A sticky one for satellites

Discussion in 'Strategic Defense' started by chopsticks, Nov 2, 2005.

  1. Fairthought
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    Fairthought Junior Member

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    With all due respect, none of these ideas are feasible.

    The US has space based radar, and monitors very closely all satellites, including mircrosatellites. In fact, micro satellites are not so 'micro', they still weigh over a hundred pounds. The US actively monitors all satellites including space debris the size of your fist.

    There is no way to 'block' a spy satellite, as it will be obvious, and the spy satellite will immediately alter is orbit to free its view. A micro satellite simply doesn't have enough fuel to outmaneuver a spy satellite.

    You can't sneak up on a satellite and drill/clamp onto it without first raising alerts in the US who will have plenty of time to react.

    A micro satellite would have to be stealthy, but even a stealthy one would be susceptible to optical detection as it occludes background stars. And the US has a lot of astronomical observatories at their disposal. And you can bet they are all digitally linked to the USAirForce Space Command -even if most astronomers don't realize this.

    All ASAT weapons are based on lightning strikes, with very little reaction time granted to the target satellite. America's primary ASAT weapons are air-launched from high altitude fighters. Such armed fighters are kept prepetually inflight for just such an attack when needed. A micro satellite could be an ASAT that lies in wait as it trails a respectful distance behind its target. When the order for attack is issued, all the microsatellites attack quickly and simultaneously. The idea is there would be to many course corrections in need of transmission to save them all. But such a 'constellation' of ASAT's was rejected by both the US and the USSR as too costly to maintain. Perhaps, with the cost of microsatellites coming down, it may one day become a reality. Word is there is development of nano satellites (which are under one hundred pounds).

    A parasite could possibly attach itself if the spy satellite were ever in the 'blind spot' of earth orbits. This is where the sun is immediately behind the satellite from the earth's point of view. But even this may be foiled by postioning a space based radar on Earth's first Lagrange point (facing the earth, not the sun). Solar studies satellites are usually placed at this point, but they face away from the earth, towards the Sun.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the US already has a space based radar at the first Lagrange point (L1).
     
  2. MIGleader
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    MIGleader Banned Idiot

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    even if the u,s has spaced radar, they have minimal ability to counter a micro sattelite thats too close. i doubt asats work on micro sattelites. besides, a space radar is just as vulnerable to jamming as any sattelite.
     
  3. Fairthought
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    Fairthought Junior Member

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    Why do you doubt that? Microsatellites are easy to track. The US has multiple radio observatories to track them.
     
  4. MIGleader
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    MIGleader Banned Idiot

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    but firing a missle at them is a whole different thing. a space sattelite, unlike an asa, does not move very quikly. another kind of asat would be needed.
     
  5. walter
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    walter Junior Member

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    some of these ideas are feasible, but first off, the US does not have space based radar. The US monitors satellites and space debris with ground radars and the space based radar concept is just that--a concept, on paper. Development is way over cost and the whole SBR program is now in danger of being cancelled due to these cost overruns. Here is a link on the concept:

    http://www.afa.org/magazine/aug2002/0802radar.asp

    This assessment is based on a very poor assumption that a spy sat having way more fuel than a much smaller micro sat means it can 'get away'. First, obviously any micro sat designed for such a mission will have an apt fuel supply, but the bigger problem with this reasoning is the assumption that a multi-ton spy sat with say 500 kg fuel/oxidizer or thruster propellent will get further faster than a much smaller (100-200kg) micro sat with potentially over half its weight in fuel/oxidizer and/or propellent. Basic newtonian mechanics here.

    Further, stealth shaping a micro sat (or any sat) is so easy considering aerodynamics are out of the equation, so if such a micro sat were to be developed, do you really think the developers/desginers won't think about making it hard to see by ground based radars? Remember, this this is desigend to sneak up on a satellite and make it inoperable, so those smart aerospace/robotics engineers will have thought of many more scenarios, and solutions to them, then we forum goers.

    And a micro/nano sat being optically detected? Sure, if someone knew exactly where to look. Space observatories, ie telecopes, have very narrow field of views, so having the entire sky scanned continously doesn't seem realistic to me, and did you ever think about this micro sat attacking during the day time?--good luck with optical detection from the ground.

