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Space United States

The United States Space Arsenal 297

ntmokey writes "When China tested a missile on its own satellite in January, the nation's aggressive statement immediately raised eyebrows among the world's other space-faring nations. Popular Mechanics looks at the implications of a conflict in space — including debris that could render space unusable for decades — and examines the United States' own space arsenal."
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The United States Space Arsenal

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  • sad but inevitable (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:08PM (#19671081) Journal
    Judging by how humanity acts on Earth it was a logical step to bring war to space as sad as that is. what happened was China took out one of their clunky near-dead weather satellite with a missile [kinetic warhead I believe] which basically tore the hell out of it with sheer speed and mass. They failed a few times before but by the rate their military spending is going it wont be long before they actually out pace us [if not already] this combined with their long standing rivalry with us on economic, political and cyberspace issues we very much need to watch this a lot closer than Iraq/war on terror because of the real implications of possible future conflict.
  • Re:Star Wars (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 2.7182 ( 819680 ) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:13PM (#19671109)
    What happened ? It worked. It broke the economy of the Soviet Union. Of course, the technology largely didn't work. Like the x-ray space weapon proposed by Edward Teller.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:13PM (#19671111)

    China shocked the world with its recent antisatellite missile test.
    What is so shocking about an obvious method of warfare? Did people really think that space could be a conflict free zone? Even if a country has signed treaties to ban use of such weapons, they still do it (or have the capability to do it within short notice after canceling their agreement).

    What -could- be considered shocking is that they'd litter their own skies with junk debris, thus making it harder for them (and everyone else) to use space in the future.
  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:18PM (#19671145) Homepage Journal
    Could also be the best thing that ever happens to mankind.

    In order to fight a war in space, you need a launch capability that is beyond what we have today.

    You need it to launch space stations that are bigger and stronger than the flimsy tin cans that we have in orbit now.

    All the arguments that have been presented for not putting nuclear reactors into space suddenly become irrelevant.. Nuclear propulsion will become a standard feature of spacecraft. Big fat military dollars would then be poured into research to develop better than nuclear propulsion systems, not to mention weapons.

    To fight a war in space you really need a working space-based economy. Which also happens to give you something to fight about: control of that economy. A working space-based economy is a necessity to colonization of the solar system - also something to fight over. Colonization of the solar system is essential to the survival of the species.

  • Re:Star Wars (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:20PM (#19671157)

    It worked. It broke the economy of the Soviet Union.
    What a convenient post-hoc rationalization for a monumental waste of money that is. I guess that may have accelerated the fall of the Soviet Union by a month or two, at a cost of billions, but I'll bet the ROI from giving Stingers to the Afghanis was at least a million times better. (Just imagine how things would be in Iraq now if the insurgents had more than RPGs and light machine guns to bring down our helicopters and airplanes).
  • USA tests (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:34PM (#19671275)
    so if china does it it's shocking, i wonder what it'd be called if you yanks did it
  • by imkonen ( 580619 ) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @10:47PM (#19671367)
    It's an interesting theory, but I think you're way too optimistic. It's an incredibly unstable situation, because combat in orbit involves almost no defensive options. There are no land formations to hide behind, and no air resistance to slow down projectiles, which is why satellites can be taken down without bothering to mount explosive warheads on the missiles (it's my understanding that is why they are called "kinetic kill vehicles"). Then all the debris created by space conflict becomes a danger to everyone's satellites. The result is that if the player with a satellite disadvantage has satkill technology, they can level the playing field and make it so nobody has any space capabilities. It doesn't help at all to be better at space combat than your opponent as long as your opponent is above a minimum technological threshold (which China is essentially at right now).
  • Re:Star Wars (Score:2, Insightful)

    by shiftless ( 410350 ) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @11:08PM (#19671475) Homepage
    That was a ploy used by Reagan to worry and bankrupt the Soviets. (It worked.)
  • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @11:15PM (#19671507) Journal
    WTF world are you on and what drugs have you been taking. My god, I haven't heard that much easily refutable bullshit in a generic Bush bash in a long time. Are you forgetting that the people your talking to have the internet and can look some thing up? Or that the economy isn't tanking, We have the capacity to deal with North Korea and Iran even with Iraq.

    We are in not more of a vulnerable position the we were before Iraq. We have more then half our military force free to do whatever if absolutely needed. Sure, we would need help from other countries, but even if they refused, we have weapons not even in the arena currently that would put an end to anything that threatening. Our goal in the cold war was to fight a world war on two fronts. We have scaled the military down a bit but not that much. We also had a goal that is being realized even more today were we could fight the war without risk to solders.

