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Pentagon Sets Tone For Future Space Exploration 79

Posted by Soulskill
from the let's-bomb-the-moon-again dept.
coondoggie writes "It obviously leans heavily on the military's concerns for outer space exploration, but the National Security Space Strategy (PDF) released yesterday by the Department of Defense outlines concerns like protection from space junk and system security that all space travelers in theory would want addressed. The NSSS document emphasizes the Obama administration's desire to protect US space assets and to further commercialize space but also to ensure that the US and international partners have unfettered access to outer space."
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Pentagon Sets Tone For Future Space Exploration

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  • OK, fine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday February 05, 2011 @05:01PM (#35113438) Homepage
    Sounds perfectly reasonable. A couple of high sounding, moral high ground arguments (space is for everyone), a few sops to Boeing, et. al (need for continued government support for x,y,z), a sop to NASA and the inevitable "don't mess too much with our playground, we're bigger than you".

    Now. Where's the money?
    • Now. Where's the money?

      We gave that to the Wall Street bankers...

      • by Yvanhoe (564877)
        Who paid their debits to China...
        ... which actuall has a space program [wikipedia.org]. It involves things US can not do anymore (sending a man on the moon) and something the US never did (building a base on the moon)
        • Re:OK, fine (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning.netzero@net> on Saturday February 05, 2011 @06:03PM (#35113886) Homepage Journal

          Considering that the Chinese have yet to complete an in-orbit rendezvous and some have argued that the "space walks" conducted by the Chinese astronauts may have even been faked or staged, they have a long way to go before I need to worry about the Chinese joining up with a secret Nazi Moon base in an attempt to start world conquest.

          This isn't to say that China is completely backward, but don't ascribe more to them than is really true. Furthermore, all China has been doing is to essentially copy the efforts of other nations. There is very little new or original being done by China as they are now up to about 1960's technology for what Russia and America were doing.

          As for the "American" space program, I'd give it a decade before private individuals are walking on the Moon. SpaceX already sent a capsule into orbit and now merely needs FAA approval to put some people into the capsule to start its own manned spaceflight program. With Bigelow Aerospace supplying the space stations and Moon bases along with a dozen more private companies nipping at the heels of SpaceX to get into space, it is just a matter of time before the Moon and elsewhere is covered with people and human constructs. A whole lot is happening with regards to American spaceflight, it just isn't being done by the bankrupt government who doesn't care to go into space any more.

          • Re:OK, fine (Score:4, Interesting)

            by damburger (981828) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @03:19AM (#35116646)

            Please, don't indulge in conspiracy theories about the Chinese spacewalk. The same deal applies to this as to with the moon landings; if it were faked one of the countries competitors would've used that to score an immediate propaganda coup.

            Unless you can account for the silence of the US, Japan and India on the matter, don't take this crap seriously. Shenzhou 7 happened, and there was a spacewalk.

            You seem to not believe the evidence supplied for a Chinese spacewalk, accepted by nations with every reason to portray China as more backward than it is, yet you unquestioningly accept the vastly over-optimistic projections of private space companies that are yet to put a single human into orbit. Your skepticism is rather selective, betraying your bias.

            If Shenzhou can be called 1960's technology because it looks like the Soyuz, then SpaceShipOne can be called 1950's technology because it's basically a nicely painted X-15.

            • by Teancum (67324)

              Burt Rutan openly admits that SpaceShipOne is an advanced version of the X-15. That was also not a primitive vehicle but rather advanced and much of the development of the X-15 was contemporary with the Gemini and Apollo programs, with the final flight as late as 1970. Seriously, there is much to be gained by studying the technology developed for that program, and I wouldn't call it that "primitive", where it is unfortunate that more work wasn't done with that concept for potential spaceflight. I conside

    • by Seumas (6865)

      Don't get your hopes up.

