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Space United States

The United States Space Arsenal 297

Posted by samzenpus
from the Q-36-explosive-space-modulator dept.
ntmokey writes "When China tested a missile on its own satellite in January, the nation's aggressive statement immediately raised eyebrows among the world's other space-faring nations. Popular Mechanics looks at the implications of a conflict in space — including debris that could render space unusable for decades — and examines the United States' own space arsenal."
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The United States Space Arsenal

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  • Star Wars (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nlitement (1098451) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:00PM (#19671023)
    Whatever happened to the Strategic Defense Initiative?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:03PM (#19671049)
      Whatever happened to the Strategic Defense Initiative?

      Forget that! What happened to the other 49 states?!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 2.7182 (819680)
      What happened ? It worked. It broke the economy of the Soviet Union. Of course, the technology largely didn't work. Like the x-ray space weapon proposed by Edward Teller.
      • Re:Star Wars (Score:5, Insightful)

        by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:20PM (#19671157)

        It worked. It broke the economy of the Soviet Union.
        What a convenient post-hoc rationalization for a monumental waste of money that is. I guess that may have accelerated the fall of the Soviet Union by a month or two, at a cost of billions, but I'll bet the ROI from giving Stingers to the Afghanis was at least a million times better. (Just imagine how things would be in Iraq now if the insurgents had more than RPGs and light machine guns to bring down our helicopters and airplanes).
        • Re:Star Wars (Score:5, Informative)

          by techno-vampire (666512) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @11:00PM (#19671437) Homepage
          I happen to know several people who were on the citizen's committee that came up with the idea. The whole point was for it to look like something we just might be able to pull off so that the Soviet Union would have no choice but to try to copy it and bankrupt themselves in the process. You see, we could afford to build all that stuff, provided we could get it to work, but they couldn't. When they tried, it brought their creaky economy crashing down, and their government soon followed. Believe or not, I don't care, but the people I know who were involved in the planning all tell the same story.
          • Re:Star Wars (Score:5, Insightful)

            by tftp (111690) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:27AM (#19672011) Homepage
            When they tried, it brought their creaky economy crashing down

            Your theory is fine, and your friends are entitled to their own views; however USSR never "tried" to make its own Star Wars hardware. USSR's ABM efforts were identical to USA's work and resulted in the ABM-limiting treaty that stood for decades, until Bush tore it up. The reason is that USSR's scientists did some calculations on a napkin and concluded, correctly, that it's impossible to build such a system at this time that would actually work (1000's US's missiles flying in and 100% intercept.) It's still impossible, decades later. Given the number of missiles that both camps had, the system indeed had to have very impressive reliability, or else it would be complete waste of money. So USSR never built one. After Reagan announced his SDI USSR just sent more money to shipyards and built a bunch more of nuclear submarines, that's it. After Bush's démarche Putin also did the same - ordered a bunch of warheads that make zigs and zags at reentry speed.

            And if you are interested in why the USSR fell, it's not even because of economy. It was bad, but there was no hunger yet. It might have been, though, if the USSR was allowed to rot some more. But it never happened, and "the people" in the street were as surprised with these developments as anyone in the West. The real reason is that when Gorbachev wanted to liberalize economy he accidentally liberalized the political life, and there were plenty of opportunists waiting and ready to insert themselves into the corridors of power. That's what they did, and that's where all the independent republics got their leaders from. Russia got Yeltsin, and that was not even the worst outcome. Gorbachev saw it happening but wasn't ready to defend the old way. For that he was briefly detained, and the conspirators tried to involve the army to put the toothpaste back; it did not work. So that's how it happened, and I did not even need to talk to anyone to offer you this overview.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Holmwood (899130)
              "however USSR never "tried" to make its own Star Wars hardware."

              Well, at the time it was widely believed that they did.