    One viable way of detecting and then defending against such a weapon would be to have optical sensors (or some other type/combination of sensors) on the satellite you want to protect. This is the best way to detect a small stealthy sat approaching an expensive asset like a spy sat.


    this is news to me, I only know of a few tests done in the 80's when F-15s launched ASAT missles, but a 24/7 patrol of fighters whose primary mission is ASAT is really news. maybe I don't believe it.

    This would surprise me. L1 of the Earth-Sun system is about 1,500,000 km from earth--good luck getting a nice radar return from any radar based way out there.
    L1 of the Earth-Moon system is still about 320,000 km from earth--I still don't know what radar will be able to track micro sats from that huge distance.


    sorry to be so harsh, but...
     
  6. Fairthought
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    Fairthought Junior Member

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    I understand whenever someone's ideas get blasted on the forum they tend to take it a little personally. I did not mean to offend you, Walter. I welcome your response, and consider parts of it to contribute to the thread. With other parts of it I must politely but staunchly disagree.

    First, I will admit where I was wrong. I had read about tests in space based radar many years ago. And I assumed America would have one or more operational by now. Perhaps I had given America too much credit.

    Perhaps not.

    source: http://www.danshistory.com/spysats.shtml

    Not satisfied? Here is another quote:

    Source: http://science.howstuffworks.com/question529.htm

    On the other hand, the article you cited says that no such working space radar currently exists for the disposal of the US military -A BIG LIE- And that the soonest would be 2010. Yet Lacrosse has been assisting US Keyhole spy satellites for for over 15 years! Next time, check your sources. You cited a US Airforce public website, which obviously censors all classified information.

    Based on your article, even if America has a secret space based radar, they appear unhappy with its performance. The article says they still lack the technology to monitor airborne threats from space as well as airborne radar systems and they do not see SBR replacing the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System any time soon.


    Finally, I said I wouldn't be surprised if America didn't already post a SBR at L1. After reading the article you posted, I now would be surprised. I never actually claimed one existed, I simply pointed out its usefulness in eliminating a blind spot to ground based radar.


    The inception of a space based radar will herald many more SBR's to follow. At that point, microsatellites will have a very hard time remaining stealthy from mutliple directions. This means: good-bye to any microsat parasite ideas.

    Second, The US still has very effective ground based radar that observes space objects even as small as your fist and America's radar resolution is improving continuously. There will never be a time when microsats will be smaller than what the US can see. That includes nanosatellites.

    Walter, you've also said:

    Of course they would know exactly where to look: they would track their own spy satellites. This is a simple measure to insure they haven't been rudely sabotaged. That is why, as I have said earlier, a satellite ASAT needs to trail its target at a respectful distance.

    Also, once there are several SBR's, optical detection would become even easier as the earth itself can be used as the background field for detecting a hidden satellite.

    Finally, you state 'basic newtonian mechanics' as the reason why a microsatellite would be able to outmaneuver a spy satellite. I never claimed that a multi-ton spy satellite was more nimble. I claimed they would have plenty of warning time to take action. And once a microsatellite found itself lucky enough to position itself to block a spy satellite, as you are suggesting, if a Spy satellite can't shake it off then the US will destroy it I assure you. Most likely by lasing its sensors.

    Spy satellites do carry more fuel and have much more endurance. Russian spy satellites last over four years. America's latest KH-12 spy satellite weighs over 15 tons, including 7 tons of fuel, and can last 10-12 years. Microsat's only last a year or so. Spy satellites, like the KH-12, have docking ports for resupply tugs for boosting their orbits. Do you think a stealthy microsat would remain undetected if they were attached to a resupply tug? A tug who's fuel nozzles are pointed straight towards the Earth?

    Good luck trying to make a Microsat stealthy. Nearly all satellites take advantage of solar panels to power their systems -This dramatically reduces the weight be eliminating huge batteries for energy storage. The shape and necessary orientation of solar panels defy any attempt at stealth. In order to enter stealth mode, a satellite would need to fold up its panels. In order to maintain stealth mode, a satellite would need to rely on another source of power: either big batteries, or most likely a nuclear-thermal electric power source (like those on deep space missions). This would make the satellite too heavy to be a microsatellite as the nuclear material happens to be Plutonium, which is very dense material.

    So much for combining micro agility with stealth in a satellite. Go home, try again.


    And what would be the point in making a microsatellite stealthy enough to blcok a spy satellite???? Once blocking, it reveals itself. At that same instant its sensors will be fried by earth based lasers. Yes, the US has them. And, NO, you will not get a confirmation at a US Air Force WebSite.