      While it's possible that private industry could get us into space in my life time, I won't be surprised if I die before we've even mastered trips to the moon. It's depressing to think I'll have lived my entire life without having anything on the level of the experience my parents' generation had with the moon landing. And it won't be enough to just get back to the moon (which seems iffy, itself, currently). To me, minimal progress would be the ability to regularly travel from earth t

      • Maybe the Moon landing of your generation is called "The Internet." Or "Personal Genomics." I don't think that Space exploration is the only measure of human achievement.
        • Yes, the internet has precluded all sorts of threats to the existence of mankind. Putting men, and colonies, into space wouldn't help to ensure mankind's survival is the least, in the event of a cataclysmic impact, would it? Get your priorities. Playing with computers is exactly that - child's play for the most part. Putting a gene pool onto another planet is vastly more important, by many orders of magnitude.
          • by lennier (44736)

            Putting men, and colonies, into space wouldn't help to ensure mankind's survival is the least, in the event of a cataclysmic impact, would it?.

            No, it's not at all clear that space colonies would help ensure mankind's survival at all for the following reasons:

            1. Current and near-future space colonies are nowhere near self-sufficient. They require constant shipping of oxygen, water, food and fuel from Earth. Anything that disrupts the space launch industry - let alone wider civilisation - will hit the colonies first, not last.

            2. Sealed biodomes are really hard to pull off. Remember Biosphere II? Failed after two runs, and that was here on Earth with

        • by khallow (566160)

          I don't think that Space exploration is the only measure of human achievement.

          But those aren't space-based achievements. There's a good reason to restrict our viewpoint to space (and it's not "habitat diversity"). If we're to ask ourselves "How are we doing?" and related questions like "Could we be doing more?", then it is worthwhile to consider progress restricted to a field.

          After the high point of Apollo, one would expect a retrenchment. Apollo wasn't sustainable, but we could have done more with the money than we did. Glancing at the NASA budget over its history, I gather that

  • A key conclusion is that the US military should purchase more commercial space products. In the overall economy, government contribution to GDP is something like 20%. In space-related industry, it is more like 50%.

    If somehow we could instantly increase commercial activity in space so that it were 80% of the space-related GDP (that would be a factor of 4 increase in private space GDP contribution), that not only would result in a huge increase in global economic activity in space, but also at least 1% inc
    • While there is certainly a distinction to be made in structure and style between the US and countries with partial or total state ownership of launch businesses, I have to wonder how much is mere distinction and how much is actual difference...

      A company's formal level of "privateness" is defined according to its ownership; but its de facto level of "privateness" is really a function of who owns it, and who it depends on for its business, and the process by which is solicits that business. A state-owned c
      • by khallow (566160)

        A privately owned company whose primary, or only, customer is the state is dubiously private.

        I think ownership still matters because it gives privately owned businesses an additional degree of freedom.. It is worth noting that in the particular example of commercial launch companies, none have purely business with a particular government. So whether partly government owned or not, they all have private customers.

        • This is true to some extent, but fungi's point is interesting. Money spent in space is really due to three lines of business - communications satellites, monitor satellites (camera or multi mode) and whatever NASA and the Air Force are up to. Of the three areas, really only communications has a strong truly private sector. There are a couple of private imaging satellites but only a few.

          SpaceX and Bigelow may be able to toss a few rich tourists into LEO but I don't see that keeping much of the space i
          • by khallow (566160)

            This is true to some extent, but fungi's point is interesting. Money spent in space is really due to three lines of business - communications satellites, monitor satellites (camera or multi mode) and whatever NASA and the Air Force are up to. Of the three areas, really only communications has a strong truly private sector. There are a couple of private imaging satellites but only a few.

            First, communication satellites covers a lot of ground. You have satellite TV, internet, phone systems, etc, Several of these systems use or plan to use dozens of satellites. Commercial imaging satellites are a growing business. Where the market is a "few" now, it was "none" ten years ago.

            SpaceX and Bigelow may be able to toss a few rich tourists into LEO but I don't see that keeping much of the space infrastructure busy - the money just isn't there.

            Global tourism is on the order of a trillion dollars per year. The money is there. And once you have a vehicle that can put tourists into space, it can be used for other purposes, such as putting workers or researchers int

            • Global tourism is on the order of a trillion dollars per year. The money is there. And once you have a vehicle that can put tourists into space, it can be used for other purposes, such as putting workers or researchers into space.

