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Space The Military

India Developing Vehicle To Knock Enemy Satellites 178

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the start-humming-the-music dept.
Frankie70 writes "Star Wars are back in fashion. With perennial (and nuclear armed) foe Pakistan always teetering on the brink of political collapse and neighboring regional superpower China taking greater strides into space technology, India has announced that it is developing an exo-atmospheric 'kill vehicle' that will knock enemy satellites out of orbit."
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India Developing Vehicle To Knock Enemy Satellites

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  • This headline made me think of D&D before anything else.

  • With everyone "testing" their antisatellite weaponry and creating ever more orbital debris, pretty soon there'll be so much debris up there we won't be able to keep any satellites operational.

    China's test of a year or two back may have already generated enough debris to start a chain reaction, any more and we may definitely go over the brink to where nothing is survivable in low earth orbit.

    --PM

    • by MRe_nl (306212) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @01:41PM (#30753106)

      There's an article1 about the military version of the Soviet Salyut space station, which flew as Salyuts 3 and 5 between 1974 and 1977.
      Virtually no information was available about the military Salyuts until recently, when access was opened up to a full-scale training model at the Moscow Aviation Institute. Well, guess what--Salyut 3 had a machine gun. The station had a 23 mm rapid-fire cannon mounted on the outside, along the long axis of the station "for defence against US space-based inspectors/interceptors".

      http://www.fourmilab.ch/documents/spaceguns/ [fourmilab.ch]

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        The thing is, 23mm is overkill. a simple 9mm round would work. Honestly make a microsat that can maneuver to the target and simply fire a 12 gauge )) buckshot shell from a short barrel single fire when it is in a high speed approach and it will shred the hell out of it's target. You could make them the size of a small garbage can and have your launch vehicle carry 20 of them into orbit.

        • by jandrese (485)
          It was also likely pointless, since chances are you would never see a killsat before it got its shot off. I've always assumed that gun was on there just because it was a military project and military guys want to put guns on everything.
          • The gun was there to research the feasibility of using one in a space environment. There are special thermal and lubrication issues in space that needed to be explored.

        • by Calinous (985536)

          That's a 23 mm recoilless auto canon - this will allow you to shoot more than one round against a possible target, and the recoilless part is good to keep the orientation of the satellite while you shoot.

          As for the "high speed approach" and 12-gauge and whatever, it seems overkill to have a shotgunon a satellite that probably won't have enough reaction mass to maneuver against more than one possible target. Just launch some sand grains or whatever.
          As for "have 20 and carry them

          • by Lumpy (12016)

            That's a 23 mm recoilless auto canon - this will allow you to shoot more than one round against a possible target, and the recoilless part is good to keep the orientation of the satellite while you shoot.

            There is nothing recoil less about a recoil-less gun. Instead of a major jerk of energy you get a smoother push of energy. Every shot fired will change your trajectory.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        And the few test firings were with the cannon pointing "back", so the projectiles rapidly deorbited.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GreatBunzinni (642500)

      Well, that is the least of any government's worries if the alternative is letting his enemy freely communicate, spy, command and bomb their positions as they wish. If you absolutely need to point out the responsibility of turning space (well, the earth's orbit) into a shooting gallery then put the blame where it should be put: those who started putting there military equipment/targets there and not the ones needing to take them down.

      • by icebrain (944107) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @02:02PM (#30753404)

        The thing is, it's not just military spacecraft that would be targeted. Assuming the ASAT rounds have the range, you'd see things like com satellites (even civilian ones--think Iridium), GPS satellites, maybe even weather observation satellites. In a full-blown war where it's drastic enough to start downing birds, you're going to hit anything that could possibly help your enemies and give you a better chance to survive.

        • The GPS [wikipedia.org] started out, still is and will never cease to be a military system. It's a military system which, just like the internet, has found quite a lot of civilian uses. Nonetheless, although civilian GPS clients have found themselves into the market it doesn't mean, for example, precision-guided bombs [wikipedia.org] ceased to rely on it to navigate towards targets. And if your enemy is using the GPS to drive bombs right into your targets than you can bet you will desperately want to take them down.

        • by cyn1c77 (928549)

          In a full-blown war where it's drastic enough to start downing birds, you're going to hit anything that could possibly help your enemies and give you a better chance to survive.

          In a full-blown war, the first attack will be to nuke the enemy, repeatedly. And then to nuke them one more time for good measure.

          These stupid satellite games are more for skirmishes when you don't want to annihilate the enemy, but just cripple them.

