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Space NASA

Air Force Space Fence Being Shut Down 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the to-be-replaced-with-space-moat dept.
New submitter meglon writes "NASA will lose access to important real-time information on tracking orbital debris if the order of Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, is carried out. The Space Fence, the only monitoring system of its kind, will cease to function on October 1st. 'Deployed in the 1960s, the VHF Space Fence includes three transmitter sites and six receiving stations. It is responsible for approximately 40 percent of all observations performed by the Air Force-run Space Surveillance Network, which includes other ground-and space-based sensor assets, said Brian Weeden, technical adviser at the Secure World Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to space sustainability. ... A full-scale development contract for an updated version of the Space Fence had been expected in 2012 or early 2013, but on July 16, Shelton said the multibillion-dollar project is being held up due to a wide-ranging Pentagon review that includes major acquisition programs. The review is examining scenarios under which the Pentagon’s budget is cut by $150 billion, $250 billion and $500 billion during the next decade.'"
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Air Force Space Fence Being Shut Down

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  • Somebody needs to buy it and run it. How much would it cost?

  • Because countries who hate the United States would never throw things into space to try to harm Americans.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 09, 2013 @05:42PM (#44526489)

    You'd think that Republicans would be big proponents of the space fence. We need something to keep illegal aliens out.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I've never seen a brown alien, maybe that's why the don't care. So we need to give aliens minority status before Republicans decide they don't want them here, just wait until they find out they don't even know what Christianity is.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      You'd think that Republicans would be big proponents of the space fence. We need something to keep illegal aliens out.

      They're only in favor of keeping out illegal aliens who don't side with their policies (which paradoxically are to hate themselves and make everyone else's lives miserable.)

      If Ronald Reagan were still around he'd turn this thing into the next SDI and it'd be funded better than last one.

    • I imagine that seeing as many aliens would require something technologically advanced to make it to this planet, they'd be seen as a skilled worker, and as such, have no real problems getting in, save hiding their antennae / faking a heartbeat / learning to use the local currency.

  • It'll be done much cheaper and with only minor gaps in service, during which the chief overseer will be outside for a smoke or a natter on the mobile when Vlad Putin goes skydiving again and takes out a jet, which takes out a train, which takes out a factory, which takes out a utility pole, which takes out a school bus, which hits a motorcycle, which veers into a parking lot and hits the chief overseer, in the great granddaddy or unforeseen tragedies, for which the Pentagon will be blamed and blow up in the

  • by bhlowe (1803290) on Friday August 09, 2013 @05:48PM (#44526537)
    It has been replaced by a newer, more secret and much more expensive system that also functions as an interstellar surveillance system.
  • Well, at least we can still afford to defend against Brown People [dhs.gov].

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Friday August 09, 2013 @05:54PM (#44526593)

    The esteemed Gen. Shelton is playing politics. This is a standard trick. Whenever someone threatens or enacts budget cuts, politicians (and you don't get to be a general without being a politician) start shutting down things which may cost very little, but are highly noticeable or annoying. Obviously this demonstrates how catastrophic it would be to have your budget cut.

    • by Deadstick (535032)

      It's called the Washington Monument ploy.

      • by timeOday (582209) on Friday August 09, 2013 @06:13PM (#44526735)
        On the other hand it is fanciful to imagine that endless amounts of funding can be cut from "nothing in particular."
        • Washington math:

          Actual 2013 spending: $3 trillion
          Desired 2014 spending: $3.5 trillion
          Actual 2014 spending: $3.3 trillion

          Bottom line, human math: $300 billion increase
          Bottom line, Washington / Democrat math: $200 billion "cut"
          • by bosef1 (208943) on Friday August 09, 2013 @11:56PM (#44528567)

            Grow up. If we don't budget for inflation, things are going to suck even more when we get halfway through the fiscal year and realize we don't have the money to get make it to the end. This has nothing to with being a Republican or Democrat and everything with actually trying to plan a project and deliver something to the taxpayer. I realize most households don't have to worry about this on a yearly basis, but both government and big business must if they don't want to fail.

            Now if you want to discuss whether it's in our long term national interest to print so much money that year-to-year inflationary growth is something we have to monitor in our budget process, fine. Or if you have thoughts on how to responsibly reduce government services without gutting either our social welfare or military programs (or both), please share. We need some good ideas, 'cause those idiots up on the Hill seem stumped. But just because you don't like inflation doesn't mean you can live in a fantasy land where it doesn't exist.

            • by khallow (566160)

              Or if you have thoughts on how to responsibly reduce government services without gutting either our social welfare or military programs (or both), please share.

              Well, I have thoughts on responsibly reducing governments services which require as a precondition some gutting of both social welfare and military programs.

            • we wouldn't have to "budget for inflation" if we weren't creating it in the first place....

              The Fed's inflation target is 2% [wsj.com]. Not their "upper limit" target. That's the point that they would like it to be. Ever year, someone is extracting 2% of the value of all the savings in the country, on purpose.