              Doing a quick search, I came up with a bunch of varying wild ass guestimates. Nobody was going to call it in the trillion dollar category, at least near term. Personally, I think that suborbital tourism flights would make enough money to keep them going, but purely tourism to LEO (as opposed to Moon / Mars / all sorts of neat stuff way in the future) using extent technologies (ie. no warp drive, no space elevator just stuff we can reasonably forsee using) isn't going to get you that far. There just aren

              • by khallow (566160)

                Nobody was going to call it in the trillion dollar category, at least near term.

                The point is that the previous poster was claiming "money just isn't there". But space tourism is an extension of a trillion dollar a year economic sector. Glancing around, I gather it's almost as big a sector as telecommunications. And we have considerable space-related investment from that.

                And once you have commercial infrastructure to fly people to LEO, you open the door to a lot of non-tourism activity that currently is out of reach of private enterprise and academia.

                Will there be interesting dest

              • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning.netzero@net> on Saturday February 05, 2011 @08:21PM (#35114812) Homepage Journal

                There certainly are enough billionaires building mega yachts [wikipedia.org] that have a price tag similar to a genuine spaceship, if put up by a private company like Bigelow Aerospace. It isn't nearly as unknown as you are saying and there are people who wouldn't mind grabbing some extra-terrestrial real estate for themselves in a provable way.

                The trillion dollars was in reference to the whole tourism industry, not space tourism, but the point is still there that there is a market for people wanting to get into space, and the number of people willing to pay at least a million dollars for the opportunity is a bit higher than you would think.

                The real advantage of space tourism is that it is one of the few areas of spaceflight where lower costs bring about a huge increase in revenue. Let me explain in perhaps another way:

                Communications and weather satellites are pretty rare things, and generally not too many of them are needed at any given time. As a result, they are big but expensive things costing billions of dollars to make. Ditto for "spy satellites" and even probes to other planets. For most of the existing "proven" markets for spaceflight, the "customers" are willing to pay a premium for getting into space, but generally not too many flights are necessary to get everything up. That is one of the reasons why spaceflight is so expensive, and has been stuck at about $10,000/kg (give or take) for almost 50 years. Any "competition" getting into the market mostly shoots themselves in the foot (like SpaceX) by grabbing market share, but once they start to land the big projects and have a flight tested piece of equipment, they start raising launch prices to meet the market of seldom flying rockets to LEO. Other companies go out of business, but essentially the price stays the same. These companies and government agencies have a pretty fixed budget for launches into space, and as long as it is a fraction of the price of the vehicle they are sending up, the cost of the launch itself is meaningless.

                Space tourism, on the other hand, responds very well with lower cost where a 50% drop in the price more than doubles the overall revenue received. That is the key thing here, and a missing ingredient in terms of spaceflight financial models. You might have a dozen potential astronauts at $20 million each going to LEO, but a thousand or more with a price of $2 million and hundreds of thousands of customers at $200,000 for the same trip (perhaps even more). Even at $200,000 each, the cost of paying for fuel and the crew is trivial compared to the costs of the vehicle itself. Fuel costs for spaceflight right now are so trivial that the cost of the press conference catering service is usually more on most launches. The ground crew is generally expensive because most of the time they are doing nothing but training.... not launching vehicle. If you change that equation, you can see the cost for access to orbit drop considerably and still make some serious money for those companies wanting to get involved. It can be done, but it takes rethinking the market.

                If you take an historical analogy, it cost on average about $3,000-$10,000 in order to buy a Conestoga Wagon with a couple of pair of oxen, some sheep, chickens, food, ammunition, and other supplies in order to cross the western plains in order to get to Oregon or California. Considering that an average laborer earned about a dollar a day, that represented about 10-15 years worth of life savings in order to get that kind of money together, or about 5 years worth of savings for a skilled tradesman. If you start to think in that fashion, with a "skilled worker" today earning about $100k/year, a $200k ticket to space is quite comparable to a trip across the great plains of America from a century and a half ago in terms of effort needed to make the trip. Sure, no 3rd world citizen is going to make a trip like that, but it is in the realm of an ordinary person in a 1st world country. Give those folk

        • I agree that the two are not identical. I just wanted to emphasize that "stateness" and "privateness" can come from either the ownership side or the customer base side(and, in practice, generally comes from a mixture of both) and that one has to be careful, because of that, to examine an an entity's "state" or "private" status along the lines of those broader considerations.