              See "Soviet Star Wars", Time Magazine, Monday October 14, 1985:

              "While few people doubt that the Soviets have an aggressive program comparable to SDI and have scored impressive advances in basic technology, some critics -- even within the Pentagon -- point out that translating those achievements into battle-ready equipment is a very long step."

              and

              "Soviet efforts to develop laser beams as war
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by timeOday (582209)

            The whole point was for it to look like something we just might be able to pull off so that the Soviet Union would have no choice but to try to copy it and bankrupt themselves in the process

            But of course both sides were playing that game: see for instance the (fictitious) missile gap [wikipedia.org] that prompted an ICBM buildup by us (and therefore afterwards by them). Maybe we felt the need to "psych" the USSR with Star Wars (by wasting billions of dollars) because we fell for their ploy of appearing to be a worthy a

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by cryptoluddite (658517)
            Yeah that might be true, but it sure seems convenient to me that there's this SDI to blame the fall of the soviet union on and make Reagan a hero. I mean come on, the Soviets were failing to keep up for a long time and if it was so obvious that it was bogus then they could have done a bogus copy that didn't work. So how would it bankrupt them again? Because they were too stupid to put on a dog and pony show instead of actually trying to build it? I mean do you really think the Soviets are so stupid.

            Mayb
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by moeinvt (851793)
            "You see, we could afford to build all that stuff . . ."

            Considering the fact that we haven't paid off any of the national debt we accumulated in those days, I think the question of whether or not we could afford it remains to be seen. It will be rather ironic if, after congratulating ourselves for 20 years about "winning" the cold war, we end up bankrupting ourselves due to debt financed military spending.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Ash Vince (602485)
            Actually the USSR version of SDI was likely to be much more effective at protecting the leadership than anything us in the West would come up with.

            Basically the idea as to build a huge centralised bunker under moscow. Then aim loads of nukes at moscow but set them to airburst in the upper atmosphere. This would have created a huge superheated nuclear fallout cloud that would cause any incoming nukes to detonate before they reached the ground. It would probably also have killed people all over Russia and the
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by ender81b (520454)
              That wasn't just the USSR's idea. The United States also had a functional ABM system operating on the same principle - using Nike Zues (or Nike X) rockets with a few kiloton warhead strapped on top. I don't believe it got deployed anywhere but Guam however.

              The USSR's system was called Galosh, or A35 [astronautix.com]. The missile was in operational use around Moscow from 1971 on. It has since been replaced, although by what I don't know. I think the Gorgon but I could be wrong. The system was only used to protect Moscow as p
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jollyreaper (513215)

        What happened ? It worked. It broke the economy of the Soviet Union. Of course, the technology largely didn't work. Like the x-ray space weapon proposed by Edward Teller.

        To elaborate on the previous reply directed your way, read this:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rise_and_Fall_of_ the_Great_Powers [wikipedia.org]

        He compares the Great Powers at the close of the twentieth century and predicts the decline of the Soviet Union (the book was originally published on the cusp of the Soviet collapse, the suddeness of which Kennedy did not predict), the rise of China and Japan, the struggles and potential for the EEC, and the relative decline of the United States. He highlights the precedence of the "four modernizations" in Deng Xiaoping's plans for China--agriculture, industry, science and military--deemphasizing military while the United States and the Soviet Union are emphasizing it. He predicts that continued deficit spending, especially on military build-up, will be the single most important reason for decline of any Great Power.

        If you read the book, you'll see the fact-based analysis showing that the USSR was in serious trouble going into the 80's. As Kennedy describes it, the USSR struggled to support a first-rate military on a third-rate economy. The sorry state of Soviet-style agriculture was telling. A third of the harvest rotted in the field, a third rotted in transit, and a third rotted on the

        • Re:Star Wars (Score:4, Insightful)

          by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @11:26PM (#19671573) Homepage

          If you read the book, you'll see the fact-based analysis showing that the USSR was in serious trouble going into the 80's.

          Of course it was — just as Reagan was taking the office (in 1981). USSR's attempts to keep up the arms-race, including SDI — duly decried by the Soviet newspapers daily — helped kill it, instead of allowing it to survive (again) on higher oil prices and slave labor.

          Millions of people of the former USSR, myself included, have a lot to thank Ronald Reagan for. The fact, that various Commies (and Commie-sympathizers) still hate him, only adds to the guy's credits.