    Please don't take this personally.
     
    #26 Fairthought, Dec 7, 2005
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2005
  7. MIGleader
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    MIGleader Banned Idiot

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    perhaps the earth based lasers take it too far. earth based lazer are not starwars beams, they indeed exist(in both american and russian arsenals), but are not a pinpoint weapon. the waves from the laser woul fry both sattelites, since they are too close. laser technoloygy simply isnt at the pinpoint area phase yet.
    .

    macro sattelites dont have to be so stealthy. even if detected, there is litle chance of shooting it down, since no 'persuit aircraft" can be sent after it. much like stealth aircraft.

    no offence either
     
  8. walter
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    walter Junior Member

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    Fairthought,

    I will tone this reply down, so here it goes:


    So according to those sources the US has has at most 3 SBR's orbiting earth--I obviously did not know this, but i doubt just 3 orbiting SBR's do any good when you need continuous radar coverage over specific areas for time sensitive targets. Also, these satellite's orbit's are known, so just a somewhat intelligent adversary could hide things from it--they are in LEO criss-crossing earth and there are just 3. Basically, i can see why this is a CIA asset and not an USAF asset. The propsed SBR system the USAF wants would be a large constellation of sats like GPS, providing continuous coverage everywhere--such a militarily sugnificant system does not yet exist. Maybe you disagree and think these three Lacrosse sats are game changers, I would like to hear what you think.

    I don't think SBR's will be looking for orbiting objects, but rather at the ground and air. Groundbased radars will still have the job of tracking orbiting objects.



    I think you overestimate the difficulty of making a satellite stealthy from ALL angles. Stealth aircraft are optimized for low RCS at the front and less so from other angles due to aerodynamic reasons--I am sure you are aware of this. So in space the game changes, making an object stealthy from all angles would not be excessively difficult like you imply, and I do think micro/mini/nano sats of the future could easily stay hidden from ground based radar. So we just disagree here.

    As to the physics/lifespan of microsats: why do you assume a microsat cannot be designed for a useful life of 5-10 years? I don't make this assumption. Maybe if you are thinking of current or past missions involving micro sats you could come to this conclusion, but again, if a micro sat's mission is to lie in wait indefinitely and then when the time is ripe attack a target in one form or another (by the way, I never said blocking is the only option), then it can surely be designed to last years.

    This brings me to the power issue you brought up. You say solar panels are a no go b/c they would kill stealth and that the alternatives are all heavy, stripping the satellite of its 'micro' status. You are probably right that solar panels, deployed in the usual fashion, would increase radar reflectivity, but I believe with some creative construction that a) when deployed they could be deployed in such a way as to minimize radar reflection, and b) they could be retracted and stowed for the vast majority of the sat's life, or even be done away with. After all, such a sat would also be designed to minimize power consumption and could remain in a dormant state for years until contacted or automatically reboot at regular intervals to check in. As far as batteries or nuclear-electric power go, they probably would put the sat over the artificial wieghtlimit for a micro sat. Doesn't mean the satellite can't be small though. For purposes of remaining undetected I think a small size trumps heavy weight as the deciding factor. So even if such a sat loses status as 'micro' or 'nano', it can still be tiny and hard to say. So who cares if it weighs in at 300 lbs. if it is 3ft. x 3ft. x 3ft.

    I guess my main point here, concerning micro sats designed to destroy or impair other satellites, is that all the necessary design features are do-able from an engineering standpoint. I really think you underestimate what well funded capable engineers could accomplish in this area.

    Look forward to your reply.
     
  9. chinawhite
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    chinawhite Banned Idiot

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    @ Fairthought

    ""The US has space based radar, and monitors very closely all satellites, including mircrosatellites. .""

    When they detect a launch what are they going to do?.:) . They cant do nothing to prevent the mircosatellite from jamming the other satellite. ASAT weapons weapons would work. But its costly shooting down your own satellite.

    Regards,

    chinawhite
     
  10. Fairthought
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    Fairthought Junior Member

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    Thank you for toning things down.

    I will tone things down in return.

    I would also like to add I am not thumping for American technology, even though it may appear that I am doing so. All the technologies I have described at America's disposal (ground based radar, spy satellites, ASATS, space based radar, ground based lasers, etc) are available for other countries too.