          There are also, neatly matching the Owner/Customer distinction, two distinct but often not that different ways in which a "state" an
          • by khallow (566160)
            It's also worth considering how things have changed. The first commercial launch vehicle business was Arianespace in 1980. Boeing and Lockheed Martin entered the field in the mid 80s. Orbital Sciences in the late 80s. In the 90s, Russia spun off several commercial space launch providers. Now we have SpaceX as well as several potential suborbital manned vehicles.

            There has been a steady trend from government only launch to the current level of mixed business with governments still being the dominant custom
      • by Teancum (67324)

        What wasn't said is how much of the activity of that company is dependent upon state spending and allocations from the head of state (or the appropriate top government authority over finances and fiscal appropriations) and how much of the spaceflight activity by that company comes from private sources.

        The real trick is to define and identify that private spaceflight activity, of which there is considerable now. Some countries like China clearly are almost completely "owned" by the government (actually by t

        • I wasn't really thinking in terms of a "state"/"federal" distinction; but a "state"/"private" one. If the customer is spending tax dollars, they are probably "state". If not, "private"...
          • by Teancum (67324)

            I get the point you were making, but I do think there should be a small but important distinction here: A government entity who has the fiat ability to create money can spend money and not care if there is any return on investment. State governments (as opposed to federal) generally do care when they spend money, especially for big ticket items like spaceports. They aren't doing that for vanity but to get something back for their voters or taxpayers. They also can't print their way out of a deficit but

            • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday February 05, 2011 @08:11PM (#35114738) Journal
              States, at least in the US context, certainly are subject to different financial constraints than is the federal government. There are some other differences as well. At least for stuff that can be stamped "national security" the feds have greater leverage over private sector actors: It is perfectly legal for Yoyodyne LLC. to say "Dear Florida, give us the land to build a spaceport, some cushy tax breaks, and exemption from certain local zoning restrictions, or we will take our precious, precious jobs to New Mexico". That is, in fact, entirely standard practice for corporations siting facilities. On the other hand, were Slaughtertek industries to say "Well, if you don't like the price of our proposed air-defense missile package, perhaps China will be more cooperative...", they would likely find themselves in legal hot water.

              This tends to create a countervailing pressure on state governments: As you say, even if they are willing to take the macroecomic consequences, they cannot print money and are generally limited in their ability to run debts. On the other hand, state governments are often much easier to play against one another in competition for the most generous public/private "partnerships". In non-defense industries, some of the same stuff happens nation to nation; but there are still barriers like language, tariffs, currencies, etc. that states either are powerless to erect(interstate commerce is federal, so state x can't impose a tariff on goods from state y) or that don't exist(all states use USD and have high concentrations of available native English speakers, say). Unfortunately, there is some evidence from empirical economic study that this countervailing pressure often ends up with state governments being made into what amounts to a corporate booty call. Governors just cannot resist the electoral value of cutting the ribbon at some new plant with some shiny new jobs for their constituents; but often end up paying out alarming sums in taxpayer money per job, and long-term retention(once the goodies run out) can be surprisingly low. Apparently, southern states have it particularly bad [reason.com]; but others are not immune(Municipalities that shell out to build stadiums for private sports teams are in a similar boat and that seems to be a universal vice...)

              This isn't just a US phenomenon: Euro-zone nations, because of comparatively low borders, often face some of the same problems and national governments generally are not exempt, though they have somewhat stronger tools to work with.
  • Nice to see they are rolling back to just being space police [thisnext.com] and the delivery arm of the military.

  • Please be advised that the Monroe Doctrine now applies to all commercially and/or militarily relevant earth orbits.

    Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
    • Manifest Destiny... we we're getting to the rest of the Solar System eventually.
    • by lennier (44736)

      Please be advised that the Monroe Doctrine

      I'm sorry sir, but I just don't see how the Spacecorps directive that "gentlemen prefer blondes" applies to polar-crossing Molniya orbits with a 63.5 degree inclina - oh, the other Monroe.

  • Department of Defense outlines concerns like protection from space junk and system security

    The People's Liberation Army is not amused. They released this in response to the Pentagon's announcement:

    The attack of subtext which is in accordance with these words of the Chinese government space plan does not stand! We militarize the space already, that is not the junk, we grasp and as for thing that we do not want obtaining the copy are excellent protection on West, vis-a-vis the old and honorable satellite. We answer this clear hostility hostilitaly.

  • by Third Position (1725934) on Saturday February 05, 2011 @05:37PM (#35113696)

    Considering that the DoD's budget makes NASA's look like a rounding error, getting the military involved in the space program must be warming the hearts of space buffs everywhere. One thing's for sure, the DoD never lacks for funding.

    • It will certainly increase the excitement for the amateur satellite spotting hobbyists. Attempting to work out the orbital trajectory and purpose of satellites that were never launched and don't exist, but if they did would comply with all relevant US treaty obligations, must be much more interesting than pointing your telescope at satellites that NASA is more than happy to have a chance to talk about...
    • Rumor is, once they realized just how deadly space is, they began development on a space gun. It's not a gun that shoots in space, but a weapon that actually *shoots space* as a projectile, exposing the target to the deadly cosmic rays, freezing temperatures, burning solar radiation and near-perfect vacuum of space. I could never pass a background check (I'm nuts), but I bought a prototype at a gun show.
    • by Nyeerrmm (940927) on Saturday February 05, 2011 @06:26PM (#35114074)

      DoD has always been intricately linked to NASA efforts. While, the separation of civilian and military space programs was an important policy decision by Eisenhower, it was never completely separated. Doing so, particularly at the infrastructure level, would have been unnecessarily expensive and inefficient.

      DoD launch requirements are the reason we have robust and fairly reliable EELV services, which are great for NASA as they insulate NASA's unmanned programs from the drama associated with the shuttle program, and give the manned program a good option for the future of the manned program. However, they're also responsible for the huge wings on the shuttle (USAF wanted cross-track landing capability for military operations), and the continued use of solid rocket motors for the shuttle (since this subsidizes military missile production). Sometimes its good, and sometimes its bad, but having military concerns involved in NASA is nothing new.

      What is new here is that DoD is getting behind the idea of encouraging competition and market-based reforms within the space-related portion of the defense industry. And this does warm my heart since these policies will enable a capable and flexible space program without Apollo-level funding.

      • by DerekLyons (302214) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (retawriaf)> on Sunday February 06, 2011 @06:55AM (#35117242) Homepage

        DoD launch requirements are the reason we have robust and fairly reliable EELV services, which are great for NASA as they insulate NASA's unmanned programs from the drama associated with the shuttle program, and give the manned program a good option for the future of the manned program. However, they're also responsible for the huge wings on the shuttle (USAF wanted cross-track landing capability for military operations), and the continued use of solid rocket motors for the shuttle (since this subsidizes military missile production).

        With regards to the DoD and the Shuttle - you're absolutely wrong on both points, you're doing nothing but repeating urban legends.
         
        If actually go back and study the evolution of the Shuttle - you'll find that wing steadily grew across the entire period. Why? Because wings allow greater cross track which allows for more re-entry and landing opportunities and greater abort margins. I.E. increased safety. Yeah, the DoD determined the final size and performance, but the difference between the DoD specs and NASA specs is much less than urban legend would have you believe.
         
        Same thing for the SRB's. Liquid boosters were taken off the table long before the DoD came onboard because of their great expense and fragility.

      • by tgd (2822)

        And in the last 30 years, much of the manned civilian space budget has been designed as a corporate welfare program to keep engineers at important defense contractors employed between DoD contracts.

        Thats how we ended up with a Space Station that provides virtually no value as compared to the massive amounts spent on it, and a Space Shuttle that continued flying primarily just to build the space station. One requires the other and the combination keeps a lot of people employed.