          • by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @11:34PM (#19671619)

            Of course it was -- just as Reagan was taking the office (in 1981). USSR's attempts to keep up the arms-race, including SDI -- duly decried by the Soviet newspapers daily -- helped kill it, instead of allowing it to survive (again) on higher oil prices and slave labor.

            Millions of people of the former USSR, myself included, have a lot to thank Ronald Reagan for. The fact, that various Commies (and Commie-sympathizers) still hate him, only adds to the guy's credits.
            Thanking Ronald Reagan for his leadership is like thanking Mr. Magoo for his driving.
      • It worked. It broke the economy of the Soviet Union.

        That's a bit of a stretch. Event if it had any effect on the USSR whatsoever, it scared other nations to the point where China, having pushed for treaties banning space weapons, felt nervous enough to develop their own.

        This will in turn cause those Americans who view any attempt by any other country to have close to equal millitary power as an affront to God to develop the next generation of space weapons, kicking off another arms race. Violence begets v

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by salimma (115327)

          Star wars, the program not the movie, was short sighted and stupid

          is, not was. Remember the ABM interceptor tests where the target was only hit when they fitted a beacon on it? Forget about sifting through decoys, they had a hard time hitting even a single target.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by coaxial (28297)

        What happened ? It worked. It broke the economy of the Soviet Union.

        My god! That's some Cold War Reagan is Genius bullshit.

        SDI was laughable at the time, because the fundamental problems of Rods for God, Brilliant Pebbles, space and ground based lasers, and kinetic kill vehicles were unsolvable at the time, and easily defeated by incredibly inexpesive counter-measures (everything from mylar baloon decoys, to liquid nitrogen jackets, to -- my personal favorite -- simply detonating one warhead in space, and then sending the rest through. Most importantly to this conversati

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by shiftless (410350)
      That was a ploy used by Reagan to worry and bankrupt the Soviets. (It worked.)
    • David Parnas, a Software Scientist, who formerly served on SDI Committees and who had no moral qualms about death and destricion ended up quitting SDI and debunking it when he realized the whole program wasn't plausible and a huge waste. It still isn't BTW, but politicians don't get science: billions of dollars regularly flushed down the toilet after it.

      http://klabs.org/richcontent/software_content/pape rs/parnas_acm_85.pdf [klabs.org]
      http://www.wordyard.com/2007/01/05/parnas-sdi/feed / [wordyard.com]
    • It was dropped as soon as the Soviet Union fell. The primary purpose of the program was to tempt the Russians into a spending war by uping the ante in the arms race and waiting for them to call our bluff (sort of like going all-in for a decisive hand in a game of high stakes poker). The United States gambled (correctly) that the Russians would not be able to call the bet as the defense budget spiraled into the hundreds of billions of dollars. The Soviet Union would have collapsed eventually anyway (by the e
  • I think you mean (Score:5, Informative)

    by Inoshiro (71693) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:01PM (#19671031) Homepage
    The United States' Space Arsenal.

    It really makes no sense for one state to be united.
    • Actually, if you want to be pedantic, the proper grammar is The Space Arsenal of the United States. According to The Elements of Style, the grammar bible, one is to use the form -Chris's book- rather than -Chris' book-, unless the entity is famous or well known, in which case it's much better to use something like -the Book of Moses- rather than -Moses's book-. However, that is still preferable to -Moses' book-.
      • it's much better to use something like -the Book of Moses- rather than -Moses's book-. However, that is still preferable to -Moses' book-.