    Now, don't take what is happening in Iraq to mean it would happen anywhere else. The only Reason we aren't waisting Iraq is because we are trying to save it. If another country starts something, we aren't going to be worried about saving it. We won't be worried about rebuilding it. We won't be worried about much of anything outside not losing at that point in time. This means the big guns come out and we kick some ass. You act like we are defenseless. We aren't, we aren't even close. So go pull your little skirt up over your head and cry somewhere else.

    Something to note, even if we disarmed the nuclear warheads and loaded conventional explosives, we have enough ICBMs to wipe Iran or N. Korea clean. Sure, we would have some get away, but it would be small enough and dispersed enough the police forces could deal with it.

    Life isn't all rosie with peaches and cream. But it isn't bad either. give it a break and just fucking look around man.
  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @11:22PM (#19671541) Homepage Journal
    Gah. You're talking about space warfare as if we have already tried it. The reason why it's so easy to knock out a satellite is because they are designed with no defensive capabilities. The reason why debris is such a hazard to spacecraft today is because they are made as light as possible to reduce launch costs. Why is it that people always equate changing the status quo with the sky falling. We can adapt.

  • Re:Star Wars (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mi ( 197448 ) <> on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @11:26PM (#19671573) Homepage Journal

    If you read the book, you'll see the fact-based analysis showing that the USSR was in serious trouble going into the 80's.

    Of course it was — just as Reagan was taking the office (in 1981). USSR's attempts to keep up the arms-race, including SDI — duly decried by the Soviet newspapers daily — helped kill it, instead of allowing it to survive (again) on higher oil prices and slave labor.

    Millions of people of the former USSR, myself included, have a lot to thank Ronald Reagan for. The fact, that various Commies (and Commie-sympathizers) still hate him, only adds to the guy's credits.

  • by Jarjarthejedi ( 996957 ) <> on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @11:37PM (#19671645) Journal
    "It's an incredibly unstable situation, because combat in orbit involves almost no defensive options"

    I'm sure someone said that about Sea Warfare once, and it was true until Aegis anti-missile and torpedo decoys were developed. Every battlefield has it's differences and there are many for which defending is difficult without technology. The only real area where you can hide behind things is land battles, and I don't think anyone would suggest that Sea and Air warfare 'Involve almost no defensive options' as there are possible options, they're just not natural to the terrain.

    Combat in orbit is no more unstable than combat in air, or combat at sea. The only difference is that the wreckage can remain in orbit. That seems at first to be a big deal however there are ways to deal with that, just as there are ways to deal with sat-kill vehicles. Combat in orbit will be no different than any other battlefield once countermeasures are deployed, I seem to recall an attitude of 'We shouldn't try to combatify air because of (list of reasons) which will inevitably make it a more dangerous and horrible place to fight and end humanity' which seems to be how many people treat space right now. As Fallout once said, "War. War never changes."
  • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <`gro.uaeb' `ta' `sirromj'> on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @11:42PM (#19671693)
    > Of course, it helped that the enemy that we faced was morally bankrupt
    > and couldn't have possibly won the cold war.

    Yup, but the genuis of RWR was in realizing that the way to defeat the Soviets was by breaking the taboo on SAYING that. Before Reagan 'all right thinking people' believed: (or were too afraid to disagree with in public)

    1. That socialism was the future.

    2. That the Cold War was either just a dick size contest between two 'great powers; equally bent on world domination' or just the death rattle of the West as we finally accepted the socialist future. Basically either a moral equivelence or the West as villian.

    Reagan was having none of that crap, he pronounced the Soviets as "The focus of evil in the modern world", "destined for the dustbin of history" and summed up the Cold Was simply as "We win, they lose."

    By actually saying these things it forced people to either accept it or argue against it. Because when the Cold War was just a dick size contest most of Europe could straddle the fence or even dangle their feet over the wall onto the Soviet side. But once Reagan called em 'Evil" those people had few choices. Argue that they weren't evil (a very hard argument to make) or admit it and say "yay evil!" Morally bankrupt people (the French come to mind) don't mind making a deal with the devil, so long as people don't KNOW they are making a deal with the devil, appearances matter.