              Also, 2% of $3 trillion is $60 billion, not $500 million..

            • Are you seriously saying that the federal budget increase of 24% from 2008 to 2011 was to keep up with INFLATION, which was 4%? Government growth is out of control and inflation is not any significant factor. There are no cuts there, not

              The President proposes to spend $3.8 trillion in 2014, an increase of 10% over 2012. Inflation was 4%. Explain to me again how a 6% increase after inflation is a massive cut?
              • by dywolf (2673597)

                2012 proposal was 3.7. 10% of that is 0.37. the 2013 proposal is 3.8, an increase of only 0.1, or 2.7% (not 10%). For funsies, 2011 was also 3.8, and 2010 was 3.6. By your math I guess that's a 20% increase, not 5.6% ?

                also, nice topic shift / straw man. you were talking about one specific proposal, and not you shifted to a totally different topic to try and construct an argument against the original statement?

                wake me when you decide to start dealing with reality.

          • by dywolf (2673597)

            we've debunked this BS from you several times already.
            short version is this: you're an idiot and dont know what you're talking about

        • by Deadstick (535032)

          Of course -- but the head of a government organization isn't interested in how much gets cut. He's interested in how much gets cut from his organization. His solution will be "cut it from those guys down the hall."

          • by timeOday (582209)
            Which is unlike where else? Everybody makes the case for their own sphere of responsibility and then somebody higher up weighs their inputs and then sets priorities. I don't see how else it could or should work, especially given the tendency for each person to see whatever they are working as the most important.
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      The esteemed Gen. Shelton is playing politics. This is a standard trick. Whenever someone threatens or enacts budget cuts, politicians (and you don't get to be a general without being a politician) start shutting down things which may cost very little, but are highly noticeable or annoying. Obviously this demonstrates how catastrophic it would be to have your budget cut.

      It's the old, "Don't make me shot this dog!" trick and as you say, very effective, but only where there is sufficient sentiment for the welfare of the dog or the welfare of the companies which look after the dog on the taxpayer's ticket.

    • by djupedal (584558)
      He's just ticked because the Chinese have a space-laser that can bring things down and he doesn't.
    • by Seumas (6865)

      And by "cuts" you mean "a reduction in the initially projected growth". That brilliant government scam where planning to increase a budget by 20% but then only increasing it by 10% counts as a 10% (or 50%, depending on how you phrase it!) "spending/budget cut".

      Anyway, the defense budget is something along the lines of at least $700,000,000,000.00 (700-billion) per year. That is $7,000,000,000,000.00 (trillion) over the next decade. Cutting the budget by $15b/yr to even $50b/yr is fucking meaningless, even i

    • by ISoldat53 (977164)
      DUCK!
    • Remember what happened to it: instead of upgrading it to provide near-GNSS accuracy, they killed it, eliminating the only terrestrial nav/pos system outside of major airports and air traffic lanes. If we have another Carrington-size solar event or someone decides to deploy their satellite-killer missles/satellites/sharks-with-lasers/whatever, WE HAVE NO SAFETY NET for nav/pos as well as network synchronization!

      They've already proven once they're willing to sacrifice the country's safety against outside for

      • As no country wishes to trust another to run their vital satnav, we're going to end up with at least three of them up there: GPS, the EU's Galileo system and Russia's GLONASS. I wouldn't be surprised if China wants one at some point too. At least there is some redundency.

    • by Zorpheus (857617)
      Question from outside the US: Why doesn't that get him fired, or warned at least?
    • I liked how Thomas Sowell recently described it. Imagine a government agency which has two functions. Making statues of Benedict Arnold, and giving children life-saving vaccines. You cut their budget 50%. Obviously, they stop providing vaccines. Why? Because that's the part for which it will be easier to get funding restored.

  • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Friday August 09, 2013 @05:59PM (#44526639)

    This is exactly the sort of thing government is for. It's not like I can set up a radar transmitter in my back yard and sell the data on the open market. I'm not allowed to use that spectrum, and it's blindingly obvious that if I were, so would everybody else, and the spectrum would rapidly become useless to everybody.

    What's the alternative? Sell it to SpaceX? Then make NASA buy access to the data? And Lockheed. And Boeing. And Raytheon. And Virgin Galactic. And Blue Origin.

    But we all know it wouldn't go that way. Lockheed or Boeing would lobby successfully to get to buy it, then charge everybody else on the list for access to the data. And refuse to sell data to SpaceX at all.

    Three transmitters and six receivers costing billions is more than a little absurd, but the job does need doing, and needs doing in a fashion that doesn't set up a wholly inappropriate profit motive and an even more inappropriate opportunity to be anti-competitive. Having said that... Who runs those stations now? Wanna bet it's already Lockheed or Boeing or Raytheon? That'd be why it costs billions instead of the tens of millions it should cost. The wholly inappropriate cost-plus contract with profit motive is already in place. Now all we need is the anti-competitiveness to go with it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If everybody was using that spectrum, it would become useless temporarily. But then people would be incentivized to innovate in the area, and over time we'd advance the state of the art.