        Actually, The Elements of Style expressly contradicts you. It states that one should use the form "Chris's book" unless the proper noun is a biblical persona. So "Moses' book" or "Jesus' book" is proper.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by g0dsp33d (849253)
      I totally agree, I promote civil unrest and anarchy in my state too.
  • not a threat....yet (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mastershake_phd (1050150) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:03PM (#19671047) Homepage
    Most spacecraft -- including spy sats -- are in low Earth orbit, which stretches 1240 miles into space. As the Chinese test proved, such targets could be hit with medium-range missiles tipped with crude kill devices. GPS satellites are far higher, orbiting at about 12,600 miles. Many communications sats are in the 22,000-mile range. Destroying them requires a much more powerful and sophisticated long-range ballistic missile

    Most of the strategic targets are in a much safer place, sure they could easily knock out our spy satellites, but there are alternatives to those.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Most of the strategic targets are in a much safer place, sure they could easily knock out our spy satellites, but there are alternatives to those.

      Like what?
      Spy planes?

      Do you really want to give the Chinese another opportunity to dissect a surveillance aircraft? Or maybe we could fly 'em over Russian airspace... I'm sure Putin would love that.

      Perhaps I'm being overly snarky, but I don't really see any other good alternative to the existing network of spy satellites.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dahamma (304068)

        Like what?
        Spy planes?

        Do you really want to give the Chinese another opportunity to dissect a surveillance aircraft? Or maybe we could fly 'em over Russian airspace... I'm sure Putin would love that.

        Perhaps I'm being overly snarky, but I don't really see any other good alternative to the existing network of spy satellites.


        If we ever get to the point where China is actually shooting down US spy satellites, I wouldn't worry about it much anyway, because we'd probably be in WW3.
  • sad but inevitable (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:08PM (#19671081) Journal
    Judging by how humanity acts on Earth it was a logical step to bring war to space as sad as that is. what happened was China took out one of their clunky near-dead weather satellite with a missile [kinetic warhead I believe] which basically tore the hell out of it with sheer speed and mass. They failed a few times before but by the rate their military spending is going it wont be long before they actually out pace us [if not already] this combined with their long standing rivalry with us on economic, political and cyberspace issues we very much need to watch this a lot closer than Iraq/war on terror because of the real implications of possible future conflict.
    • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:18PM (#19671145) Homepage Journal
      Could also be the best thing that ever happens to mankind.

      In order to fight a war in space, you need a launch capability that is beyond what we have today.

      You need it to launch space stations that are bigger and stronger than the flimsy tin cans that we have in orbit now.

      All the arguments that have been presented for not putting nuclear reactors into space suddenly become irrelevant.. Nuclear propulsion will become a standard feature of spacecraft. Big fat military dollars would then be poured into research to develop better than nuclear propulsion systems, not to mention weapons.

      To fight a war in space you really need a working space-based economy. Which also happens to give you something to fight about: control of that economy. A working space-based economy is a necessity to colonization of the solar system - also something to fight over. Colonization of the solar system is essential to the survival of the species.

      • by imkonen (580619) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:47PM (#19671367)
        It's an interesting theory, but I think you're way too optimistic. It's an incredibly unstable situation, because combat in orbit involves almost no defensive options. There are no land formations to hide behind, and no air resistance to slow down projectiles, which is why satellites can be taken down without bothering to mount explosive warheads on the missiles (it's my understanding that is why they are called "kinetic kill vehicles"). Then all the debris created by space conflict becomes a danger to everyone's satellites. The result is that if the player with a satellite disadvantage has satkill technology, they can level the playing field and make it so nobody has any space capabilities. It doesn't help at all to be better at space combat than your opponent as long as your opponent is above a minimum technological threshold (which China is essentially at right now).
        • by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @11:17PM (#19671519)

          There are no land formations to hide behind, and no air resistance to slow down projectiles, which is why satellites can be taken down without bothering to mount explosive warheads on the missiles (it's my understanding that is why they are called "kinetic kill vehicles").
          Nope. The reason why missiles have explosives on them is because a direct hit is very difficult to achieve. What's more likely to hit a bird flying by, a solid slug or a pellet spray from a shotgun? With proximity-fused weapons (cannon shells, missiles) the idea is that the weapon is not likely to hit the target but will pass very close. The proximity system uses radio waves to detect the object and will explode the weapon the moment the range increases. To show the likelihood of a direct hit, the Air Force would conduct live fire exercises with real missiles against real drone targets like remotely controlled F-4's. The training missiles had the warheads removed. Most missiles would pass within proper kill proximity of the drone and very few would actually strike it, causing damage.

