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Next Major War in Space? 805

An anonymous reader writes "A US Northern Command general thinks that with US and international military dependence on space assets (such as GPS, eyes in the sky, communications), the next major conflict will occur in the heavens. He acknowledged that the US wants to keep space peaceful, but that can't last forever, and potential threats might not care, anyway. Yes, China's recent success (or what we heard from the military secrecy) relates to this, but he also said he's not implying China is a threat, or will be."
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Next Major War in Space?

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  • by GTRacer ( 234395 )
    Isn't V'ger already out there? Shouldn't we prepare for the inevitable attack? I know I don't want my grandkids waking up and finding out V'ger is back, pissed, and sporting a new plaque: AYBABTU

    - Trek II is still the best

  • Just because a country can't send people into space does not mean that they will not be a space threat.

    Satellite seeking missles could easily take down our communications and GPS systems. Multiple different countries now have the ability to buy or launch satellite systems directly into space.

    China isn't the only player involved here.

    This is why the USA should continue to pour money into our space program--not just for research, but for security.

  • A US Northern Command general thinks that with US and international military dependence on space assets (such as GPS, eyes in the sky, communications), the next major conflict will occur in the heavens. He acknowledged that the US wants to keep space peaceful, but that can't last forever, and potential threats might not care, anyway.

    Sounds like someone(possibly the one person who watched Moonraker) just trying to find new ways to justify their existence and even greater military spending.

  • by Hittite Creosote ( 535397 ) on Friday October 17, 2003 @09:02AM (#7238647)
    From the article, it looks like the general is just suggesting that at some point, some adversary may decide to attack US satellites. I mean, it's no surprise that they would - if your enemy in war has an advantage and you could take that advantage away from them, you would. It's just that, so far, the US hasn't got into a shooting war with a country that could attack this capability. But blowing up a few satellites hardly constitutes a 'major' war, merely an important part of it.
    • In GW1 a lot of fuss was made about an Iraqi super gun. This was a long barrel fixed to a mountain. It had a fixed trajectory and would always fire at the same place when made. The powers that be (our beloved propaganda machine) told us that, with this gun, they could launch waves of attacks at Israel.

      This was rubbish because once the first incoming arrives the radar defence system is able to work out the launch location and it is destroyed. This is why the scud missile system was favoured as it is mob
      • The super gun was developed originally to take out satellite systems.

        depends on which direction it was pointed. if the gun was pointed in the direction of Israel (west-ish), it would do no good as a means for getting something into orbit, as you'd be firing against the rotation of the earth. that's why rockets etc are always launched to go with the rotation, as it makes it *way* easier to get it up. i can't imagine what engineer would come up with that as a means to get anything close to orbit.

    • Quite right - taking out satellites is an act of war not a war in itself. Huge difference. They make it sound like we're going to have a fleet of fighter shuttles and astronauts with ray-guns, when in fact it would just be a tactical move to knock out our communications and surveillance before or during a standard ground war.
    • Yeah, but an attack on the satellite would, in all likelihood, presage some further assault on planetside assets.

      Personally, I just think it's pretty cool we can use terms like "planetside assets" with a straight face nowadays. :)

    • Intelligence (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cgenman ( 325138 )
      As far as I can tell, our satellites are useful for A: GPS recievers, which can be jammed more cheaply on the ground B: Communications, which can be jammed more cheaply on the ground... and would take out their own comm satellites and C: Intelligence satellites, which are in high geosynchronous orbit.

      If someone decided to attack satellites in their area, the result would look less like a war (with two sides firing), and more like someone shooting at passing cars on the highway. By treaty, satellites have
      • Yes you can Jam GPS from the ground. However you cannot do it without announcing exactly where you jammer is. It is trivial for the military to launch a bomb at all your jammers, and solve the problem. Further, jammers have a limited range (how limited depends on power...) so by turning on a jammer you announce that there is some reason to jam that area, focusing attention on the area. You can assume some decoys, but jammers still announce something. Directional antennas are also of some use. Ground ba

  • We would literally become prisoners on our own planet with tons of debris flying everywhere from destroyed satellites...

    Of course we as people have the ability to think and make rational choices... let's hope this holds true.
  • The US military has been looking towards a space-based war for years. They certainly don't have space "fighters" yet, but things like the ASAT (Anti-SATellite) missile that was developed in the mid-80's shows what they have in mind. It was a missile, able to be fired from an F-15, that could knock down a low-earth-orbit war IS coming.
    • Any satelitte that could be hit by the ASAT would have to be in a very low orbit. Typically only spy satellites use this type of orbit. The weather satellites are safe.
    • I cant find the relevant article, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they found that our Comrades were far ahead of US. They apparently had tested laser based satellite/missile destruction systems etc. US was following the same path (Star wars ?), just that they were a few years behind the Soviests.
      So you probably dont really need a rocket to bring down a satellite.And laser based communication was used to talk to the moon mission, so the improvement required is only to reduce the cone angle slig
      • An aircraft launched missile has the advantage of being where you want it, when you want it.

