As you can tell, this week has been a busy week for space news, and we've been focussing on it the past few days. UNfortunately, space isn't the only thing in the news, and my "inbox" and "finals pile" of articles burgeons with articles to blog about, and I wish I could, but there is only so much time in a day and only so much energy in one individual blogger (me). But this one, accompanied by today's "tidbit" are indicators of just how much thought is being given to space-related matters behind the scenes.
In today's article, shared by a regular reader here, Mr. E.G., there are no movie commericials, no references to little green men from Pentagon generals, but rather a great deal of sobering qeopolitical reflection:
Note that the article is focussed on the usual cultprits: (1) the disproportionate reliance of the US military on space-based assets for communications and to act as force multipliers for the global reach of the US military as opposed to (2) the more regional geopolitical interests of such powers as Russia and China, which accordingly makes them less-space reliant, and therefore (3) more willing to entertain "assymetrical" risks and responses to the American space platforms, and to contemplate "soft techniques" of blinding those space assets without escalating to full scale physical destruction of American satellites:
The great advantages that space assets afford the United States have not gone unnoticed by its potential rivals. Though China and Russia, for instance, also rely on space, they are less dependent on their space assets than the United States is. First, neither nation has as much in orbit. In addition, because both put greater focus on their immediate geographic regions, they can use more conventional tools to achieve their objectives. For instance, Beijing, by virtue of geographic proximity, could rely on its ground-based radars and sensors in a conflict in the Taiwan Strait. The United States, on the other hand, would have to lean on its satellites to support a response in the same area.
Despite the United States' superior ability to strike at enemy space constellations — groups of similar kinds of satellites — competitors may determine that the resulting loss of space access would be worthwhile if they could severely degrade U.S. space access. And while the United States is the most proficient nation in space-based warfare, there are limits to its abilities. Satellites in orbit follow predictable movements, have restricted maneuverability and are difficult to defend from an attack.
There is little doubt that a full kinetic strike on U.S. satellites, which would inflict physical damage, would invite a devastating response. But tactics designed to degrade the satellites' abilities, rather than to destroy their hardware, could be deemed less escalatory and therefore perhaps worth the risk. These include jamming signals, hacking operational software and dazzling (temporarily blinding) or permanently disabling sensors. Calculating the risk of nonkinetic strikes, which would create little physical damage and could even be reversed, a potential foe would take into account the United States' hesitance to escalate a conflict in space, given its heavy dependence on orbital technology.
Against the threat of actual space warfare, the USA, as the article notes, is embarked upon a program of the development of newer types of smaller, "modular" satellites adaptable to carrying different types of payloads and equipment, and presumably, these "modular" satellites would also involve new technologies of "self assembly", as a number of such platforms could be cheaply and quickly launched, and robotically assembled in space. For these and other measures, the watchword is "deterrence," dettering any potential enemy from taking out American space-based assets.
And that, in my opinion, is the key to what may be going on: "any potential enemy."
My high octane speculation, however, is that we may be looking at more than just concerns about Russia and China, which are the convenient scapegoats of the moment for almost any threat, real or presumed, that the USA faces. For example, I have also recently blogged about the fact that the US military wants to position its newer space assets even farther out from Earth, presumably beyond reach of the known Russian and Chinese ground-based anti-satellite missile (and other) weapons capability. As I speculated previously on this move, in order to protect the "sea lanes" for the mining of celestial bodies like the Moon, such a move makes sense. It's the deterrence of "any potential enemy" that I think is at work behind the scenes, and Russia and China are the convenient spin on this deterrence activity. As I blogged three days ago about the strange commercial about a "space soldier's dad," with its seeming attachment to the US Army, and General Milley's recent pronouncements about having to fight "little green men," not to mention the commercial's relationship to the 1990s blockbuster movie Independence Day, the "meme" here seems to be "any potential enemy", human, or otherwise...
...For recall in Independence Day earth's satellites were used by the invading "little green men" to coordinate a planetary bombardment. What was intended to be a "force multiplier" for humans became a "force multiplier" for invading extraterrestrials. AThe article also mentions the construction of a new "space fence" to monitor all objects in Earth orbit. But given the strange noises coming out of the media and the Pentagon lately about space, I would not be a bit surprised that this space "fence" is the analogous version of the old Cold War "DEWS" (Defense Early Warging System) that spanned the Arctic Circle to monitor potential Soviet missile launches. Only in this case, what can look "down" is probably also looking "up." And therein lies the problem, for it will also inevitably mean the positioning of actual space-based weapons. In this respect, it is interesting that the article mentions the American superiority in space defense over its nearest rivals, Russia and China. If that's the case, then the pushing of space defense and deterrence would seem - all other clues being factored in - to be directed toward "any potential enemy." Space has already been militarized, but my guess is also that it has already been weaponized.
See you on the flip side...