          Newer missile designs are becoming accurate enough that the warhead can be dispensed with, the impact of the weapon alone will be sufficient. The Brits have found their smart bombs so accurate, they are replacing the actual bomb with a concrete casting, leaving the guidance system and fins the same. This kind of weapon can be used to plink tanks in civilian areas. 2 tons of concrete dropped on a tank from 10,000 feet means no more tank, an explosion would be overkill at that point. It also means that you can hit a tank sitting outside a school and not even break the windows. That's a win for any civilians unlucky enough to be nearby.

          As for space weapons, the insane velocities involved with orbital speeds is what also makes an explosive redundant. A fleck of urine almost took out the cockpit window on a previous shuttle flight. Nothing is likely to survive the impact of a kinetic kill vehicle, assuming the defense contractors can get the thing to hit without having to rig the demo.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Cervantes (612861)

            A fleck of urine almost took out the cockpit window on a previous shuttle flight.
            Please don't say that in public, next thing you know The Shrub will be sending geriatrics into space for their rapid-fire abilities.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by QuantumG (50515)
          Gah. You're talking about space warfare as if we have already tried it. The reason why it's so easy to knock out a satellite is because they are designed with no defensive capabilities. The reason why debris is such a hazard to spacecraft today is because they are made as light as possible to reduce launch costs. Why is it that people always equate changing the status quo with the sky falling. We can adapt.

          • "The reason why debris is such a hazard to spacecraft today is because they are made as light as possible to reduce launch costs."

            In the early 80's a 0.3mm speck of paint travelling at 17,500mph punched a hole 3/4 of the way through the space shuttle's windshield - what sort of shielding material were you thinking of using to prevent more substantial chunks of debris from vaporizing the entire spacecraft?
            • by QuantumG (50515)
              Windows are a luxury.

        • by Jarjarthejedi (996957) <christianpinch@gma i l . com> on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @11:37PM (#19671645) Journal
          "It's an incredibly unstable situation, because combat in orbit involves almost no defensive options"

          I'm sure someone said that about Sea Warfare once, and it was true until Aegis anti-missile and torpedo decoys were developed. Every battlefield has it's differences and there are many for which defending is difficult without technology. The only real area where you can hide behind things is land battles, and I don't think anyone would suggest that Sea and Air warfare 'Involve almost no defensive options' as there are possible options, they're just not natural to the terrain.

          Combat in orbit is no more unstable than combat in air, or combat at sea. The only difference is that the wreckage can remain in orbit. That seems at first to be a big deal however there are ways to deal with that, just as there are ways to deal with sat-kill vehicles. Combat in orbit will be no different than any other battlefield once countermeasures are deployed, I seem to recall an attitude of 'We shouldn't try to combatify air because of (list of reasons) which will inevitably make it a more dangerous and horrible place to fight and end humanity' which seems to be how many people treat space right now. As Fallout once said, "War. War never changes."
        • ...because combat in orbit involves almost no defensive options.
          Someone hasn't watched enough Star Trek...
        • by Kadin2048 (468275) *
          Although I agree with your overall conclusion -- I think space warfare would just lead to the weaker party polluting near space with a whole truckload of hex nuts; goodbye space exploration for the next few generations -- I'm not sure if the 'no defensive options' line is really a good argument.

          You could say the same thing about undersea submarine warfare. If a submarine gets hit by a torpedo, it's pretty much Game Over. They don't bother giving them a lot of armor plate for a reason: it wouldn't work and i
    • it was a logical step to bring war to space as sad as that is.
      Look on the bright side, there's gotta be some great film ideas in these developments.
      a war in space ... a far far away star ... wars ... ok it needs some work, maybe some dialog, character development, kooky monsters for the kids. Come and see me in a few years.
    • ... that I get to reference a nearly 50 year old article as insightful commentary on the issue of today.

      In the Feb 4, 1958 issue of The Atlanta Constitution noted historian Arnold J. Toynbee [wikipedia.org] wrote about just this issue. He represented that the competition with china over space as if it were a game of football was a perilous and ill considered game.

