Pentagon's Space Spies


You can't protect what you can't see. And, right now, America's military has a really, really hard time seeing into space. Which means U.S. satellites could be at risk.space_fence.JPGSo it makes sense that the Air Force is spending a whole lot of money on "space situational awareness" -- getting a better picture of what's in orbit -- before the service starts investing big in the more outlandish tools of space war. Air Force magazine breaks down the programs:

The Space Fence is an array of dispersed radars that track satellites as they pass over the United States. The Air Force is planning a $275 million upgrade over the next five years that will convert the system to S-band radar, allowing greater search capability and faster revisit times. It also will sharpen the resolution of the radar, so that it can see objects from a current minimum of 12 inches in size down to two inches in size. The radars themselves will be distributed over a wider geographical area, giving a better view of the horizon. They will be able to see beyond low earth orbit (LEO) to medium Earth orbit (MEO). [Col. Ronald] Grundman said the old hardware likely will be retired around 2011, because its reaching some sustainability limits.Space-Based Surveillance System: Planned to be a constellation of five satellites, the SBSS would operate in in LEO to look at satellites and other objects in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO), at about 26,000 miles from the Earths surface. SBSS builds on a missile defense experiment launched in 1996 that looked for ballistic missiles using a visible and an infrared sensor. The IR sensor quit after 18 months, but the visible sensor has continued to function, now for almost 10 years, as proof of concept for a space-based sensor. However, Grundman said, We think its probably going to run out of life at any time. A Block 10 version of the SBSS is to be ready to fly in 2009. It will be a risk reducer for the objective systemthe remaining four satelliteswhich should be launched between 2013 and 2014. The SBSS will be a visible-spectrum telescope. It will help us find things at GEO and MEO that we dont already know about, Grundman noted, as well as keep track of things up there that we do know about, and to get more frequent revisit on them. The SBSS will be able to survey an area of interest a few times a day as opposed to every few days.RAIDRS: The Rapid Attack Identification Detection and Reporting System is not a satellite, but a hybrid architecture of sensors, comm links, and data processing systems intended to analyze the data from satellites and determine if they are being affected by some external force, Grundman explained. Its a data situational awareness system that analyzes the data received at satellite downlinks. RAIDRS detects electromagnetic interference on satellites; in other words, its looking to see if our commsats are being jammed by others. Spiral 1 also will be able to pinpoint the source of the jamming. By 2010, full operational capability will be 32 ground-based, deployable RAIDRS with broad capability to analyze radio frequency energy across many bands.Grundman noted that interference or jamming may not always be a hostile act. Its not that uncommon that we end up interfering with our own communications, sometimes, he noted. However, its important to find a jamming signal and stop it, no matter the source. Spiral 2 will have more data fusion and more automated connections with space command and control systems.On the offensive counterspace [knocking out enemy satellite] front is the Counter Communications System. Known as CounterComm for short, this project funds a series of ground-deployable jamming units, each with two antennas, set up in the vicinity of an area where the Air Force wants to interfere with an adversarys satellites. Operational since 2004, the Air Force now has three Block 10 systems and, in the Fiscal 2007 budget, asked for three more. There are plans to upgrade the units to a Block 20 configuration. Further details are classified...Grundman said he has nothing in his portfolio involving a kinetic [physically destructive] ASAT [anti-satellite] capability. Asked about ASATs that disable a target satellite by spraying their optics or solar panels with paint, Grundman said, There have been some studies looking at potential concepts in that regard. Theyre sometimes called coaters. And I think thats about as much as I can say about that.
(Big ups: NOSI)
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