      • EELV was based on competition, so there is absolutely nothing new. The premise of EELV is that L-Mart and Boeing were suppose to do launches as services.
    • by houghi (78078)

      We already convinced them and the media that illegal aliens are terrorists. (TSA and such) Now all we need to do is convince them they are coming from Mars [youtube.com]. We are at the eve of war. [stlyrics.com]

    • They're also not very interested in sharing information, especially if it's useful.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      One thing's for sure, the DoD never lacks for funding.

      Yeah, tell that to my friend who was downsized from the shipyard in 'peace dividend' cutbacks in the early 90's. Or the friend who is only employed at the shipyard because she took a different job (with a pay cut) rather than being laid off. Or the friend who has been trying to cover three shifts with the personnel for two because of the interminable 'temporary hiring freeze'. Or the friend in a different shop who, because of the same 'freeze' has see

  • Here [youtube.com] is a video that shows what Lockheed Martin is doing about space junk.

  • by The Cosmist (1990578) on Saturday February 05, 2011 @06:49PM (#35114214) Homepage
    Given that two things drive human civilization above all others -- war and sex -- I have concluded that a new space race and space hotels offering the possibility of sex in zero g may be our best hopes of getting off this planet. The only other thing I can think of that could provide the right motivation is religion, which is why I'm in the process of founding a new cosmic religion to inspire new generations of cosmic missionaries to reach for the stars. See thecosmist.blogspot.com for more information.
  • Not allowing the military in space is annoying, I mean seriously. How are you going to defend the country without space sharks with freakin lasers attached to their heads?
  • by Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) on Saturday February 05, 2011 @07:21PM (#35114402)
    Planetes [wikipedia.org] is a manga (and anime adaptation) about people in the not-so-distant future who clean up space debris. It prides itself on its realism and plausibility. Along with the issue of space junk itself, it has quite a few things to say about military presence in space.

    I believe a comment about Planetes is required by law in any article that mentions space junk.
    • I've never heard of this anime before. I'm definitely going to have to check this one out. Thanks for the recommendation.
  • by damburger (981828) on Sunday February 06, 2011 @03:32AM (#35116684)

    Random, often small, bits of metal flying around LEO are a hazard, so you want to get rid of them. The military kindly offers to develop a way to track and bring them down, whilst conveniently developing the capability to do the same to enemy ICBMs, re-entry vehicles, satellites etc..

    I think the US wants to control all human access to space, tbh. The Russians and the Chinese will have to ask for 'clearance' to launch anything and won't be allowed to do military stuff up there (whilst the US will be free to).

    Of course, there is the possibility that China gets there first.

  • Is space junk really a problem? I know it flies around at high speed so impact is really bad, but it just seems to me that the probably of hitting something would still be so miniscule considering how big the space is that it's just not really worth worrying about?

    • It's a very real concern. There are extensive regulations and procedures for having and disposing of assets in orbit. When you put something into space, you can't just choose any old path. Orbital trajectories, especially geosynchronous ones, are highly valued and some missions require very specific flight paths. If a unit becomes unresponsive in a critical orbit for a communications network, the entire system cannot as easily adjust it flight path because now there's a new hazard there.

      Right now, the
    • My other car is space junk.

      It get many more miles per galleon.

  • by Hasai (131313)
    "The NSSS document emphasizes the Obama administration's desire to protect US space assets and to further commercialize space but also to ensure that the US and international partners have unfettered access to outer space." And yet, year after year, the politicians go after NASA's budget. Is it really any wonder the Pentagon's space projects look like the proverbial big fish in a constantly shrinking pond? America is fast becoming the Portugal of the Space Age.
    • by lennier (44736)

      America is fast becoming the Portugal of the Space Age.

      We choose to go to the moon!
      We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things *,
      because, um... ... hey, a shiny thing! What was I saying?

      * 'Doing' is hereinafter defined as 'blowing up real good'. 'The other things' include but are not limited to: Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Panama, Challenger, Nicaragua, the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Columbia, Iraq, subprime mortgages, and spam.

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