      Now if some kind soul would just tell me where to get the text of that article I would be immensely grateful.

    • ...their long standing rivalry with us on economic, political and cyberspace issues we very much need to watch this a lot closer than Iraq/war on terror because of the real implications of possible future conflict.

      Why are we assuming it's all about us? Could the Chinese have other concerns than trying to match the US militarily?

      If I were the Chinese leadership, I'd be more scared of my own people. Look at it from their point of view: the US does not seem to be able to get it's political leadership together to really crush someone since WWII. Vietnam, Korea, Iraq 1, Iraq 2, etc. ( Ok, we crushed Grenada, but they could have been taken out by the SWAT team from any major US city )
      But their own people are becom

    • "...by the rate their military spending is going it wont be long before they actually out pace us [if not already]..."

      That turns out not to be the case. http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-06-11-mili tary-report_n.htm [usatoday.com]

      Note that the USA spent about $529 billion on armaments in 2006, whereas China spent nearly $50 billion - maybe 9 percent as much, 9.5 percent at most. When you bear in mind that China has about four times as many people as the USA, the disparity becomes even more glaring. At least the USA
  • by nebaz (453974) * on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:08PM (#19671083)
    What I'd like to know is what can we do to clean up the space junk that is already up there? I know eventually everything will burn up in the atmosphere, but that could take hundreds of years. Maybe I've watched a few too many Sci-Fi shows, but could they send up a satellite to look for some debris and zap it with a laser to vaporize it?
    What happens if we set of a nuke in the upper atmosphere? Will debris be vaporized? Would it cause other problems? Maybe I'm just being naive, but I think we need to think about this.

    P.S. Space Roomba?
    • by wizardforce (1005805) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:16PM (#19671123) Journal
      space tethers take care of larger space junk see here: http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News .asp?NewsNum=264 [technovelgy.com]

      but could they send up a satellite to look for some debris and zap it with a laser to vaporize it?
      nice idea but think about how precise you would need to be to take out chunks the size of a pebble spaced out [they are not clumps anymore they drift] from anywhere with any efficiency without blinding higher satellites.

      What happens if we set of a nuke in the upper atmosphere?
      This: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_altitude_nuclear _explosion [wikipedia.org]
    • Once space junk does become a real problem, we'll just make stronger satellites that can get hammered and survive.
    • by weighn (578357)
      There's a bit [af.mil] of thought [esrin.esa.it] gone into that [utexas.edu] problem [harvard.edu].

      Apart from the technology not being ready yet, we are faced with the usual trouble of how to get heavy hardware up there. Laser systems, magnets and giant Hoovers are not generally lightweight items. There's also the issue of whether we want to have nuclear stuff in orbit.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by CNTOAGN (1111159)
      In one of my Aerospace classes we looked at this problem for a semester. Several designs were discussed, and I don't remember the ones that were instantly discarded due to cost, material science inadequacies, and the ability to actually deploy the system.

      The obvious problems are: Space is big - lots of room up there the debris isn't all going in the same direction, they are hauling ass and can't be tracked A good portion of the debris isn't metallic - paint, plastic, even organic (the russians du

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:13PM (#19671111)

    China shocked the world with its recent antisatellite missile test.
    What is so shocking about an obvious method of warfare? Did people really think that space could be a conflict free zone? Even if a country has signed treaties to ban use of such weapons, they still do it (or have the capability to do it within short notice after canceling their agreement).

    What -could- be considered shocking is that they'd litter their own skies with junk debris, thus making it harder for them (and everyone else) to use space in the future.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Reagan was a moderate who stopped the hardliners like his vice-president Bush from arming space. Instead he listened to his people and worked towards arms reduction which ended the cold war.

    He also didn't change his policy when he was shot by a complete looney.

    Where did all the moderates go? Even Obama seems like a hardliner to me.
    • What about how he left office with a budget deficit larger than the combined total of all of his 39 predecessors, the icy freeze in relations with the Soviet Union, sending military supplies to Iran in blatant contradiction of stated policy, having no clue about what his national security advisers were doing and the human rights abuses in Central America?

