket of our own debris that will do nobody any good and frankly isn't really even a sensible military position to take.
China and Russia and the US have become increasingly aggressive and have carried out tests to shoot down satellites.Culpable negligence, Mr McCarthy ; you have, willy-nilly, ignored the shooting down of one of their own satellites by the Indians (of the South Asian, not the North American, variety) in Mission Shakti on 27 March this year. Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi, the tea-seller's son, was, I am told on good authority, thrilled....
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