          Unless India finally realized that India is right next door, so the fallout will blow back into their country...

    • by SEWilco (27983) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @02:31PM (#30753802) Journal
      Any of the countries with space launch capability could ruin the party. It was pointed out years ago that a vehicle loaded with ball bearings can be sent around the Moon and back toward Earth, releasing a load of shrapnel which would sweep across all Earth-based orbits. Fortunately, space is big. Really big. So the damage would be spread out over time, depending upon how large the attack is.
      • by Arthur Grumbine (1086397) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @03:29PM (#30754728) Journal

        Fortunately, space is big. Really big.

        [citation needed]

      • by Calinous (985536)

        Ball bearings would be too few to interdict Earth-orbits when launched from Moon. Assuming the typical satellite is having a target area of 10 square meters, you'd want to be hit by at least two balls (to keep a bit of overkill). That means that you could use 10 millions balls to cover an area 10 by 10 kilometers.

        Kinetic energy penetrators launched from space assume they are already there, on the perfect trajectory. How they get there is very very energy intensive, so much so that grou

        • by SEWilco (27983)

          That means that you could use 10 millions balls to cover an area 10 by 10 kilometers.

          Not an area. A widening volume with, in this example, a diameter of about 10 kilometers during the first orbit.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Calinous (985536)

            And with a decreased chance to hit the intended target it the target manage to escape that 10 kilometer wide "kill area" at the first shot. Coming to think about it, if it escapes the target area in the first ball bearing pass, chances are that it won't be on the same path with the ball bearings for a looooong time. So no, I don't think this "space ship loaded with ball bearings" is a good space-based kill weapon.

            For your information, 10 million ball bearing having about 5mm diameter would weigh more than 5

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Launching small projectiles around the Moon would be very ineffective use of lifting capability of your rocket - because they would generally hit the area of interest only once.

        It is much more sensible to launch your payload into LEO and detonate it there in controlled fashion (in a way that will spread the balls quickly but not direct larger number of them towards the atmosphere). After that they will stay in place, with many, MANY more potential for impacts. Plus there can be much more of them, without th

    • by xeoron (639412)
      Then we will be forced to, finally, work on actual means of cleaning up the debris... perhaps some form of roomba satellites, gravity bombs, an atmosphere tether that is charged to attract low orbital debris, electromagnetic katamari democracy shooting stars, .... I am open to suggestions, since I am out of silly ideas that sound appealing to me.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        I am open to suggestions, since I am out of silly ideas that sound appealing to me.

        Um... um... giant space wet napkin?

        Using quantum mechanics to probabilistically erase the debris out of objective reality?

        Sex bot?

        Yeah, I know sex bot don't clean up teh orbits, but I'd worry less about space debris if I had one.

    • by Efreet (246368)

      Actually, its possible to shoot satellites as they're about to make a re-entry and be certain that any debris ends up hitting the earth within one orbital period. That's what the US did in the Burnt Frost test.

      Its still perfectly possible for flying debris to hit another satellite before hitting atmosphere and burning out, but that's very unlikely compared to the risks of other methods of testing ASAT weapons.

    • by sznupi (719324)

      Some powers might see that as a good thing. Those without the capabilities to put up large fleet of satellites for example. Or, OTOH, those with big enough rockets, secure enough launch pads and good enough sensors; not limiting them to LEO.

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @01:19PM (#30752744) Homepage Journal

    India and Russia both have this habit of announcing these awesome things, and then never actually doing them. If India and Russia would have done everything they said, India would have five aircraft carriers and a man on the moon, Russia would have mach 15 planes for everyone, and more.

    • That reminds me, where is the flying car I was promised?
    • by Alinabi (464689)
      You mean like SDI?
      • You mean like SDI?

        Hey, it's just taking a little bit longer than expected. But at least they can intercept some missiles now, and at varying stages in flight.

    • by MRe_nl (306212) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @04:04PM (#30755234)

      Five aircraft carriers on the moon would do India a fat lot of good,
      there's no atmosphere for the planes you dumbass.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CodeBuster (516420)

      India and Russia both have this habit of announcing these awesome things

      The Americans started the tradition, at least with regard to anti-satellite and space based weapons, with the Strategic Defense Initiative (aka "Star Wars") under then president Ronald Reagan. It has been speculated by some that SDI hastened the decline of the Soviet Union by promoting even more military research and spending on counter-counter measures at a time when the Soviet Union could least afford to "keep up" with accelerated US defense spending. The Soviets bought the artist renderings and animation

    • India and Russia both have this habit of announcing these awesome things, and then never actually doing them.