      But I guess he looks pretty good compared to the current fella.

      • You're right that Reagan left office with the biggest deficit ever, but he also set in motion the policies (hint: NOT trickle-down economics) that birthed the boom-time 1990's.

        As for icy relations with Russia, after the Russian El Al bombing, Reagan had every chance to 'push the button' against Moscow, or if not go nuclear, start sinking ships and submarines. What did Reagan do? Talk to the Kremlin.

        Reagan was also one of the most staunch supporters of the Polish Solidarnosë movement, leading to t

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by weighn (578357)

          Reagan was also one of the most staunch supporters of the Polish Solidarnosë movement, leading to the end of Polish dictatorship. The Poles, today, are talking about a Mount Rushmore-like memorial to those who spearheaded the movement. Reagan is to be enshrined there as well.

          This had nothing to do with supporting the Polish Trade Union [wikipedia.org] movement and everything to do with blocking Soviet influence [wikipedia.org] in Poland. So please don't paint Reagan up as some altruistic leader. This ploy is exactly the reason that US troops face up against US weaponry and US trained militia in Afghanistan. Great policy!

    • Someone please mod parent funny.
  • USA tests (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:34PM (#19671275)
    so if china does it it's shocking, i wonder what it'd be called if you yanks did it
    • Re:USA tests (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ErikZ (55491) * on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:40PM (#19671319)
      "Today the United States blew up one of it's satellite creating an expanding cloud of debris. It's purpose was to show to the world it's military might and not to fuck around with them."

      Yeah, I think shocking would cover it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by LabRat (8054)
      we would call it history [wikipedia.org] We yanks have had the demonstrated ability to shoot down satellites for more than 20 years.

      What's shocking about the Chinese effort is that most folks tend to underestimate them in the progress they've made in their space program. What they don't take into account is that they are able to stand on the shoulders of giants...they won't need nearly as much time to develop theirs as we did since most of the "hard work" of basic designs and calcs has already been done and is readily av
    • by clragon (923326)

      so if china does it it's shocking, i wonder what it'd be called if you yanks did it

      they already have, back in 1985...

      This is probably just to justify the increasing military spendings in the US. If anything, the Americans should be celebrating that the Chinese is around 20 years behind in this field of weaponry.

      Please also look at this article I found [ft.com]:

      China's destruction of an obsolete weather satellite, similar to past tests conducted by the US and the Soviet Union, exploits this failure. Both

    • by feepness (543479)
      so if china does it it's shocking, i wonder what it'd be called if you yanks did it

      Decades old history?
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:54PM (#19671409)
    I forget the name but it was written years and years ago. It's from the perspective of a young canadian watching the first return trip to space since WWIII. He thinks back to how things were before the war, the assumptions made around the globe. The US and USSR were so intent on mutually annihilating each other that no concern was given to any other nation, including the one most of the warheads would be flying over. The Canadians developed a secret WWIII plan. Special tunnels were carved into mountains, angled at the trajectories the missiles would be sure to follow over the pole. Gigantic atom bombs were created in a secret program. These bombs were placed at the bottom of the tunnels and the intervening space was filled with aerodynamic shrapnel. When the button was finally pushed and the missiles flew on their way, the Canadians pressed a button of their own. Their bombs went off and powered what were essentially giant shotguns, blasting debris into unstable orbits. The blast destroyed most of the warheads in the first exchange and continued to remove large fractions of each subsequent exchange. There was a bit of luck with bombers being more vulnerable to interception than prewar doctrine had anticipated with the net result being both sides running out of weapons before civilization was destroyed.

    So our narrator is watching the first rocket trying to get back into space in the twenty years since the war. The night sky is still full of shooting stars as the debris comes back down into the atmosphere. All but the highest of the pre-war satellites were destroyed and nothing new has been able to survive making it through the shrapnel cloud. The thought is that most of it will deorbit in the next hundred or so years. The hope is that armored rockets might be able to survive impacts. The narrator sees this new rocket struck by debris and destroyed, the astronauts lost along with it. Mankind survived the war but lost space in the process.

