Posts Tagged ‘Space Warfare’

annual reportThe first thing that caught my eye in the 2011 report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China was the cover, which says that it cost less than $74K to have prepared the report.  About a third of a man year to create a report that’s a 90-plus page annual deliverable to Congress which will be widely circulated?

Get real.cost

With that out of the way, let’s get down to the report:

In 2010, China conducted a national record 15 space launches. It also expanded its space-based intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, navigation, meteorological, and communications satellite constellations. In parallel, China is developing a multi-dimensional program to improve its capabilities to limit or prevent the use of space-based assets by adversaries during times of crisis or conflict.

China is working to improve its access to space, enhance their space-delivered capabilities, and to limit the adversary’s use of space.  I’m shocked, shockedLet’s see what the space peace-cults have to say about that, if anything. 

And how about some information on the nuclear front?

China is modernizing its nuclear forces by adding more survivable delivery systems. In recent years, the road mobile, solid propellant CSS-10 Mod 1 and CSS-10 Mod 2 (DF-31 and DF-31A) intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs) have entered service. The CSS-10 Mod 2, with a range in excess of 11,200 km, can reach most locations within the continental United States. China may also be developing a new road-mobile ICBM, possibly capable of carrying a multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV).


China has made steady progress in recent years to develop offensive nuclear, space, and cyber warfare capabilities—the only aspects of China’s armed forces that are currently global in nature. In the case of cyber and space weapons, however, there is little evidence that China’s military and civilian leaders have fully thought through the global and systemic effects that would be associated with the employment of these strategic capabilities. Additionally, China is both qualitatively and quantitatively improving its strategic missile forces.

Wow.  I thought China did that minimum deterrence thing, but I guess the minimum is no longer the minimum (nor is it likely to be in the future).  And I would have thought they would be able to draw down their strategic missile forces given New START.  Oh snap, I forgot that’s a bilateral treaty which really only affects the U.S. anyway…

But let’s shift back to space:

In addition to the direct-ascent ASAT program, China is developing other kinetic and directed-energy (e.g., lasers, high-powered microwave, and particle beam weapons) technologies for ASAT missions. Foreign and indigenous systems give China the capability to jam common satellite communications bands and GPS receivers.

This means space warfare is an area of major concern (and that space weapons, whether space or earth delivered, are a subset of space warfare). 

And why develop those capabilities on your own if you can get someone else to front the research, development, testing, and engineering costs?

The [2008] DSS [Defense Security Service] report described China’s science and technology collection priorities as: guidance and control systems, advanced energy technologies, nanotechnology, space and counterspace systems, nuclear forces, innovative materials, aeronautics and astronautic mechanisms, computer-aided manufacturing and design, and information technologies. The PRC continues to target these technologies.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security and the Department of Justice identified at least 26 major cases since 2006 linking China to the acquisition of technologies and applications cited above, as well as to current and future warship technology, electronic propulsion systems, controlled power amplifiers with military applications, space launch technical data and services, C-17 aircraft, Delta IV rockets, infrared cameras, information related to cruise missile design, and military-grade accelerometers.

If all this sounds a bit alarming, just remember that China doesn’t see it the same way.  In fact, they’ve pulled out that reliable chestnut of comparison (for reference, the World English Dictionary says that ‘chestnut’ when used informally is an old or stale joke), the Cold War:

The report reflects a “Cold War mentality,” said Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington. “We hope the U.S. will take practical steps to work with China for stable and healthy military ties by following the spirit of mutual respect, mutual trust, reciprocity and mutual benefit,” he said.

Wang Chung was apparently not available for comment. 

It’s interesting that Wang attempts to put pin the rose for the security success/failure outcomes on the U.S.  And it’s also interesting that Congress doesn’t mandate a similar report every year for Germany.

Oh, and I guess Wang Chung is available after all…


The saying is “hypocrisy is the tribute vice plays to virtue” and that observation is made manifest in the China Daily article Make outer space safe for all.

Let us address the hypocrisy as best we can.


Security in outer space has long been an issue of concern in the global arms control process.

Reality: based on observed proposals and activity, the global arms control process, whatever that is, is more interested in constraining and mitigating U.S. power than it is in securing outer space.


Since the late 1990s, China, Russia and some other countries have urged the international community to hold multilateral dialogue to prevent weaponization of outer space, and put forward specific proposals for concluding an international treaty to prevent an arms race in outer space.  

