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Concepts Of Space War And Militarisaton Of Space Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 3005 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Space security can be looked at from different points of view. It can be explored from the point of view how space can be secured for its users free from stray satellites, asteroids and other materials that inhibit the outer space [i] . Militarisation of space in simple terms would mean use of space in support of ground/sea and air operations of the armed forces and refers to developing assets with supporting ground infrastructure for military uses such as early warning, communication, command and control, Position Navigation and timing and monitoring. It helps military command, control and communication, strategic battlefield surveillance and weapon targeting [ii] . In the cold war era between US and Soviet Union a variety of Anti Satellite (ASAT) weaponry were developed and tested. Certain other countries have started to obtain this capability. China had neutralised one of own its weather satellites with a missile in Jan 2007. After this United States responded by neutralising its own ageing satellite in Feb 2008 by a missile interceptor which was modified version missile developed for ballistic missile defence. The ASAT potential using high energy lasers has been largely tested by the US, Soviet Union/Russia and China. The US continues to work on airborne lasers for Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) which also has ASAT potential. Certain other countries are also in the process of developing lasers, adaptive optics and tracking systems that could be a means to direct laser energy at a satellite.

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2. The current vision for US military space dominance was laid out n 1997 in the US Space Commands Vision for 2020. With the increasing reliance on space technology in modern war resulted in the militarisation of space. Military leaders understood the importance of the strategic, operational and tactical advantages having control of the high ground. Space medium is the definitive high ground, with unequalled speed, range, altitude and stealth. The tremendous success of satellites in enhancing the capabilities of conventional forces as witnessed in the Gulf war was reinforced in the subsequent wars.

Militarisation of Space in Cold War Era

3. The successful launch of the Soviet Sputnik satellite in Oct 1957 and of the US Explorer satellite in Jan 1958 opened a new scientific, political and technological period of mankind. The satellites in orbit not only changed military thinking, they also helped the international community to understand the call for for a legal regime for outer space. In particular, Sputnik and Explorer revealed another emerging conflict on the struggle of appropriation and use of space not previously under territorial dominion. The militarisation of higher ground thus commenced with the technology advancement as follows:-

(a) Communication Satellites. In the cold war era, both the US and USSR had their defence programme started up vigorously in the development of of communication satellites for military use mainly for monitoring the other nations’ communication channels.

(b) Reconnaissance Satellites. Reconnaissance became considerably advanced in 1962, when the US and the USSR launching their high-resolution, high-powered military reconnaissance satellites. By the end of the decade, the satellites had the capability of a spatial resolution of less than one metre.

(c) Early Warning Satellites. Early warning satellites were accomplished to monitor the infra-red radiation from ballistic missiles as soon as they were launched. Certain satellites were also developed by the US and USSR to detect nuclear explosions around Earth.

(d) Navigation Satellites. The Transit Navigation Satellites were originally designed and placed in orbit by the US to provide an accurate positional fix (to a few metres) to assist the rocket launching of nuclear powered submarines of the US Navy.

(e) Anti-Satellite (ASAT). In 1967, the USSR commenced testing of ASAT system. Similar to the USSR, the military forces in the US had experimented with anti-satellite weapons as well. In the late 50s US Air Force started a series of advanced strategic missile projects under the designation of Weapon System -199-A [iii] and early 60s, a number of anti-satellite systems were studied under various code namees by the US.

Militarisation of Space Post Cold War

4. With the Cold War ending and the collapse of the Soviet Union the space race between the US and the erstwhile USSR ended. The US was left as the sole superpower on planet with the most of the technological advancement of the world. With the United States’ new standing in the world, the space militarisation continued to progress in other parts of the world. Countries like as China, India, Israel and Japan began their own space programme, with the European Union jointly working to create satellite systems to counter those of the US. After the Cold War was over, the space militarisation revolved around three types of space applications. The first one is the development of spy or reconnaissance satellites, the others being towards navigation and communication.

5. Spy or Reconnaissance Satellites. Spy satellites carry out a variety of missions such as high resolution photography, communications eavesdropping, and covert communications. These tasks are performed on a regular basis both during peacetime and war operations.

