A few weeks back, Defense Tech took a look at the Air Force's emerging plans for fighting in space. Well, "Arms Control Wonk" Jeffrey Lewis has uncovered what looks like a Pentagon wish list for orbital combat. At the top of the list: a slew of itty-bitty satellites. Their mission: "Destruction of Enemy Spacecraft," the Defense Department briefing says.These killers would be loaded, ten at a time, into a reusable military orbiter. Once a target had been hunted down, these "Microsat Kinetic Kill Payloads" (MKKPs) would intercept an enemy satellite -- the briefing calls it a "hyper-velocity 'tail chase.'" Then they would inspect the damage, after the MKKPs had done their worse.The MKKP is part of a larger Pentagon project called the Experimental Satellite Series (XSS), Lewis explains.
Launched Jan. 29 , the 28-kilogram XSS-10 successfully demonstrated its ability to move closely around another object to take images. The contract to build its successor, XSS-11, and its more specific sensor payload already has been awarded.Taking pictures is not much of a threat, but the Air Force sees these satellites as more than just shutterbugs. The "single strongest recommendation" of the Air Force's 1999 Microsatellite Technology and Requirements Study was "the deployment, as rapidly as possible, of XSS-10-based satellites to intercept, image and, if needed, take action against a target satellite," according to an unclassified summary published in 2000.Other XSS projects, according to the Pentagon briefing, include a "blocker" microsat, which uses a "circular, gimbaled, opaque fan" to stop up enemy communications in space, as well as a satellite "jammer."But my favorite has to be the "grabber" microsat -- a machine straight out of James Bond, with a mechanical arm, meant for "docking with and reorientation of enemy spacecraft." With this "grapple feature," the mini-ship will "attach itself to [an] enemy satellite, [and] benignly cause disorientation."THERE'S MORE: Via Geek Press, here's Air Force Space Command's Trek-like new badge.