        So does the US.

      SB

  • The technology is there. But I wonder: will they have to modify the software at NORAD to take into account Big Objects that get transmuted to A Bunch Of Little Objects? I am a geek: I'm thinking about software updates.

  • Bad Idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zifferent (656342) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @01:20PM (#30752756)
    Weaponizing space is a seriously bad idea. The US, Russia, Japan and China are not going to like this.
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by couchslug (175151)

      When you have Jihadist neighbors like Pakistan, weaponizing space is a good idea.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)

        Does Pakistan have satellites? They've had some put up for them, but it looks like it numbers a total of three that have been put up there, and it looks like they're all dead or abandoned now.

        It seems more to me they're concerned about China.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Umm... Non sequitor alert here.

        It is, unfortunately, true that Pakistan has nukes and (despite being our ostensible buddy) a fairly large and influential class of religious enthusiasts with a penchant for explosive politics.

        However, there is absolutely nothing about that situation that is improved by spending a big pile of cash on whizbang space weapons. India and Pakistan are right next to each other. Even if Pakistan's team jihad decides to use missiles(rather than just putting a warhead in the back
      • by Calinous (985536)

        Why is weaponizing space when you have neighbours like Pakistan a good idea? What about Pakistan thinking they need to weaponize space because they have a neighbour like India?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by couchslug (175151)

          Pakistan is militant, Muslim and therefore a threat. There is no reason to be politically correct and accord Islam respect it does not deserve.

          India should be ready to destroy Pakistan if attacked. It would be doing the rest of the non-Jihadist world a considerable favor should it come to that.

          • by Calinous (985536)

            Iraq should be ready to destroy the US of A if US of A attacked? Panama should be ready to destroy US of A if US of A attacked?

                  By the way, USSR would have made the rest of communist world a considerable favour if it would have destroyed USA

                  Giving your favourite nation some rights would allow your least favourite nation to claim the same rights.

    • Weaponizing space is a seriously bad idea. The US, Russia, Japan and China are not going to like this.

      China is already doing it. They demonstrated the ability to knock out a satellite similar to the GPS satellites a few years ago.

    • by mxh83 (1607017)
      Why not? If you're allowed to weaponize earth, why not space? Is it some kind of holy shrine? As for the 'bad idea' part- Well they should have thought of that when they created weapons in the first place right? India is doing what it takes to protect itself from some sort of maniacal attack from the Amreicans and the ruskies who'll try to blame it on someone else.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Colonel Korn (1258968)

        Why not? If you're allowed to weaponize earth, why not space? Is it some kind of holy shrine? As for the 'bad idea' part- Well they should have thought of that when they created weapons in the first place right? India is doing what it takes to protect itself from some sort of maniacal attack from the Amreicans and the ruskies who'll try to blame it on someone else.

        It's a bad idea because blowing up a few satellites may make low Earth orbit a field of debris dense enough that it is impossible to keep the other satellites intact. Once we cross a certain orbital debris density threshold, the debris will impact with satellites and create new debris faster than existing debris falls to Earth due to drag. I think that's called the Kessler Effect (someone correct me here). Once that happens, we may be locking the whole world away from space exploration and exploitation

        • Kessler Syndrome [wikipedia.org]

          SB

        • by sznupi (719324)

          Kessler Syndrome is actually not so dramatic, I imagine. It likely won't stop exploration and exploitation of space, only of LEO; if you want to send something further, that object will stay very short time in Kessler Syndrome affected LEO, so the probability of collision might be acceptably low.

          What it will certainly do, is locking out from meaningful exploration countries without very powerful rockets (needed for quick escape of big cargo out of LEO; especially if Earth-observing satellites need to have b

    • Don't forget, the US already shot a satellite out of the sky. They tried to rationalize an attempt to get the satellite to hit water instead of land, but if you think it was anything less than a weapons test, you're being a bit naive. I was quite disappointed that this angle didn't get more play in the news.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Cjstone (1144829)
        The US has had ASAT capability for a while now, and has "shot down" way more than a single satellite. Our earliest ASAT systems actually detonated nukes in or near space. The first US hit-to-kill interceptor was in 1985, and was launched from a fighter jet. I think that test still holds the record for the only fighter jet to have shot down a satellite. In my opinion, the recent test was there to show that our standard weapons are capable of intercepting ICBM warheads. That test was strange, in that it took
      • Don't forget, the US already shot a satellite out of the sky. They tried to rationalize an attempt to get the satellite to hit water instead of land, but if you think it was anything less than a weapons test, you're being a bit naive. I was quite disappointed that this angle didn't get more play in the news.