    So yes, SDI, the defense buildup, the 600 ship navy, etc. helped financially bankrupt the Soviets. Arming the Afgans and causing the 'invincibility' of the Soviet military machine to come into question helped defeat the Soviets. But the biggest weapon was the Will & the Word. Ronald reagan's having the courage and clarity of moral vision to speak truth to power forced Evil to retreat.

    The current problem's solution is equally obvious.
  • Re:Star Wars (Score:2, Insightful)

    by salimma ( 115327 ) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @11:50PM (#19671741) Homepage Journal

    Star wars, the program not the movie, was short sighted and stupid

    is, not was. Remember the ABM interceptor tests where the target was only hit when they fitted a beacon on it? Forget about sifting through decoys, they had a hard time hitting even a single target.
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:08AM (#19671867) Journal
    Popular Mechanics looks at the implications of a conflict in space -- including debris that could render space unusable for decades

    If there is a conflict big enough to F-up space, I am sure that there will be far worse problems back home such that space junk would be the least of our worries.

  • Re:Star Wars (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Enlightenment ( 1073994 ) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:10AM (#19671873)

    Of course, it helped that the enemy that we faced was morally bankrupt and couldn't have possibly won the cold war.
    It frightens me that people actually associate "morally bankrupt" with "couldn't have possibly won." The two don't necessarily go together.
  • Re:Star Wars (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tftp ( 111690 ) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:27AM (#19672011) Homepage
    When they tried, it brought their creaky economy crashing down

    Your theory is fine, and your friends are entitled to their own views; however USSR never "tried" to make its own Star Wars hardware. USSR's ABM efforts were identical to USA's work and resulted in the ABM-limiting treaty that stood for decades, until Bush tore it up. The reason is that USSR's scientists did some calculations on a napkin and concluded, correctly, that it's impossible to build such a system at this time that would actually work (1000's US's missiles flying in and 100% intercept.) It's still impossible, decades later. Given the number of missiles that both camps had, the system indeed had to have very impressive reliability, or else it would be complete waste of money. So USSR never built one. After Reagan announced his SDI USSR just sent more money to shipyards and built a bunch more of nuclear submarines, that's it. After Bush's démarche Putin also did the same - ordered a bunch of warheads that make zigs and zags at reentry speed.

    And if you are interested in why the USSR fell, it's not even because of economy. It was bad, but there was no hunger yet. It might have been, though, if the USSR was allowed to rot some more. But it never happened, and "the people" in the street were as surprised with these developments as anyone in the West. The real reason is that when Gorbachev wanted to liberalize economy he accidentally liberalized the political life, and there were plenty of opportunists waiting and ready to insert themselves into the corridors of power. That's what they did, and that's where all the independent republics got their leaders from. Russia got Yeltsin, and that was not even the worst outcome. Gorbachev saw it happening but wasn't ready to defend the old way. For that he was briefly detained, and the conspirators tried to involve the army to put the toothpaste back; it did not work. So that's how it happened, and I did not even need to talk to anyone to offer you this overview.

  • Re:Star Wars (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:53AM (#19672173)
    You're a fool. Reagan's paranoid weaponization of space had nothing to do with the bankrupting of the Soviet Union, the price of oil did that. Thank the Islamofascists in Saudi Arabia for that. Republicans desperate to cover up the crimes of the Reagan Administration like to harp on the fact that the Soviet Union collapsed when he was slouching in the President's chair. The nominal effect "Star Wars" had on the Soviet Union really makes up for the death squads in Nicaragua, supporting Islamofascists in Afghanistan, and selling arms to the Islamic Republic of Iran, doesn't it?

    Is it a good thing that the Soviet Union collapsed? Of course, but now both sides have become authoritarian. The US sure loves freedom, don't they? Illegal invasions, wiretapping of everyone on the planet, kidnapping of anyone deemed an "enemy combatant," torture camps in Eastern Europe. I'm so glad the world is safely in the hands of the fascists that mouth platitudes about "Freedom and Democracy" instead of the fascists that mouth platitudes about "Equality."

    Enjoy the police state, it's coming to a country near you in the coming decade, if it isn't there already. The United States is already there.
  • by geekforhire ( 300937 ) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:54AM (#19672181)
    "Who's going to win? Whoever can stop playing pussyfoot and acknowledge the goal first, of course. My money is on the Chinese or Europeans."

    I think the Americans have already acknowledged this point and are moving to do something about it...unlike Europe. It will be China or USA. I don't see any European country being a factor. That ship sailed 100 years ago.
  • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @01:16AM (#19672283)

    Like what?
    Spy planes?