Reality: China and Russia, like the “global arms control process” (hey, if they invent it, I can use it) are more interested in constraining the U.S. than in true multilateral improvements in space security.  China talks the talk but fails to walk the walk.  Consider the January 2007 Chinese ASAT event which somehow manages to fall outside their definition of ‘space weaponization’ because it was a ground-launched direct ascent ASAT.  Of course, China was talking the anti-space weaponization talk to the various space diplomats, agencies, bureaucracies, and international organizations just up until the ASAT event. 


But the US has been using every reason to refuse negotiating such a treaty for fear that it may restrict it from maintaining and developing its outer space anti-missile system and compromise its space military technology.

Reality: China focuses on space weapons while ignoring the elephant in low-earth orbit, space warfare.  Next, the U.S. is not interested, nor has it been interested in treaties that are not definable, not verifiable, nor in the best interests of the Unites States and its allies.  The term ‘space weaponization’ has not been adequately defined and literally everything put into space including debris could be considered as a space weapon making verification either impossible or totally impractical (too expensive to do and/or too intrusive to do).  Other not-U.S.-aligned space actors are generally interested in improving their position by constraining the U.S. and the ‘global arms control process’ itself is almost always complicit.


Hence, the US has been emphasizing freedom in the use of outer space. In essence, it wants to establish its hegemony over outer space.

Reality: what does hegemony over outer space even mean (and how would we borrow pay for it)?  Just where is the manifestation of the U.S. desire to establish hegemony other than the assertion of China Daily, its writers, the writers’ handlers, and the global arms control process (which actually may be all balled up together)?


More importantly, the US has realized that its advantage in outer space is facing serious challenges, and the gap between it and other countries is narrowing. This can mean only one thing: the US has to change its outer space security policy.

Reality: policy sometimes means something, but often it doesn’t, so simply stated, policy is overrated.  However, funding always means something.  So, watch what gets funded and you can know the true policy.  The current National Space Policy has not been substantively changed (unless you count “tone” as a substantive change) since the Eisenhower administration.


…the US seeks to cooperate with its allies to integrate and use their resources, which would make up for its lack of investment and help it retain its leadership in space technology. The talks it wants would be focused on its two potential competitors, Russia and China, to regulate and constrain their development and prevent them from challenging US hegemony in space. This is typical Cold War mentality. The US’ eagerness to establish dialogue with China reflects its uncertainty over space security challenges.

Reality: we know the Russian reset (by the way, the U.S. has no Atlas V program without the Russian licensed RD-180 engines) moves them out of the category of “potential competitors” (at least until they return).  As far as China, let’s get real: they’re good at taking others intellectual property and using their advantage in labor camps costs, thus creating darn good knock offs.  China wants to get in bed with the U.S. with regard to space in order to get our intellectual stuff, or at least to find out how much further they have to go.  And “The US’ eagerness to establish dialogue with China reflects” not our “uncertainty over space security challenges,” but is more likely to be top down administration marching orders to the ‘in-house arms control process.’


During the [space arms control] coordination and dialogue process, big powers should more actively promote multilateral dialogue and cooperation under the United Nations’ framework. Truly effective and generally accepted international rules on space can be established only if they are based on equal participation of all countries.

Reality: China wants the ‘equal participation’ of space-faring powers like Burundi, North Korea, Iran, Nigeria and the likes in order to create a Lilliputian-effect of many space-inferiors constraining one space-superior’s efforts regarding space security (to include space-using missile defense).


China has always advocated peaceful use of space.

Reality: again, there’s a difference between China’s talk and China’s walk.  China has likely also always advocated freedom of expression and religion and the non-violent use of Tiananmen Square.


The US’ policies and legal frameworks, including arms sales to Taiwan, high-tech exports restrictions on China and non-use of Chinese rockets to launch US satellites seriously undermine the political foundation of China-US dialogue on space.

Reality: would you like some cheese with that whine?  China wants a weak Taiwan and also wants to underbid the U.S. on launches of all sorts including those missions sponsored by the U.S. government.  Plus understanding the integration requirements to place a U.S. satellite on a Chinese launcher provides China significant intellectual property insight.

Assertion: the author of the China Daily piece is

…secretary-general of China Arms Control and Disarmament Association.

Reality: like a blind pig that finds a truffle, sometimes even an article chock full of assertions, deceptions, lies, and hypocrisy, the truth may appear.

When Air Force Space Command’s Commander, General Willie Shelton testified to the Senate that LightSquared’s high-powered telecommunications signal would degrade, disrupt, and deny the GPS signal, there was plenty of disagreement.  Much of the disagreement was from LightSquared who had plowed plenty of investor money—about a billion dollars so far—into the effort and had lots to lose.

