UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Space

Subject:      AWST interview with DoD Space Architect
From:         thomsona@netcom.com (Allen Thomson)
Date:         1996/06/05
Message-Id:   <thomsonaDsJLJA.Ixx@netcom.com>
Newsgroups:   sci.space.policy,sci.space.tech,alt.politics.org.cia

    There is an interview with the DoD's "space architect,"  Major 
General Dickman, in AWST this week in which he says a number of 
interesting things about threats to US space systems.  Here are some 
excerpts (indented) and ruminations (left justified): 
      Architect Maps Milspace Defenses
      by Joseph C. Anselmo
      Aviation Week and Space Technology
      June 3, 1996, pp.93 & 94
      [EXCERPTS]
         The U.S. Defense Dept.'s new space architect is looking at 
      ways to protect military satellites against electronic and later 
      physical attacks that he believes are inevitable. 
   It's refreshing to see some Official Person recognize the 
obvious.  Up to now, the talk has been about how we (US) are going 
to use space to overwhelm future enemies, with little recognition 
that the enemies might not be entirely cooperative. 
         [He] said American forces should expect an enemy to try to 
      disrupt satellite communications through electronic attack the 
      next time they go into combat. 
   An interesting prediction, particularly if the military is using 
commercial satellites with no anti-jamming features.  The owners 
and other users of the satellites might want to think about this 
possibility. 
         And while the actual physical attack of an orbiting U.S. 
      spacecraft probably won't happen for a long time, the 
      development of crude anti-satellite weapons is not particularly 
      difficult, he said. 
   This seems contradictory.  If acquiring rudimentary ASATs isn't 
difficult (which I believe to be correct), and attacking the 
satellites is militarily very desirable (which it obviously is), 
then why are such attacks not to be expected for a "long time?" 
         Protecting U.S. satellites against physical and electronic 
      attack is a major part of a "space control architecture" his 
      office is developing to assure U.S. warfighters access to space.  
      The architecture, which will look at "the whole spectrum of 
      denial protection" is on track to be completed by late 
      September. 
   This report may provide some entertainment for Washington-
watchers, as it's going to have to assess at least implicitly the 
effectiveness of the NRO's approaches to "denial protection."  
Moreover, it's also going to throw light on the issue of whether 
the current plan to reduce the numbers of intelligence satellites 
and ground stations compromises system survivability.  These are 
rocks the NRO very much hopes remain unturned, for the excellent 
reason that under them lurk things which could spell the end of the 
organization if revealed.  So I think we can anticipate some 
bureaucratic fireworks come autumn. 
         Dickman's staff is also drawing up a military satellite 
      communications architecture that is scheduled to be finished by 
      late July and a satellite operations architecture that is 
      expected to be completed in December. 
         The furthest along of the three architectures... is the [one] 
      for satellite communications.  "the projections are that 
      certainly within the next 10 to 15 years... we'll need five 
      times as much satcom in the theater," he said. "   Our goal is 
      to do that for the same total cost." 
         That will require increased utilization of commercial systems 
      for non-vital communications and innovative new ideas such as 
      the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) "as equivalents to 
      satellites." 
         "One concept is, as you project the force and establish the 
      ability to protect it once it's there, satcom may be your 
      principal link...  But once you establish the force in the 
      theater and you can protect the air over the theater, then UAVs 
      may become the predominant satcom basis in addition to the 
      commercial augmentation" 
   This is good, as it shows that Dickman isn't of the "do 
everything from space" mindset, and may be similarly ready to 
consider mixed solutions for tasks other than communications, 
particularly reconnaissance.  His suggestion of UAVs "as 
equivalents to satellites" echos John Pike's point that in many 
cases the best satellite for the job may be a UAV.  But again, 
Dickman can expect a fair amount of flak from traditionalists
at Chantilly. 
         The satellite operations architecture, begun just last month, 
      is looking at how spacecraft are controlled on orbit -- a 
      function that hasn't changed much from the 1960s. 
         "The way we have controlled spacecraft in the past with 
      single command links to single spacecraft and crews worrying 
      about each spacecraft one at a time, it's just a non-player," 
      Dickman said. 
   An important study, and long overdue.  It would seem, however, 
that it should logically precede the protection study due in 
September, as the current operations architecture itself 
constitutes a major vulnerability. 
         A debate is currently raging in Congress over how quickly the 
      National Reconnaissance Office should move toward procurement of 
      small satellites. But Dickman believes the evolution of small, 
      interconnected satellites that each perform one job instead of 
      many is inevitable. 
         "There are some hard core challenges," he said. "How do you 
      collect enough photons, whether for imagery or missile warning, 
      on a very small satellite?... Can you do that with distributed 
      apertures? You can't do it today, but maybe you can do it in 15 
      years." 
   Hmm...  The "enough photons for imagery" and "distributed 
aperture" comments indicate that he's thinking of spysats with the 
same aperture and resolution as today's monstersats (generally 
believed to have apertures of 2.5 - 3 meters giving ~10 cm @ 500 km 
or ~1 meter at 5000 km).  The really interesting military 
applications for imaging smallsats, though, mostly need ~1 meter 
resolution @ 500 km range, for which a 30 cm aperture would do just 
fine.  I suspect that the commercial 1-meter imaging satellites 
will make this point pretty obvious in the near future. 
   It will, however, be useful for other reasons to continue work 
on distributed aperture techniques, which have been discussed here 
under the name "optical interferometers." 
         "The satellites that are flying in 2005 probably aren't going 
      to be downsized, less capable spacecraft," he added. "But the 
      ones that are flying in 2015, individually, probably are." 
   Which seems to mean that we don't expect to have to fight a 
serious war for the next 15 years or so.  (This reminds me of an 
interesting exercise which helps understand the decorrelation time 
of history:  starting now, in mid-1996, step back in increments of a 
dozen years until you hit a date when the next 12 years contain no 
major, change-the-course-of-history surprise.) 



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list