        As far as I know the satellite you mentioned is, in fact, now out of the sky. Unlike the prior Chinese anti-satellite test or what the device in the article will do.

    • Space is already weaponized. The only difference is that now some factions are managing to develop ways to put their enemy's weapons out of commission.

    • by astar (203020)

      You do not have it quite right.

      The bigger picture is what counts. Russia, China, and India, and I suspect Japan, are all strongly tending to very deep cooperation. This is not due to some historical friendship!

      On space stuff, I think of the recent economic policy announcements by the Russians, which puts an emphasis, not the biggest emphasis, but an emphasis on space technology, and in context nuclear powered space tech. And Russian and India just signed a nuclear deal that spits in the face of Obamba and

    • Why? It’s the perfect excuse to start a “preventive strike on the war on terror”... Cheney, Putin and Jintao would cum at the moment of hearing it. (Warning: Do NOT attempt to imagine that! I repeat: Do NOT attempt to imagine that! ;)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mjwx (966435)

      Weaponizing space is a seriously bad idea. The US, Russia, Japan and China are not going to like this.

      India is not weaponising space, India is developing ground based anti satellite weapons. This is perfectly acceptable as it's not banned by the treaty that prevents the militarisation of space (cant remember name).

      Besides, Russia, China and the US (Japan by proxy of the US) already have this technology. In addition to this Russia and China don't give a crap what India is doing within it's own borders (

  • By putting up thousands of fake satellites and thousands of smaller real, but redundant satellites.
    .
    But hey, the Indians need stimulus spending thought the purchase of unnecessary military hardware too. After all, look how well it's worked for us in the USA? :)

    • by TheKidWho (705796)

      Well, it is far too expensive to put up redundant satellites. The safest bet is to actually put up inflatable balloons which would have the same size as the satellite to be "Defended." If the kill vehicle hits a balloon, no appreciable amount of debris will be produced, unless of course the kill vehicle is an explosive charge.

      • If you assume satellites have to be large, yes. If you put up a few hundred smaller ones about the size of a coffee cup, scattered across a few hundred miles, aggregating their data dynamically, it's a different proposition.

      • Balloons don't leave the atmosphere. Satellites do. Balloons don't move very fast. Satellites do. Telling them apart would be trivial.
        • by TheKidWho (705796)

          Really? I'm talking about inflatable structures in space, not in the Earth's atmosphere. An Inflatable structure surrounding a satellite would be moving at the exact same speed as the satellite, quite frankly it has no choice in the matter if it is to stay in orbit. The point of an inflatable structure is that it would be trivial to fit 10 of them into a small rocket, heck you could even include them in the payload bay of the rocket carrying the real satellite, although that would pose many issues of it's

          • An Inflatable structure surrounding a satellite would be moving at the exact same speed as the satellite, quite frankly it has no choice in the matter if it is to stay in orbit.

            Ah! Okay. Sorry. I thought you meant balloon as in weather balloon, not decoy satellites.

            Actually, you'd want to launch them on the same rocket as the main satellite so that they have the same orbit. Launching decoy sats at the same time is trivial. Launching them afterwards and synching the orbits is expensive and challengin
    • by mjwx (966435)

      But hey, the Indians need stimulus spending thought the purchase of unnecessary military hardware too.

      Here's the thing about India's economy, they didn't have the GFC that western nations went through. They have enough of a strong economy that they have the highest paying professional sports league the IPA (Indian Premier League, they play cricket) which overtook the English Premier league (they play soccer) in 2008. Bollywood is nipping at Hollywood's heels, they are making a packet out of Outsourcing an

  • Knock out of orbit? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jpmorgan (517966) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @01:21PM (#30752780) Homepage

    You can't just 'knock something out of orbit,' like it's a porcelain vase on a mantelpiece. Orbits do not work that way! They're building a kill vehicle to blow up satellites.

    They're still going to be in orbit, just in lots of little pieces.

    • by valadaar (1667093)
      Depends on the orbit. If they hit the ones that need active boosting to stay in orbit, then yes, they will be knocked out.. eventually. Knock out without using the word orbit would be more accurate.
    • Look on the brightside. If they do end up screwing up space, and fullscale wars among satellites do occur, we can always market it as a new form of entertainment.