So now, the study is done and the finding confirms Shelton’s concern: LightSquared’s terrestrial signal will degrade, disrupt, and deny the GPS signal.  For LightSquared, it’s all over but the crying.

LightSquared started out with a largely space-based (and low-powered) scheme, but went more terrestrial for cost and performance reasons.  The fact their signal was adjacent to the GPS signal was…let’s just say that part of the architecture was not well thought through.  How so?

…aviation users could effectively experience a blackout of GPS capabilities, particularly around densely populated areas, where LightSquared ground stations are expected to be spaced 400 to 800 meters apart (snip)

At altitudes of 3,040 meters and below, aircraft could not rely on GPS for navigation over the nation’s capitol, most of Virginia and Maryland, and significant parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey (snip)

…police cars could not acquire GPS signals within 182 meters of a LightSquared tower broadcasting at the maximum allowed power of 15 kilowatts (snip)

Signals to ambulances and fire trucks were nullified within 304 meters of a tower.

And now for the LightSquared crying part:

There are no feasible options for mitigating LightSquared interference…outfitting all GPS aviation receivers with special filters to ensure they do not pick up LightSquared signals would take between seven and 15 years and cost an unknown but extremely large sum…[also], the filters would reduce receiver performance. (snip)

…modifying LightSquare antenna patterns and exclusion zones or operating at lower power levels, are not good solutions because they would require more ground stations to be deployed, increasing the aggregate power output (snip)

The only remaining viable solution… [is] for LightSquared to acquire the rights to another part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Who will rule the day here, GPS or LightSquared’s billion dollar baby?  Well, consider this:

According to the GPS Industry Council, a trade group, GPS represents a $22 billion investment by the federal government and billions of dollars more by end users to develop applications that serve defense, public safety and homeland security needs, as well as a range of industries.

So who’s the villain here?  LightSquared, who had to know GPS interference would be an issue?  The FCC who licensed the effort?  Or is it GPS, which has become all things to all peoples at all times, resulting in a perhaps dangerous dependency on its space-based signal?

GPS has its own set of problems but getting government and industry unaddicted to it can’t be blamed on its inherent usefulness.  Over to you, FCC and LightSquared…

A billion, with a “b,” times more powerful.  Think there will be some problems?  Yes, sometimes quantity has a quality all its own.

What will the solution be to the LightSquared GPS jamming issue?

Filters?  Costly and impractical.

Frequency change for LightSquared?  Perhaps.

Addressing GPS (and space warfare vulnerabilities in general): priceless.


While Dr. Evil wanted sharks with lasers as a symbol of his personal badness, I’m sure he never considered putting them in orbit around the earth to mitigate space debris.

Some NASA folks have an idea that doesn’t entail the use of orbiting sharks; instead the call is for the use of ground-based, non-shark using lasers to slow down space debris in low earth orbit.  Slowing debris down quickens deorbit and burn in and could make the space frontier a safer place.

The good news is that unlike Dr. Evil’s sharks, earth-based lasers are not (yet) on the endangered species list.

The bad news is the endangered U.S. taxpayer is the proposed bill-payer for the effort.  The space fee-for-service model has a few details to still be worked out, but perhaps a “deorbit tax” could be charged by the UN in order to procure a launch license.

Hmmm.  Of course, that would make space more expensive than it already is…

We can also expect a bit of angst and gnashing of teeth as the proposed (and modest) 5kW ground-based laser would still be powerful enough to ‘dazzle out’ a 50km earth area (approximately) on a live surveillance spacecraft in addition to its possible use as a space warfare tool that reduces the longevity of functional spacecraft.

Head nod to MIT’s Technology Review.

Send lasers, guns, and money

Stanley Kubrick’s dark comedy Dr. Strangelove parodied the nuclear ‘balance of terror’ of the early 1960s which if disrupted would result in (wait for it…) mutually assured destruction.  The recently released National Security Space Strategy (NSSS) rightfully skips over the whole nuclear MAD thing and instead offers that U.S. security in space can be strengthened largely through space-focused codes, rules, and norms. 

In a salute to Kubrick, let’s characterize these codes, rules and norms the NSSS proposes and even give them a name: spacelove.  Why spacelove?  Well, first because McLovin’ has already been taken and second, because these codes, rules, and norms are all about the golden rule–doing unto others in space as you’d have them do unto you.


Iron logic meets self-sacrifice…