“Rods From God” Anti-Satellite Weapons Update
November 23, 2006, 3:09 pm
Filed under: Space, Strategic

Jane’s Defence Weekly reported on 16th October that command Sergeant Major David Lady of the Joint Functional Combat Command for Integrated Missile Defense had confirmed the detection of anti – US satellite lasers over China: Continue reading


Radiation Hazard for Space Elevator Occupants
November 16, 2006, 3:13 pm
Filed under: Space, Strategic

Liftport space elevator
Plans for a space elevator as a cheaper, safer alternative to riding on explosives have encountered a hitch. New Scientist reports that:

humans might not survive thanks to the whopping dose of ionising radiation they would receive travelling through the core of the Van Allen radiation belts around Earth. These are two concentric rings of charged particles trapped by Earth’s magnetic fields.[Source]

Liftport plan to get around the problem by increasing the shielding on the lifts. Shield mass will entail 100-tonne lifters for a passenger complement of 20.

Wikipedia have an entry of the physics and history of the concept of space elevators.

“Rods From God”
November 16, 2006, 3:38 am
Filed under: Space, Strategic

Feathers flying over orbital weapons at World Politics Watch in a very similar story to one published by the BBC on the 19th October. A growing reliance on satellite technology for security and commerce has led an increasingly belligerent US government to issue a new policy on the militarisation of space. One notable aspect of the policy is that the Secretary of Defense is instructed to:

Develop capabilities, plans, and options to ensure freedom of action in space, and, if directed, deny such freedom of action to adversaries (p.4).

Initial perceptions of the new policy were helpfully coloured in by the announcement that a Chinese ground-based laser had “painted” a “US intelligence asset” in orbit whilst the NASA administrator, Michael Griffin, was on the first visit by a NASA official to China. However, according to Spacedaily:

The Pentagon has denied reports that China has tried to blind U.S. satellites with lasers. U.S. Marine Gen. James Cartwright, the head of the U.S. Strategic Command, said in a Sept. 21 interview with “Inside the Pentagon” published on Oct. 12 that the United States had not seen clear indications that China has intentionally disrupted American satellite capabilities, Inside reported Oct. 13.[Source]

Given the perception by some in India that a Space Race has already begun between China, India ,Pakistan and Malaysia the American policy would seem to be more concerned with the maintenance of their perceived strategic advantage than because of any manifest threat.

The New Space Race
November 13, 2006, 1:35 am
Filed under: Space

There has been a lot of discussion of the new space race triggered by the desire of China to harvest helium-3 on the moon. Most of these discussions have led to skeptical conclusions. However, the precedent in international law is that the territorial claims behind mineral extraction rights are based on the existence of permanently manned bases. Look out for attempts to modify international law that equate ‘permanently manned’ with ‘occupied by robots’.

Orbiting sunshields may sound absurd but I’ll give you better odds for this than for global agreement on carbon emissions.
November 12, 2006, 8:32 pm
Filed under: Space

Sunshields may seem to be absurdly speculative but technological fixes are probably the only tactics with a reasonable chance of implementation. International agreement to limit carbon emissions relies on states agreeing that:

  1. There is a problem
  2. That a particular set of values comprises a solution
  3. That the proposed solution doesn’t disadvantage any particular state

The sciences of complex systems stand little chance of generating consensus amongst advisors, let alone executives. Technological fixes are probably all we can reasonably expect in the time available.