        Assuming the target is in low enough orbit, and fighter jet launching a missile can hit it in any orbit. A land based laser system has to wait until it is overhead.

        The F-15 based ASAT system was not merely a proposal, but a developed and launch tested system.

        Acquire the target, zoom up to about 80,000, launch. The missile takes over from there.

        Within a few hours, you can hit a LEO sat in any orbital inclination
        • I presume that they would mainly be interested in knocking out the spy satellites that *are* overhead, because obviously they will be the ones that are spying on you.
        • LEO satellites have a time perioed of a few hours, so they would come overhead every hour or two. So I dont think time is a big problem, I am sure you can aim a laser in less time than an aircraft takes to climb from 30,00 feet (i think F15 should normally fly at this altitude?) to 80,000 feet.

          And with an aircraft, you have to worry about having a plane constantly in air, backup planes , inflight refuelling etc. With a laser, you just have a few ground stations automatically tracking all your satellites a
    • space war IS coming.

      Actually Space War [] was released in 1962.

  • by Psiren ( 6145 )
    Perhaps instead of finding ways to fight wars in space, they should spend more time trying to find ways to ensure peace down here. Yeah, I know, idealistic crap. Still, it does scare me how little regard some people have for their fellow humans.
    • Still, it does scare me how little regard some people have for their fellow humans.

      I'm sure the general have very high regard of his fellow citizens of the USA. He would gladly sacrifice his life for others, just like many terrorists would. They're not so different as they love to believe. This is a problem of identification. When people only identify with their own nationality, religion or other group identification, conflicts arise.

      Instead, we should start identifying with every human being and all liv
  • OSQ (Score:5, Funny)

    by kippy ( 416183 ) on Friday October 17, 2003 @09:07AM (#7238696)
    The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea.
    They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall
    mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by
    small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is
    clear: To build and maintain those robots. Thank you.
  • Schizophrenia (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Friday October 17, 2003 @09:10AM (#7238718)
    That guy sounds like he suffers from Schizophrenia:

    There's going to be a big war in space soon! Huge!

    Not that the USA is going to start the war, on no. We're peaceful people.

    But of course, that can't last forever! We might not be able to prevent ourselves starting a war soon.

    But we're not war-like here in the USA, not at all.

    But those damn Chinese getting into space, that might start a war, oh yes! We'll be ready for them!

    I'm not implying that the Chinese are a threat or anything, oh no!

    But they might be in the future...

    No they won't! I'm not implying that!

  • Everyone knows that you need to have giant robots to have a proper war in space.

    Where are our giant robots?

    We have a gap in giant robot development!
  • Im not worried, we'll win. ...Use the force, NASA.

  • the art of war (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cethiesus ( 164785 ) <> on Friday October 17, 2003 @09:14AM (#7238758) Homepage Journal
    the US wants to keep space peaceful, but that can't last forever

    Once you prepare for war, you've already started the war.
  • Next Major War in Space?
    Space set to become war zone, warns US General.

    Almost like a 2200 Star Trek headline, except that we should be fighting off the enemies of the confederation.

    Well...atleast the Romuluns'll be happy about this.


  • "The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield, but in space (or possibly on the top of a very high mountain), and by robots instead of soldiers. And as you go forward, always remember your duty - to build and maintain these robots!"
  • by mblase ( 200735 ) on Friday October 17, 2003 @09:19AM (#7238809)
    ...what military threat does China possess? They're a major economic ally now, and they only seem to wave their swords when Hong Kong or Taiwan threatens independence or something.

    There was a greater threat of space combat with the Soviets when the Cold War was on, and that obviously never materialized. I'm sure this is just another obvious tactic to get more military funding from an already-overstretched federal government.
    • Gen. Xiong is most famous for his threat to incinerate Los Angeles with nuclear destruction if the United States should come to the aid of democratic Taiwan. That's of interest to the entire Congress, given the overwhelming support for the Taiwan security legislation now making its way through the House. It's only heightened by the dramatic demonstration of mobile ICBMs at the 50th anniversary of communism in China. With the DF-31 and DF-41 together capable of reaching any city in America, his threat no lo
      • But no worries now; L.A. has Arnold to save them. I don't know if he'll be able to balance the budget, but salvation from nuclear destruction seems to be a strong point on his resume... (ok ignore T3) =)
    • What you've said may be true. However, preparedness is about planning for what could happen, no matter how unlikely...
    • China is in a very strong position -- over the next couple of decades they will became a first rate modern nation; the social, political and economic reforms China is undergoing are similar to the ones Russia underwent -- only China's getting them right where Russia got them wrong. The West pressured Russia for democratic reforms before they were socially and economically able to cope with them, China has been doing it the other way round and although it's slow in adopting the legislative and human rights
    • "...what military threat does China possess?"