    Do you really want to give the Chinese another opportunity to dissect a surveillance aircraft? Or maybe we could fly 'em over Russian airspace... I'm sure Putin would love that.

    Perhaps I'm being overly snarky, but I don't really see any other good alternative to the existing network of spy satellites.

    If we ever get to the point where China is actually shooting down US spy satellites, I wouldn't worry about it much anyway, because we'd probably be in WW3.

  • Re:Star Wars (Score:3, Insightful)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @02:15AM (#19672535)

    The whole point was for it to look like something we just might be able to pull off so that the Soviet Union would have no choice but to try to copy it and bankrupt themselves in the process
    But of course both sides were playing that game: see for instance the (fictitious) missile gap [] that prompted an ICBM buildup by us (and therefore afterwards by them). Maybe we felt the need to "psych" the USSR with Star Wars (by wasting billions of dollars) because we fell for their ploy of appearing to be a worthy adversary, when in fact their economy was already circling the bowl. Of course this works out for certain parties on both sides; defense contractors get lots of money and the President gets an external enemy to rally the subjects. It's just like a couple of bullfrogs inflating themselves to scare off enemies and attract mates.

    The problem is, A) it's wasteful, and B) it's risky; brinksmanship can lead to actual conflict.

  • Re:Star Wars (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cryptoluddite ( 658517 ) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @02:17AM (#19672545)
    Yeah that might be true, but it sure seems convenient to me that there's this SDI to blame the fall of the soviet union on and make Reagan a hero. I mean come on, the Soviets were failing to keep up for a long time and if it was so obvious that it was bogus then they could have done a bogus copy that didn't work. So how would it bankrupt them again? Because they were too stupid to put on a dog and pony show instead of actually trying to build it? I mean do you really think the Soviets are so stupid.

    Maybe if somebody could post some actual evidence that this was the goal of it and that it was actually the reason the ussr fell, say quotes from the national archives and some reports with numbers.

    Time and isolation caught up with them. Reagan killing communism is just a wet dream some people have.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 28, 2007 @02:34AM (#19672633)
    > You do realise they weren't *actually* evil right? They just tried to do it a different way, and it didn't work out. Sure you see all the government oppression, propaganda posters, etc etc... No different to the US, just different people being oppressed and imprisoned, and different viewpoints being supressed.

    You've been living in post-9/11 America too long. Back in the 80s, at least within the borders of the Continental US, we really were pretty much the good guys. The Crown Jewels pretty much bear this out. We did some nasty stuff to a few hundred people within our borders; the Soviets did the same stuff to millions.

    Post-9/11 America, of course, totally different story. Andropov himself would have envied the surveillance state we ended up building. Putin's still a step ahead of us, but we've almost caught up. Makes me wonder who really won the cold war.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 28, 2007 @02:55AM (#19672727)
    Since I already modded a different section of the topic, I'm forced to reply anonymously. I was thinking of just modding you as troll, but that would be incorrect - you're just flat out wrong.

    The economy isn't tanking, but the overall population isn't benefiting. Median salary has increased by less than inflation in the last 5-6 years, while average salary has gone up. Employees are taking on more risks by having to pay larger health insurance premiums with larger deductibles. What does this mean? The wealthy are getting wealthier, the middle class is getting squeezed. Not the epitome of a tanking economy, but it ain't pretty either.

    We don't have the capability of dealing with another war. According to the generals of the Army Reserve, we are at a breaking point with the troops - essentially, we can't stretch the troops any thinner than we are doing now without significantly lowering the quality of the overall force. Another war can only be fought by withdrawing troops from Iraq, which would mean we're essentially giving up on Iraq. Furthermore, just nuking a place is not a proper response either. You've apparently forgotten the saying "War is just diplomacy with other means." Nuking another country would mean we'd essentially be pariahs for the foreseeable future. Is that the price you want to pay? I suspect you'll be like every other warhawk who is now clamoring for a troop return because the war isn't working: too stupid to see the consequences of your actions, but not afraid of blaming others for when the chickens come home to roost.