6. Navigation. Another function of space based system is the Global Positioning System(GPS). This is a US constellation of satellites towards navigation. The availability of GPS as navigation tool has changed the entire gambit of modern warfare with the kind of accuracies that are achieved using it. The principal military functions are to allow better command and control of forces by improved location knowledge and to facilitate precise targeting of missiles, bombs and other munitions. The Russians have launched their own Global Navigation Satellite System called the GLONASS. The European Union, India and the Chinese are also developing their own navigation system to have a unhindered navigation cover.

7. Communication. The next application of space can be demonstrated by the emerging military doctrines towards Network Centric warfare (NCW). The NCW is meant to have real time communication and allows better battlefield transparency.


8. The US and Russia developed weapon system that are mainly used to attack enemy anti-satellite system, such as anti-satellite satellites, anti-satellite missiles, and space-based directed energy weapons. These could be kinetic kill vehicles that destroy by impact or “Rods from God” a proposal to fire Tungsten rods, directed energy weapons, or killer satellites [iv] . Some of these systems have been successfully tested US, Russia and China.

Offensive Weapons

9. Kinetic-Kill Weapon(KEW). The principle of these weapons is based on homing missiles and kills and kills vehicles [v] . An example of a KEW is the electromagnetic rail gun. In this a projectile is accelerated to an extremely high velocity by use of electromagnetic field. The projectile is positioned as to be flanked by two rails and an electric current is passed next to the two rails (via a connecting armature) making a magnetic field which accelerated along the gun ‘barrel’. Velocities of more than 10 km/sec are achieved which compares to a rifle bullet which goes perhaps 1 km/sec. The one drawback is that huge amounts of power are required to accelerate projectiles to such speeds [vi] .

10. Directed-Energy Weapons (DEW). The principle of operation of DEW is based on LASER technology. DEW is better than over other weapons by freeing one from the weight of moving mass and inertia. A directed-energy weapon (DEW) emits energy in an aimed direction without the means of a projectile. It transfers energy to a target for a desired effect. Intended effects may be non-lethal or lethal. Some such weapons are real, or are under active research and development [vii] .

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Defensive Weapons

11. Conventional Missiles. This type of ASAT weapon can attack satellites in one of two ways by either, it can approach the target by direct ascent and has to be at high speed to make the interception. The missile either has to have a very accurate homing warhead, or one of very great explosive capacity to affect an intercept. They could either be based on Earth or launched into orbit by aircraft [viii] .

12. The Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) developed by the US is a space-based sensor component of the Ballistic Missile Defense System. The STSS program uses sensors capable of detecting visible and infrared light. STSS will become part of a constellation of land, sea, air, and space-based Ballistic Missile Defense System sensors [ix] .

13. Certain other methods which also form a part of space weaponisation are enumerated below:-

(a) Nanosatellites. The most serious threat for the weaponisation of space comes from these increasingly nano and smaller satellites capable of proximity operations to bigger ones. Nanosatellites symbolize a revolutionary step forward in future satellite development. These satellite entail manoeuvres around other satellites in order to service and inspect. These are a type of distributed satellite structural system in contrast to integrated systems, are able to avoid the damage that follows the malfunction of an individual satellite, and, thus, will increase the survivability and flexibility of future space systems. Possibly the best application of nanosatellites is their deployment in local satellite groups or in distributed constellations. These satellites could also provide surveillance in space and would make excellent ASAT weapons. Proximity operations could also prove useful in the development of orbiting ASAT weapons. The Chinese have developed nano-parasitic satellites. They could be attached to an orbiting satellite and could either disrupt the functioning of the satellite or could destroy it when required and activated from the ground [x] .

(b) Space Strike. Space strike operations entail the space-based capability to strike targets anywhere in space, in the air, on land, or at sea, any time with strike operations commencing after little or no notice. Space strike could serve as the force application component of the deployed space force structure (forces deployed). In space control applications, space strike would provide weapons for space control. Deep Penetration, a futuristic concept of space strike, would provide a space based, super bunker-buster in order to destroy deep underground fortresses, command centres and other facilities.

