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The US Space Force

Forest Green

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If the risk of using one of these defensive system carries with it a non-zero probability of losing the defended asset along with everything else in the same and neighboring orbital bands anyway, it becomes a bit of a stretch to think of a situation where you'd be brave enough to use it.
To stop your country being nuked perhaps.

There have been anti-satellite weapons used just for the purposes of testing, so pretty much any live scenario out-ranks that in terms of importance.
 

Orionblamblam

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Such a 'cascade' would have major, if not devastating, impacts on a large number of civilian and military systems in LEO, even to the point of making LEO unusable.
Nope. It might make LEO *irritating,* but not unusuable. For starters, clearing out LEO of small bits would be *relatively* easy: launch thousands of rockets straight up to LEO *altitude*, but well short of LEO *velocity.* Fill each rocket with fifty tons of water (or some other liquid) and release. The water forms a large cloud of vapor that rises to apogee and then falls back down. Depending on the mission/velocity profile, the water would stay in space for anywhere from a few minutes to maybe half an hour. Since it is moving at multiple KM/sec differential to the rubble in orbit, the rubble will be aerodynamically braked by impact with the cloud. It might be only a few m/sec, but it'll be enough to accelerate the process of de orbiting the bits.

Something like Falcon 9 first stage, modified specifically for this purpose, would seem to do nicely. A hundred such rockets at, say, $10 million each would be by government standards absolutely trifling in cost.

As an alternative or adjunct, under the USSF the US space industry could *finally* get off the pot and start manufacturing properly armored satellites, launched and serviced by 4,000+ ton Orions launched out of Guantanamo. In that case... little bits of rubble? Pff. Who cares?

Note that both options are not just sunk money, but the development and operation of each would be a *vast* new opportunity for growth, technologically and economically. The first option would make reusable rocket launch an absolutely mundane occurrence, providing notonly true prodution line manufacturing but also training. It would not only provide highly trained and well paid staff for a massive space launch industry, it would also teach how to be truly efficient. Can the launch and recovery of a Falcon 9-like booster be carried out by a crew of five? Let's find out.
 

edwest

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Someone should send up the X-37B with a bucket and a robot arm and collect space junk. Should take about a year. Unless they already did it. What happened to the regularly published list of objects/junk in orbit published by NASA?
 

marauder2048

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Not like a neutral particle beam or space based laser wouldn't be a dual use "space debris" cleaner.
Their approach to discriminating decoys is destructive.
 

jeffb

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Such a 'cascade' would have major, if not devastating, impacts on a large number of civilian and military systems in LEO, even to the point of making LEO unusable.
Nope. It might make LEO *irritating,* but not unusuable. For starters, clearing out LEO of small bits would be *relatively* easy: launch thousands of rockets straight up to LEO *altitude*, but well short of LEO *velocity.* Fill each rocket with fifty tons of water (or some other liquid) and release. The water forms a large cloud of vapor that rises to apogee and then falls back down. Depending on the mission/velocity profile, the water would stay in space for anywhere from a few minutes to maybe half an hour. Since it is moving at multiple KM/sec differential to the rubble in orbit, the rubble will be aerodynamically braked by impact with the cloud. It might be only a few m/sec, but it'll be enough to accelerate the process of de orbiting the bits.

Something like Falcon 9 first stage, modified specifically for this purpose, would seem to do nicely. A hundred such rockets at, say, $10 million each would be by government standards absolutely trifling in cost.

As an alternative or adjunct, under the USSF the US space industry could *finally* get off the pot and start manufacturing properly armored satellites, launched and serviced by 4,000+ ton Orions launched out of Guantanamo. In that case... little bits of rubble? Pff. Who cares?

Note that both options are not just sunk money, but the development and operation of each would be a *vast* new opportunity for growth, technologically and economically. The first option would make reusable rocket launch an absolutely mundane occurrence, providing notonly true prodution line manufacturing but also training. It would not only provide highly trained and well paid staff for a massive space launch industry, it would also teach how to be truly efficient. Can the launch and recovery of a Falcon 9-like booster be carried out by a crew of five? Let's find out.
Really don't think it's that simple Orion, doubtless launching hundreds of tonnes of water to LEO altitudes it's an option that's been considered by NASA but has been dismissed for one reason or another given that it's a serious issue that they're actively trying to find a solution to.

Armoured satellites? I guess some of the newer ones may have been fitted with whipple-shields but it wouldn't be many because of the weight penalty and because they'd be difficult to justify from a risk management point of view as they're not 100% effective anyway. It may be an option for future sats but doesn't help with the hundreds of un-armoured civilian and military sats already in orbit, civilian and military sats that represent billions in investment and the backbone of current US military capability.

Long story short, I'm pretty sure satellite operators of all stripes would take a pretty dim view on the addition of systems that would make the situation worse not better.
 

Orionblamblam

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It may be an option for future sats but doesn't help with the hundreds of un-armoured civilian and military sats already in orbit, civilian and military sats that represent billions in investment and the backbone of current US military capability.
Satellites in low orbit have limited lifespans. they'll need replacing through the usual attrition and technical improvements. Make them structurally sturier as you do so. Right now satellites are only as rugged as they absolutely need to be because it costs buckets to launch mass. But if you fundamentally reform the launch industry by having multiple daily launches of Super Heavies, sending tanks of water suborbitally and clouds of reflectors to L1, then it gets a *lot* cheaper to orbit new, heavier, well-protected satellites.
 

jeffb

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It may be an option for future sats but doesn't help with the hundreds of un-armoured civilian and military sats already in orbit, civilian and military sats that represent billions in investment and the backbone of current US military capability.
Satellites in low orbit have limited lifespans. they'll need replacing through the usual attrition and technical improvements. Make them structurally sturdier as you do so. Right now satellites are only as rugged as they absolutely need to be because it costs buckets to launch mass. But if you fundamentally reform the launch industry by having multiple daily launches of Super Heavies, sending tanks of water suborbitally and clouds of reflectors to L1, then it gets a *lot* cheaper to orbit new, heavier, well-protected satellites.
Those would be fundamental reforms indeed.

LEO extends out to 2000km above sea level. The ISS orbiting at ~400km needs regular boosts to counteract drag but Earth observation/military sats which typically orbit in the 700 to 1000km band are barely affected by atmospheric drag at all. This is why debris at this height is such a problem because it doesn't come down. Sats at these heights still need regular station keeping maneuvers of course but this is more to counteract the precession of their orbits and the gravitational effects of the Sun and Moon (IIRC). It's the amount of on-board station keeping propellant that determines their useful lives in orbit and their replacement by newer (potentially armoured) craft. Unfortunately, in order to get maximum bang for buck, many of them aren't forced to reenter at the end of their lives but are forced to stay in service until they run out of propellant at which point they are left to essentially drift. This is one of the reasons this particular part of LEO is so crowded with 'junk'.

The 700-1000km band already has what is thought to be a critical level of debris with some analyses suggesting that a cascade may already be underway (but just hasn't hit anything important yet).

I think the big effort at the moment is to a) track the sub-centimeter sized junk at these altitudes which they can't really do yet (iirc) and to b) develop laser technologies to essentially 'tractor beam' them down into the atmosphere once they do. That said, they'd still have to transition them through the lower altitudes so a great deal of care required. Obviously, shooting at and potentially blowing up things at these altitudes would be considered *very, very bad*.
 

jeffb

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LOL, if you say so Orion. Still think it'd be a baaad idea.
 
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