    We're not defenseless. But we're also incapable of dealing with a significant challenge in another country - not unless we just pull up shop and move the troops elsewhere. And don't forget that those troops have been redeployed at least once, and are probably on an 18 months tour right now. Life is indeed not bad. But if you think that we can do anything to Iran outside of diplomatic pressure, you're just as ignorant as Bush was when he ordered the invasion of Iraq. And the consequences would be similarly disastrous.
  • Reagan was also one of the most staunch supporters of the Polish Solidarnosë movement, leading to the end of Polish dictatorship. The Poles, today, are talking about a Mount Rushmore-like memorial to those who spearheaded the movement. Reagan is to be enshrined there as well.
    This had nothing to do with supporting the Polish Trade Union [] movement and everything to do with blocking Soviet influence [] in Poland. So please don't paint Reagan up as some altruistic leader. This ploy is exactly the reason that US troops face up against US weaponry and US trained militia in Afghanistan. Great policy!
  • Re:Hardly shocking (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LabRat ( 8054 ) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @04:21AM (#19673135)
    It wasn't shocking to me personally...but it was shocking to a lot of folks in the West who fancy themselves "experts" in the capabilities and motivations of the Chinese...including the authors of the article cited. The same pundits who think China is still a land of rice farmers and bicycles when it is in actuality becoming quite the economic and military powerhouse paid for in large part by the generosity (or stupidity?) of the completely insane trade policies between China and the U.S. Personally, I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner...technologically it's not that difficult for a nation that has already figured out ICBMs and, as I stated previously, such an accomplishment really only takes money and will since the rocket technology is well-known and suitable guidance systems are practically commodities these days. I think the timing was chosen to coincide with a time of American weakness around the usher in an era of "Here we are, take notice" by the Chinese.

    In the end, it's more shocking that it is shocking to anyone...shows the level of ignorance that permeates the folks whose job it is to actually know about this kind of stuff. But that seems to be a re-occurring theme as of late here the States...*sigh*
  • Re:Star Wars (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Holmwood ( 899130 ) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @06:16AM (#19673715)
    "however USSR never "tried" to make its own Star Wars hardware."

    Well, at the time it was widely believed that they did.

    See "Soviet Star Wars", Time Magazine, Monday October 14, 1985:

    "While few people doubt that the Soviets have an aggressive program comparable to SDI and have scored impressive advances in basic technology, some critics -- even within the Pentagon -- point out that translating those achievements into battle-ready equipment is a very long step."


    "Soviet efforts to develop laser beams as warhead-killing weapons 'would cost roughly $1 billion per year (to duplicate) in the U.S.'"

    This doesn't mean that the Soviet Union was actually doing all these things; it does mean that the CIA believed they were. Of course, with the CIA's track record on predictions... (and sure, some of that could well have been to boost US willingness to spend. Absolutely).

    It might well be that some people pushed SDI/Star Wars to bankrupt the Soviet Union, but I tend to doubt that's why Reagan backed it. (It also sounds a bit like post-hoc justification, to be honest).

    Reagan was a 'big idea' guy. It seemed pretty clear at the time that he really thought nuclear weapons were evil, and wanted to eliminate them if he could. I remember conservatives quietly fuming at what they regarded as strategic naivete on his part.

  • Re:Star Wars (Score:3, Insightful)

    by moeinvt ( 851793 ) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @08:22AM (#19674371)
    "You see, we could afford to build all that stuff . . ."

    Considering the fact that we haven't paid off any of the national debt we accumulated in those days, I think the question of whether or not we could afford it remains to be seen. It will be rather ironic if, after congratulating ourselves for 20 years about "winning" the cold war, we end up bankrupting ourselves due to debt financed military spending.

  • by mollymoo ( 202721 ) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @08:22AM (#19674375) Journal
    The Soviet regime may have been evil, but that doesn't mean socialism is evil any more than Pinochet's being evil means capitalism is evil.
  • Re:Star Wars (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @11:10AM (#19676225)
    And now, a few guys living in caves have figured out how to trick us into an increase in spending on homeland security (and other nonsense) which will have a similar effect on our economy.
  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @06:29PM (#19682659)
    In some cases, the good are the strong, and the strong are the good. If that frightens you, maybe you're not a part of either group.

    If you aren't frightened by people that confuse strength with righteousness, then you almost certainly can't be counted amongst be the righteous. Might doesn't not make right, nor does it prove it.

    The winner is not always the just, but history will do its best to remember them that way.
  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @06:45PM (#19682825)
    I don't know... me working for lazy people's gain seems fairly evil to me. Maybe it's just Ayn Rand talking though.

    I don't know... me letting people starve in the street 'cause I consider them lazy seems fairly evil to me. Maybe it's just Jesus talking though.

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.