      That's incredibly short-sighted []. We're talking about a country that can put over a billion people towards a war time effort that is aggressively updating it's military. We're also talking about the country that led the invasions of Korea and Vietnam and the country with an outstandingly bad human rights record [] for the better half of a century.

      I know the strategy is to introduce capitalism by trade, eventially destabilizing a communistic system, but I'm not so
  • He acknowledged that the US wants to keep space peaceful, but that can't last forever, and potential threats might not care, anyway.
    Is it fair to say that, as a species, we kinda suck? :-(
  • This somewhat seems to me as job-creation from the military. Let's scare ppl so we'll get tons of money to spend in the next years...

    This being said, I wonder if there should not be something as acceptable privacy. From what is said in the article, the general fears that countries might attack the US satelites in orbit.

    Oh heck. could you blame them? Consider a country like, yes, China or even some other (Arab (?), they have money enough and are pissed) country knowing that at any time some satelites are o
  • by arvindn ( 542080 ) on Friday October 17, 2003 @09:23AM (#7238837) Homepage Journal
    The tragedy of the commons is perhaps best illustrated with space as the example. That beautiful sky above you has become a giant dumping yard for all kinds of debris from satellites, making earth orbit increasingly hazardous. You might think that a few chunks of metal in the vastness of space are insignificant, but keep in mind that even a small fleck of paint, traveling at extremely high velocities, can cause significant damage.

    All this would be of no concern if it were not for the Kellser Effect. Basically, when two pieces of debris collide, they break up into several more pieces of debris, which inturn increases the rate of collisions... What's happening right now is an exponential growth in the number of pieces of junk out there (note again that a decrease in the size does not lead to a corresponding decrease in its harmfulness), threatning to make orbit all but impossible within the next couple of decades.

    Its bad enough as it is, and we need to think of a way to solve the problem real fast. If space turns into anything remotely resembling a "battleground", space will be a very, very different place from what it is now. Perhaps it will even mean the end of the space age.

    • Its bad enough as it is, and we need to think of a way to solve the problem real fast.

      Wasn't Aerogel used to gather up small bits of cometary debris or something? Maybe a sufficiently large quantity of the stuff could be used as an orbital vacuum cleaner (wait for the Spaceballs jokes) to clean up a chunk of LEO before being deorbited again. It's light, so the launch costs would be low, but the bulk might be a problem unless you can create the stuff in orbit. Of course, if we had our space elevator al

    • note again that a decrease in the size does not lead to a corresponding decrease in its harmfulness

      It may not eliminate the harmfulness, but surely it decreases correspondingly, right? After all p=mv if I remember high school physics correctly. You wouldn't care about an atom smashing into the space shuttle. If I understand the Kessler Effect correctly from your description, eventually (for sufficiently long values of eventually) all the particles in orbit will be reduced to non-harmful sizes.
  • The more high-tech the US/NATO becomes the more primitive it's opponents. The Chinese are becoming more like their merchantile past, not the Giant Red Horde. What interest do they have in fighting the West when they're making so much money with them?

    So that only leaves a handful of states (and the last one to try to do a Stand Up Fight against the US isn't in power anymore) and an odd dozen asymmetric foes (terrorist groups, drug cartels, etc).

    Remember what the big lesson was after 9-11? Too much relia
  • Ronald Reagan wanted to maintain the upper hand in space and have a defense against enemy missles, satellites, etc.

    Widely criticised for his "Star Wars" initive, it never really got off the ground (pardon the pun)

    But RR was a wise man, able to see much further than the petty people that blocked his efforts at securing America. He was able to take the long view (much like the Chinese gov't does) and that was why he will always be my favourite president.
  • apparently this General has too much time on his hands and is conjuring up the good old days of space race, arms race, and cold war in general.
  • So a US General, whose livelihood depends on the prospect or actuality of war, thinks that space will be a battleground at some point "in the next 20 years." OMG! It's so hard to believe he said that.

    I bet if you asked, you could find a prominent US businessman who thinks space will become the next great financial frontier at some unspecified point "in the next 20 years," too.