    The story probably isn't as scientifically accurate as one could hope but it still has emotional impact, an visceral truthiness.
  • Future jobs? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ub3rT3Rr0R1St (920830)
    Parting a little from the premise of the article's main idea, I can't help but point this out...

    With the mention of "space debris", making space unusable: Well, wouldn't this give us a brief glimpse into the possible job descriptions of the future? Crews of "space garbagemen" drifting off into the abyss to clean up this debris.

    It seems quite interesting to think about it. What new occupations will arise if space, or another planet were conquered and colonized? Would there be scores of men, eager to
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MasamuneXGP (824006)
      Funny you should bring this up. If you're interested in a quite realistic story about the eventual necessity of space debris collecting, you may want to check this out. [animenewsnetwork.com]
  • ...debris that could render space unusable for decades

    I can hear Farnsworth already: "Maybe we bring all that debris down with some sort of space elevator!"

    (I'm not aiming for this to be flamebait)

  • by martin_henry (1032656) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:02AM (#19671803)
    ...when he said "Great, kid. Don't get cocky"
  • by Tablizer (95088)
    Popular Mechanics looks at the implications of a conflict in space -- including debris that could render space unusable for decades

    If there is a conflict big enough to F-up space, I am sure that there will be far worse problems back home such that space junk would be the least of our worries.

  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:17AM (#19671933) Journal
    What? All of it?
  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:31AM (#19672045) Journal
    > so if china does it it's shocking, i wonder what it'd be called if you yanks did it

    Successful. If by "you yanks" you mean the US Air Force. They launched the Vought ASM-135A ASAT against a "retired communications satellite" from an F-15 in 1985 and killed it. Note this was an air launched weapon (the "could this be next?" question on the article), not rocket launched as was the Chinese weapon.

    If by "you yanks" you mean the US scientists who were at the time using the Solwind research satellite that the USAF actually shot down, I suppose it'd be called "what the fuck happened to our satellite?", until they figured out what happened. At that point it probably became "what the fuck did you do that to our satellite for?"

    Since the official story is still that they shot down a retired communications satellite, rather than acknowledging the actual kill (the answer to the above questions being essentially "What satellite? Shut the fuck up."), we've no way to know if they missed their target and the ASAT locked onto Solwind by mistake, or if they just took out a target of opportunity that wouldn't cost them anything. Both are disturbing in their own way.

    There's also no word on how much debris was created by Solwind's destruction. The US Space Surveillance Network knows they answer, but they're not saying. They are, after all, operated primarily by the USAF.

    Although the ASM-135A ASAT project was cancelled soon after the Solwind kill, there's no reason to expect the USAF stopped ASAT development. The ASM-135A was built from an AGM-69 SRAM and Vought Scout B fourth stage (a Thiokol Altair III motor). These had both been operational for more than a decade when they put the ASAT together. They could have used much newer and more powerful, already operational hardware the very next day, taking it off the active armament shelf, bypassing the messy PR problem of using a defense contractor directly and so having to admit they launched something. The Vought project proved the feasibility based on older hardware. The US military doesn't readily let go of a proven idea they deem necessary unless it has something better to replace it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Brett Buck (811747)
      This story is complete horseshit. The target was known weeks in advance. I was actually in the printer room of the ops complex shortly before the test and the guys who ran the spacecraft were certainly well aware of the situation and had all gathered around to watch.

      Moreover, the spacecraft was barely functional enough to maintain despin and a telemetry downlink (which was iffy at best because antenna had degenerated years before). No one was getting much useful data due to mult
  • I read the article, and it failed to specify which state has united to build an anti-satellite weapons arsenal.

    Or perhaps the trained chimps who who are the editors/janitors for slashdot meant United States', but are too hampered by crippling illiteracy to know how to apply punctuation correctly so as to indicate plural possessive. That's OK though, because it's not like they're being paid to be editors, right?

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