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Space The Military

China's New Military Space Stations Coming Soon 345

Posted by timothy
from the aloha-up-there dept.
WindBourne writes "China will be launching 2 new space stations this next year. One is for their civil program (as run by the military), while the second is openly for the military. It appears that there will be multiples of the military version to be launched in 2010, and that they are developing the same US Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) that was canceled in 1969. In addition, it appears that China is accelerating their timelines on a number of the earlier space announcements."
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China's New Military Space Stations Coming Soon

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  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @10:31AM (#27135275) Journal
    To what degree is this a novel phenomenon? TFA didn't mention any weapons systems, or anything besides probable surveillance gear and being under the administrative control of the military. That seems pretty much identical to everybody else's use of military satellites. It is interesting that they'd see some value in building two manned stations; but the purpose seems to be pretty similar to what satellites have been used for for decades now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @10:35AM (#27135345)

    Or MSG.

  • Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by solios (53048) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @10:45AM (#27135577) Homepage

    NOTHING will kick NASA (and Roscosmos) in the ass like some actual competition.

    We beat the Soviets to the moon... now, can we get back there before the Chinese?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      I was just thinkin' this! It's about gorram time, too. If we're not careful we'll have to cooperate with'em to build the Core Planets, and then all of our children's children will be cursing in Chinese!

    • Do we need to? We've already beaten the too it by roughly half a century.
  • by Big Hairy Ian (1155547) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @10:47AM (#27135599)
    and this time they are not going to have a bunch of expat Germans with paper-clips on their files to bail them out. I think what is more worrying is that Iran & North Korea may well have manned space flight programs up and running before the USA does. What needs to happen is more Funding for NASA and they need someone with a lot of Political Savy running it (Like James Web in the 60's)
    • Why?

      Just to say were better? Yes, I know that there have been several "trickle down" advancements from NASA. But, I'm not a fan of Trickle Down Economics, so I'm not sure how much I support Trickle Down Science. So, what is the direct advancement? Why put money into space for off shoot Advancement when we could put money directly into scientific research for different problems we currently have?
    • by rumith (983060)
      Don't worry, this time America has tens of thousands of former Soviet/Russian scientists who fled the country in the 90s when the USSR died, and it became obvious that this brave new Russia has little need of science (or anything else besides the oil pipe, for that matter). And yes, I know what I'm talking about.
  • by Chairboy (88841) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @10:48AM (#27135637) Homepage

    Of possible interest, the Soviet Union had a number of military space stations. The Almaz project culminated in a Salyut analogue that actually had a 20mm cannon that was test fired in orbit.

    In the 1980s, they built the Polyus Space Battlestation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyus_(spacecraft)) which was to be equipped with nuclear mines, a boron field generator, frickin' laser beams, cannons, etc. As part of a last gasp effort to regain relevancy by showing command of the sky, a test battlestation was launched on one of the two Energia boosters that flew. A funny thing happened on the way to orbit, though...

    Because of CG issues, the battlestation (about as big as a US space shuttle) was mounted upside down on the booster. Once it separated from the Energia, it was designed to fire a thruster that would turn it 180 degrees, stop rotation, then the final stage would boost this Cyrillic emblazoned death star into orbit.

    The Energia booster completed it's cycle, the explosive bolts detonated, and the Polyus slowly pulled away. A thruster at the bottom fired, and the ponderous bulk began to rotate. With steady precision, it rotated 90 degrees, 135 degrees, then finally 180 degrees.... ....and kept rotating. As it completed a _complete_ rotation, the rocket fired again and smartly placed it back in the exact same angle it had been when it started.

    The rocket fired as scheduled, but unfortunately for this military menace, the effect was the opposite intended. With typical maniacal mechanical thoroughness, the rocket ran, slowing the station and neatly dropping it into the Indian ocean.

    I've heard rumors (for what that's worth) that one of the US Nuclear subs equipped for deep sea salvage just happened to be in the area at the time. If true, that's the goddamndest thing...

    Nonetheless, it's interesting to speculate about what might have happened in the end-stages of the Cold War if the Soviets had gained control of the high ground in this fashion.

    An aside, a great site for learning more about the military efforts in space during the 60s and 70s is Cold Orbits: http://www.deepcold.com/ [deepcold.com]

    • by nothing2seehere (1496253) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @10:58AM (#27135829)

      Nonetheless, it's interesting to speculate about what might have happened in the end-stages of the Cold War if the Soviets had gained control of the high ground in this fashion.

      If quality control was so low that they couldn't even rotate it correctly, it probably wasn't anything to worry about. Besides, it had a well-known small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port...

      • by Muad'Dave (255648)
        Don't forget the accelerometers that were installed upside-down on the Genesis Spacecraft [wikipedia.org] causing it to auger into the desert on reentry.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chris Burke (6130)

        Besides, it had a well-known small thermal exhaust port

        It was only well-known because many Bothans died to bring us that information.

    • by david.given (6740)

      As part of a last gasp effort to regain relevancy by showing command of the sky, a test battlestation was launched on one of the two Energia boosters that flew.

      It's worth emphasising the word 'test' here!

      The Polyus was based on a TKS logistics vehicle (combination man-rated cargo transport, tug and on-orbit living quarters module that was intended for Mir-2) that was surplus from a test stand (!), mated to a mockup of the Skif-D battlestation that had been under design for years but had no actual functionin

    • That's incredible. A "fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL battle station" in space, killed by a silly launch malfunction. Makes you wonder about what other Cold War relics are flying around above our heads that we don't even know about...