      Remember, there is no such thing as "interference" unless the emissions are coherent. Electromagnetic coherence doesn't happen unless you try really, really hard. So the only rule you truly need is to not be malicious.

      WiFi and similar open spectrum uses have advanced state-of-the-art radio technology substantially faster tha

      • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Friday August 09, 2013 @08:00PM (#44527437)

        people would be incentivized to innovate in the area, and over time we'd advance the state of the art

        Innovation in something like this is useless without cooperation (good luck with that) or regulation.

        WiFi and similar open spectrum uses have advanced state-of-the-art radio technology substantially faster than all the prior, protected spectrum uses.

        WiFi runs on the ISM bands, and they're highly regulated, not some sort of Wild West in the aether that you suggest. The ISM bands have limits on transmit power, dwell time for frequency hopping, spreading for CDMA or OFDMA, etc.

        Remember, there is no such thing as "interference" unless the emissions are coherent. Electromagnetic coherence doesn't happen unless you try really, really hard.

        Generating a coherent signal in RF or microwave bands is the easiest thing in the world, it's called a sine wave.

        So the only rule you truly need is to not be malicious.

        Right, who would maliciously interfere with a system that has defense applications.

        Worried about an "arms war" on power output? Good! All the more incentive to create more sensitive receivers, or to advance coding theory.

        More sensitive receivers are the last thing you need when dealing with interference. As for coding theory, we're already pretty close to Shannon's limit. BTW, the space fence has a 768kW EIRP transmitter. Talk about a serious entry into the "arms war". You also need that kind of power for what they're doing. We're not talking about a WiFi reaching 100 feet.

        Do we restrict the number of washer machine detergents that are allowed to be sold commercially, lest "interference" with competitors make the market in detergent too difficult to sustain?

        My washing machine doesn't interfere with my neighbor's washing machine. My 10kW transmitter might interfere with his reception.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Remember, there is no such thing as "interference" unless the emissions are coherent. Electromagnetic coherence doesn't happen unless you try really, really hard. So the only rule you truly need is to not be malicious.

        When you get out of the basement, you should consider taking a signal processing class, kid. What you are suggesting is like saying you don't need to drive in those silly "lanes" on the highway, because evolution will quickly cause new drivers to be born with faster reflexes.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There a plenty of systems that are tracking satellites and debris in space.
      NORAD is doing exactly that, and even more: NORAD satellites data is free to access.

      http://www.celestrak.com/NORAD/elements/

  • If the defense budget is slashed, programs like this are first. God forbid we stop building drones fa18s and other killing machines. Of course right now I am at a country (trace adkins) concert with my girl, most people here think we should kill more terrists and this country is the shiznot. The chickfila right wing gay hating food truck has the longest line. This country deserves someone like chine to come in and really 'tea bag' something.
    • Well, they would be. Remember, the military's primary objective is destruction of the enemy...and that's why they are the military, that's what militaries do. It's their first and last mission, so to speak.

      The problem, obviously, is that between widespread corruption elsewhere, and possibly inside the various military / manufacturing areas, we're looking at not being able to buy basic items at some point in the future (as per projections). Basic items that the populace and military need to be happy, or at l

    • by khallow (566160)

      Of course right now I am at a country (trace adkins) concert with my girl, most people here think we should kill more terrists and this country is the shiznot.

      I find it interesting how much of human society is about getting into women's pants, particular the infamous display of mating status behavior. Here, we have a human male whining about terrists, patriotism, and gay hating pieces of chicken because he doesn't perceive those things as worthy status symbols. But he's still there because his girl is.

      And of course, he has to tell us how much he's suffering at this moment rather than just stay on topic. Good luck on the girl.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If they shut it down we ham radio geeks will no longer be able to monitor the space fence signal and see the space debris and UFO orbiting over us. The ISS could also be in danger from surprise debris objects. Keep it operational, please! See my space fence object monitor captures at SATWATCH.ORG Thanks Mike

    • by vlpronj (1345627)
      I'm glad you monitor it. But that reveals it's true nature: not a fence, but a "webcam". Anything we see on it, that will affect a large number of people, we have little to no options. Calling it a fence is a feel-good tactic, implying it will keep the space debris, UFOs, and illegal green aliens out. It, on it's own, just lets us know when something is coming to our door. The big fear that would have many people clamoring to keep it, a large asteroid heading for earth, has no viable plans ready to go. A w
  • The last time an American air defense system was deliberately shut down (by the dick Cheney), the false flag 9/11 occured, now, another air defense system is being shut down. Why? What's out there coming our way that the scum power elite don't want us to know?

There is no opinion so absurd that some philosopher will not express it. -- Marcus Tullius Cicero, "Ad familiares"

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