(c) Information Blockade. An information blockade would involve the application of space forces to sever an adversary from the info-sphere. This might involve destructive or non destructive applications of friendly space systems. Like space strike, the capability to impose an information blockade would provide a means of force application and might act as a space control mechanism as well.

(d) Space Denial. Space denial effects would result from offensive operations intended to deny an adversary control and exploitation of space. The ability to deny space access itself is one of the elements of military space power. Controlling the Space Lines of Communication, a concept of space denial, goes beyond just controlling the space near Earth, to controlling lines to and from other celestial bodies. This concept anticipates that mankind’s ongoing competition for resources and territory will transcend the Earth and Moon, eventually spreading deep into the solar system, and beyond.

(e) Omniscience/Omnipresence. This broad, powerful effect would be obtained from the complete instrumentation of the planet from space, providing 24 hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year, continuous multispectral sensor data, instantly fused and synthesized into processed information. The ability to simultaneously observe all Earthly activity, from the surface outward, would improve force enhancement.

(f) Operational Spacelift. Operational spacelift requires prompt, responsive spacelift systems and satellites capable of full operation immediately upon achieving orbit. This concept of operations would address the deficiencies in the ability to deploy and sustain space forces. This concept also caters for countering the effect of attrition to own satellites due to enemy ASAT action.

(g) Massively Proliferated and Networked Microsatellite Constellations. This concept describes space forces deployed in extremely large numbers and networked in a powerful way. The space forces deployed in these orbital constellations would primarily comprise very small, but capable, satellites. This concept helps address the deficiency in sustainment of space forces.

14. Summary. Space warfare involves exploitation of the space environment to conduct full-spectrum, near real-time, global military operations. It includes facets of the warfare such as land, sea, sub-surface and air, but has the potential to become a distinct warfare area in its own right. Space assets could provide more support for the terrestrial warfare in the future. The space environment offers the possibility of conducting worldwide military operations in an immensely reduced time frame. Satellites enable near real-time, worldwide communication, sensing, timing and navigation. These capabilities may make possible dominant battlefield awareness and coordination of global precision strike architecture. An effective ASAT capability could lead to achieve aerospace control superiority in order to deny an opponent the ability to operate in or from space. One possible mission is to use space forces project power to directly achieve national objectives (operational or strategic) in particular theatre. Space strike system based on satellites or on transatmospheric vehicles could enable precision strikes whose quantitative advantage in speed would result in qualitative difference in capability [xi] . The first three decades of the space age, the superpowers found it technically and economically sound to use space for reconnaissance and surveillance, communication, navigation, meteorology and geodesy. But militarisation of the space was also going on at a fairly decent pace, till such time the bubble of cold war burst and the Soviet Union gave away the sole proprietorship of the space to the USA. The USA is making full advantage of the situation. GPS has become a daily necessity in both civilian sector and militaries of the world. Despite protest from all quarters, it is just a matter of time the National Missile Defence (NMD) will be stationed on space-based satellites [xii] . Finally assets in space such as satellites and related surveillance capabilities capable of providing real-time data to the soldier in the field will be the key to battlefield domination in the future.

As more and more countries develop space capabilities of one kind or another, the dual use nature of such capabilities may mean the option to turn space into a theatre of war. Bilateral arms treaties between the US and the Former Soviet Union provided a measure of stability. But these treaties do not apply to the new entrants in the field of space technology.

The exploration of outer space and celestial bodies for resources to be exploited in future may also lead to conflict and militarisation of space in future. With China sending its first astronaut into space in October 2003 and announcing its plan to go to the moon, the US has now announced new initiatives for manned exploration and exploitation of moon and even landing on mars by 2020. The new hype for Manned Moon exploration is driven by the availability of unlimited energy in the form of helium 3 Isotopes on the moon, a near perfect, non-polluting energy source. Scientists estimate that over one million tones of helium 3 can be easily collected from the moon, which is enough fulfil the energy requirements of the entire earth for hundreds of years. The Chandrayaan-I spacecraft launched by ISRO, now orbiting the moon has indicated presence of magnesium, silicon and aluminium on the moon. The announced US plan to return to Moon to establish a permanent base is bound to precipitate dramatic militarisation of space.


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