      "Battlebots In SPACE!"

      We could then all take turns designing new battlebot satellites to fight one another. Mine would have a long arm with a buzzsaw on it... and lazers and one that shoots bees (in little space suits)...

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      If the projectile arced, and hit the sattelite from above, it could cause it to enter the atmosphere and burn up.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Negligible effect; majority of the energy in the collision comes from the orbital velocity of satellite, not the impactor (which is almost stationary in comparison). Plus such kinds of collisions behave quite weird and probably don't transfer momentum very well.

        But what you suggest would make the projectile much less effective. Bigger rocket required, easier to notice and intercept, more time for evasive maneuvers, target being on the noisy background of Earth.

    • by mjwx (966435)

      You can't just 'knock something out of orbit,' like it's a porcelain vase on a mantelpiece.

      Actually you can. Stable orbits are quite precarious. They are only easy to maintain because there are few external forces pushing against them. Push them out and they'll fly off into space, push them into a lower orbit and it will decay, even if you re-orient the satellite it will be rendered useless. Now if you were to ram these satellites with a slow moving rocket motor rather then an explosive warhead then you c

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Where do you people get those ideas? There would be certainly no "flying off into space", of anything - giving the kill vehicle energies required would be pointless. As pointless as any explosives or trying to "reorient" the satellite. And it would certainly not "push it into lower orbit" the way you imagine.

        Simply put, at few kilometers per second contact speed, the contact itself is enough to shatter the satellite into thousands of pieces (which will deorbit faster due to much larger area to mass ratio, m

  • by decipher_saint (72686) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @01:22PM (#30752810) Homepage

    Can't regular missiles do the job?

    Won't somebody think of the missiles?

  • by RedTeflon (1695836) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @01:24PM (#30752840)
    I personally cant wait for Dish & Direct TV to start battling it out by shooting down each others satellites.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by vlm (69642)

      I personally cant wait for Dish & Direct TV to start battling it out by shooting down each others satellites.

      And the only way the public wins, is if they BOTH are successful.

    • It will sound something like this: peew, peew, peew.
  • The problem is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LoudMusic (199347) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @01:32PM (#30752988)

    The problem is, even if you knock down their satellites they're going to retaliate on the ground in your largest populated cities. And they don't need their satellites to do that.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      India needs a first strike capability should Pakistan government control collapse and the (more dedicated) Jihadists take over.

      India is large enough to absorb a moderate number of Pak nukes and then finish the job with boots on the ground, but every advantage is to be sought in advance.

    • And if they're already invading your cities, wouldn't it be nice to be able to take down their satellites.

  • They plan on taking 9 year olds and putting them in bright yellow 1 man spacecrafts with a paylod of missiles and some laser capabilities.

    They will then land/dock with the ISS, accidentally fire a pair of missiles, and return to Earth. There will then be a parade with a ridiculous amount of confetti.

    I don't know what inspired them, but its genius.

  • Cue classic scene from Spies like Us [youtube.com]

    Though this could never actually happen, because well, MTV doesn't play music videos anymore.

  • by gmuslera (3436)
    What defines that a satellite is "enemy"? Launched by a now-enemy state used for anything, like controlling the gps network, monitor climate or tv transmission? Or something passive like watching over your territory and transmits to your enemy sensible information? Or something more active like... mmm destroying your satelites and not sure if can be done anything else aggresive at this moment.

    Don't worth to worry about the 1st kind (unless you are the aggressor), the 3rd kind is, for now, just you, and the
  • So ho hum. After peeling off the unnecessary, inevitable and stilted rationalization for violence (hey, I enjoy war as much as the next soldier, but not with imaginary friends) I've decoded the message here. The article is intended more for flag waving than for technology announcement. In fact I believe this to be agitprop, simply propoganda to stir up any targets and make them believe this might be possible.

    Oh, and possible it is. China had their turn recently. As for the US:

    [ASAT SPIN]

    (from http://en.wiki [wikipedia.org]

  • As if, the US government will allow such a weapon to be able to get out into space and be able to literally render the US blind...

  • 1) found satellite company

    2) have other nations outsource satellites to them for "cost savings."

    3) threaten to blow satellites up.

    4) obscene excess profits!

  • Does India even have enemies that have satellites?

  • by assertation (1255714) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @05:34PM (#30756588)

    If India and China went to war that would wipe out the take-out industry on a global scale. We would all be stuck eating Mexican.

My idea of roughing it turning the air conditioner too low.

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