    If the US can launch an SBR in 1988, then China (whose satellite technology is only three years behind) can do so too if they really wanted to. Many countries already have ground based lasers. Russia has had Giant CO2 lasers for decades, and even lased the Space shuttle once (it jammed communications leaving it out of contact with mission control for ten minutes).


    I don't think Lacrosse Satellites are satisfactory for the Air force's needs. They eventually want to replace their E-3 airborne early warning systems with an SBR, and Lacrosse seems to be unable of providing the level of technology required. Lacrosse is designed to look at the ground, not the atmosphere. Nor does it look at Earth's orbitals. They have plenty of good ground based radars for that. In fact, even the Air Force's article describes an SBR that will look at earth's atmosphere and not space. It seems quite clear that ground based radar is quite sufficient for scouring earth's orbitals. There's just that problem with the solar blindspot...

    I am not aware of any instance of a microsatellite with a mission life much more than one year. There is a serious challenge for satellites, especially LEO satellites, to stay aloft due to the earth's changing atmospheric volume. When solar activity increases, especially when there is a coronal mass ejection lobbed at the earth, the earth's atmosphere swells and satellites get caught in slightly denser medium. It's still space, technically, but its not a perfect vacuum and the friction of the medium slows down the satellite and causes it to descend.

    It was solar activity that caused Skylab's orbit to degrade eight years ahead of plan and unintended debris fell all over northern Canada.

    For this reason, satellites need fuel -not just to re-orient themselves and power their systems- but to boost themselves to their original desired orbit. This boosting takes alot of fuel, and the larger satellites have docking ports for resupply tugs. In any claim that a microsatellite can orbit several years, it will definitely need such a docking port in my opinion. This may also require specially designed resupply tugs with miniature ports created just for them.

    I still don't understand the need for stealthing your microsatellite. If its mission is to block/jam then it will reveal itself anyway. If its mission is to be an ASAT lying in wait from a respectful distance than its free to orbit in plain view under a psuedo mission (like studying the earth for natural disasters -that appears to be a popular declared mission for many satellites launched recently). There is no need for stealth either way.

    I don't think a satellite can be stealthy from all directions, especially with solar arrays. They would need to be folded up and into a compartment. And even then, when a SBR (orbited specifically for scouring earth orbitals) wants to seek it, it will be easy to optically detect any such stealth satellite by comparing it to the background field of the Earth.

    Also, a satellite with its solar arrays folded up for an extended period of time needs to rely on its own internal power source. And it still needs to fire its rockets from time to time to maintain/recover orbit. Kinda hard to imagine firing your rockets (with exhaust directed towards the earth) and remaining unseen.

    I think a giant satellite, not a micro satellite, is more likely for stealth missions in space. It also has an interesting option: Abduction.

    As a matter of fact, it doesn't have to be a satellite, in the traditional sense. I'm talking about a stealth space shuttle type craft. It sneaks up to a spy satellite, and while blocking it communications from ground control, the robotic arm quickly loads the prize spy satellite into its cargo bay and then dips into a new orbit.

    The danger is the spy satellite is still operating inside your cargo bay, and it thinks it's still in it's old orbit. The ground control will only know that they lost contact with their satellite. Visual access can be denied by timing the abduction precisely when the spy satellite is in the 'blindspot' of the sun with regards to the earth. If the spy satellite can be disabled in the cargo bay, it can be safely ferried back to earth.

    Then comes the audacious option of meddling with it to your hearts content, and then returning it back to its original orbit to re-establish contact with its ground control -they will be mystified! There would be no reason to suspect the satellite they lost contact with for the last two months has been sitting on the ground here on earth having its guts re-wired and then relaunched back in space.

    Perhaps, if you wanted to give them a hint, you could peel off a decal and re-attach it upside down. They probably won't even notice.


    Such a stealth space shuttle is extremely hard to conceive, I imagine it would have to be incredibly complex, and probably beyond the scope of any affordability. Of course, if anybody even knows you have a stealth space shuttle it would become the first suspect in any missing satellite case and the whole idea is compromised.

    I'd Just as soon forget about the whole ridiculous stealth space shuttle idea.

    Other interesting readings I've come across: Japan is designing a new 1.5 ton spy satellite that is going to be very nimble and capable of turning on a dime so as to take more pictures from different angles on each fly-by.

    Also, energy storage may become more efficient and smaller in the future as engineers try to develop frictionless zero gravity flywheels for the space station. This means no more big bulky batteries that slowly drain over time even when they are not in use.
     
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