    And I would even go so far as to say a scientist thinks outer space will become the next focus of scientific inquiry "in the ne

  • Chalmers Johnson says in his new book: "The Sorrows of Empire : Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic" that from 2004 on the U.S. is going to start either to sabotage or to destroy satellites from other nations. This book is not out yet.
  • The Star Wars program is no joke.... The Pentagon is so sure that whomever controls space will control the Earth and beyond that they are feverishly working to deploy anti-satellite weapons (ASAT's) that will enable the U.S. to knock out competitors "eyes in the sky" during times of hostilities. As the Space Command says in their slick brochure Vision for 2020, "Control of space is the ability to assure access to space, freedom of operations within the space medium, and an ability to deny others the use o
  • So now as I'm leavin'

    I'm weary as Hell
    The confusion I'm feelin'
    Ain't no tongue can tell
    The words fill my head
    And fall to the floor
    If God's on our side
    He'll stop the next war.

    -- Bob Dylan (1963)


    According to this article China launched a satellite into space and use a camera while in orbit that could distinguish things as small as 5 ft. wide.

    I don't know how much I believe it but the US says that China will use space to cripple our defenses so they can launch a strike against Taiwan.

  • Don't put military assets in the sky, and no one will have a reason to wage war in space.
  • War is always about taking control of real estate. Nobody on earth owns any land on other planets yet, so what would be the point of fighting in space?
  • There's already enough debris orbiting the Earth to be a significant danger to manned space travel as it is. One good conflict up there could easily generate enough debris to make it all but impossible to put anything in orbit without it getting destroyed by colliding with a piece of debris, both moving at orbital velocities.

    Not to be too "doom and gloom", but we could find ourselves basically trapped on Earth until we find a way to clean up the mess.

  • I would think that the next major war would be fought *from* space, at least in the beginning.

    Without some form of orbital countermeasures, land based objectives would be sitting ducks for all kinds of mischief... rocks being dropped into the atmosphere, bioweapon packets launched from satellites, etc. etc.

    As conflicts go, (and this is just a personal observation), we seem to be stepping away from the larger powers at each other throats and returning to the tribal feuding or guerilla type conflicts.

  • by Doomdark ( 136619 ) on Friday October 17, 2003 @10:19AM (#7239426) Homepage Journal
    Why does Slashdot have to be part of fear-peddling media? Of course military is always coming up with new hypothetical threats, just as police does. It's their job to be wary of things, to serve and protect. But it'd be good for others to have perspective on what exactly they are talking about. Their opinions, fears, possibilities. Not certanties or even significant probabilities. And as to space wars, the ideas have been in sci-fi for decades.

    I'd strongly suggest people watch "Bowling for Columbine", for one point-of-view on fear mongering as part of the problem, reason, not just consequence.

    I remember pointing out (right after 9/11) how silly most fears regarding terrorists using atomic (and to a degree, biological and even chemical weapons is) are, and was told by n+1 people how wrong I was ("nobody thought an airplane would be used as..."). I've yet to see any credible threat from that direction, and hopefully won't see during my lifetime. I don't think that's a coincident, or just act of efficient prevention. Yet many readers here thought it'd be inevitable, would happen right away. Just like attack of killer bees, Y2K causing armageddon, red threat leading to slavery of human kind, and dozens of other low probability threat people just bought without thinking for themselves. And of course nowadays in USA, the all-encompassing replacement for red threat, the almighty terrorism.

    American journalists could do well to investigate terrorism in Europe (IRA, ETA, leftist terrorist groups in italy and germany, algerian and corsican-tied ones in french), to see how most of those terrorism waves come and go; how something awful that seems to be part of life may come to a complete halt (germany, late-70s, bader-mainhof); and finally how to, in the end of the day, get on with life. Not disregard dangers, but live with them, while working to get rid of them, if possible.

    Sometimes it's just feels that before USA has seen some phenomenon, it's like it never existed. "World has changed forever, nothing will ever be the same". I know it's just part of american cultrue; big words, lots of pompous declarations, hot air; quotes from movies trying act heroic... and still it bothers me; compared to dignified but low-key responses more common in other places, when faced with horrible things.
    That's why it'd be great to have better news services; without them, this introvertism regading other countries (while being very social, well mannered and likable within country) will continue to make USA xenophobic (as in fearing and distrusting other countries, and people living there; not as in racism towards different coloured americans).

    • I agree with your points about fear mongering...
      Just imagine how much resources we spend to "fight terrorism" and how little resources terrorists need to make us panic. By "fighting terrorism" on such a large scale, we're doing the very things that make terrorists win their battles: Hurt the economy of their enemy.

      >how silly most fears regarding terrorists using atomic (and to a degree, biological and even chemical weapons is) are.

      However, I have to disagree with that. Do you believe that a terrori
  • by poot_rootbeer ( 188613 ) on Friday October 17, 2003 @12:19PM (#7240580)

    In the vacuum of space, there are no explosions: no huge fireballs of combustible fuels, no thundering boom.

    Watching a space war on CNN would be DULL DULL DULL.

Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982