      Was the Polyus even known about (outside the USSR) prior to its launch? I'm sure there was some explaining to do after it splashed down in the Indian Ocean, though... Too bad there isn't video of that. It would have been something to see :)

    • frickin' laser beams

      These won't work very well in space at the moment. Space suits for sharks aren't practicle, and without them, the sharks tend to explode.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Chris Burke (6130)

      Because of CG issues, the battlestation (about as big as a US space shuttle) was mounted upside down on the booster.

      Okay I know CG was pretty primitive in the 80s, but I can't for the life of figure out how a 180 degree rotate on the station model would help. Or was it just a bug in their transform matrix? I could buy that. Now what really has me baffled is how a CG battle station would have affected the outcome of the cold war. Upstaging Pixar in the early days? I don't get it.

  • Red Scare Bollocks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by krou (1027572) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @10:57AM (#27135805)

    I don't ever see stories on /. talking about NASA that make a point of mentioning their obvious military ties when they undertake civilian space programs.

    So far, the single dissenter against efforts to prevent militarisation of space at the UN has been the US, not China.

    What this "acceleration of timelines" indicates is that the Chinese are taking the US stance very seriously.

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @10:58AM (#27135835) Journal

    I'm actually much more intrigued by the statement at the end of the article in Space.com about the nuclear powered rover they intend to land on the moon.

    Interesting (if true) that they didn't just put on solar panels (will the rover be used during the lunar night?).

    If they are willing to use nuclear power (probably just RTGs) for such a relatively modest application (except for an experiment or two the Apollo astronauts left on the moon I don't think any nuclear power was ever used there) will they be using nukes for more applications in their space program?

    Nuclear power (first as RTGs, then as full fledged reactors) will REALLY give their spacecraft an order of magnitude more capability than solar powered ones. The Russian radar satellites used to locate American carrier groups used nukes (and one crashed in Canada!). If the Chinese are willing to take the risk (our collective risk?) for using nukes in space what kind of benefits will they obtain?

    Certainly, for some military applications a small, compact nuclear power plant might be a better power source than large vulnerable solar cells. (though the reactor would likely need radiator fins).

    • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @11:05AM (#27135947)

      Interesting (if true) that they didn't just put on solar panels (will the rover be used during the lunar night?).

      Very slightly off topic, you'd be amazed how many people confuse "same face always facing the earth" with "same face always facing the sun". Then for a good time explain Mercury's spin-orbit resonance and they get all confused.

      During the night, a good way to keep warm is a nice toasty nuclear reactor or RTG.

    • by nschubach (922175)

      Would the empty vacuum of space really be a good way to dissipate heat? I thought everything in space was cold on the dark side and hot on the sun side. Without a medium to transfer heat into it wouldn't be a good thermal conductor... or am I totally incorrect in this?

      • by Alinabi (464689)

        or am I totally incorrect in this?

        Yes, you are. Heat can dissipate through radiative transfer.

        • Yep. Heat can transfer via:

          1) Conduction
          2) Convection
          3) Radiation

          The first two wouldn't work in space, but the 3rd's a charm. After all, if it didn't, the Sun wouldn't be able to warm the Earth, would it? We'd all be dead- or never have evolved in the first place. ;)
  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @11:02AM (#27135893) Journal

    Let China put up a dozen "military" stations. The Manned Orbiting Laboratory (http://www.astronautix.com/craft/mol.htm ) was canceled for good reasons. Primarily that all the functions could be automated and/or ground controlled, without the extra mass, complexity and vulnerability of a manned station. It will provide them with many individual opportunities to practice maintaining manned stations, docking, crew and supply transfers, etc. We already have the experience and know which works best. But let them make their own mistakes. They many even pull off their entire program through lunar landing in their own fashion, but their particular path isn't the most efficient or effective. Perhaps the hard way will be the best way to learn. OTOH, they may develop technology and techniques we didn't because we didn't need to.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ShieldW0lf (601553)
      The Manned Orbiting Laboratory (http://www.astronautix.com/craft/mol.htm ) was canceled for good reasons. Primarily that all the functions could be automated and/or ground controlled, without the extra mass, complexity and vulnerability of a manned station.

      And what happens when a) you get hacked or b) someone from the manned station next door comes over for a visit and unplugs a few things.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Yes, they'll learn (or find new ways). While we are doing what, exactly ?
  • by arthurpaliden (939626) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @11:19AM (#27136195)

    In a few years you will see China overtake the 'West' in the utilization of 'space' and the West will never be able to regain their prominence in that area. This is because the West does not have the one thing that is needed in order to maintain long tern projects of this magnitude. The West does not have continuous governments.

    In China with one party rule they have the ability to put forward really long term plans. This is not so in the West where governments only have a life of about four years. No sooner does a Western government come to power than they start to campaign for the next election instead of moving their societies forward and usually in the process discontinue the grand plans of the previous governments so that they don't get credit for their success should their be any.

  • Well, I guess that explains why that's how they'll say damn [kevinsullivansite.net] in the future [mts.net].
  • Perhaps the Chinese have some master plan for military space domination, but I can't see how manned military space stations could possibly fit into it. Anything that you would want to do in space from a military standpoint could more easily and cheaply be done by autonomous or ground-controlled spacecraft.

    Can anyone tell me what the strategic advantage of a manned space station is? Is there anything that outweighs the obvious disadvantages of all that extra technology (and accompanying risk) for keepin
  • They're just getting ready to evacuate the "Earth that Was".

  • Plenty of jobs for all those united technologies layoffs.

  • Firefly... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aaronfaby (741318) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @01:55PM (#27138773)
    Joss Whedon was on to something when he gave the Firefly characters chinese phrases throughout the show...

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