The militarization of outer space is the next step for the United States. SpaceX and lasers in orbit

The militarization of outer space is the next step for the United States. SpaceX and lasers in orbit
The militarization of outer space is the next step for the United States. SpaceX and lasers in orbit
Anonim

An important element that makes it possible to reduce tensions between the leading powers of the world are international treaties that restrict the development of one or another direction of the armed forces of the participating countries. If in the 20th century the United States and Russia actively entered into such agreements, trying to prevent a suicidal conflict, then the beginning of the 21st century is characterized by the rejection of previous agreements and the growth of uncertainty. Doomsday clock hands show the highest threat level since 1953.

The first step was taken by the United States, unilaterally abandoning the Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Systems in 2001, justifying this by the missile threat from Iran and North Korea. True, by a strange coincidence, most of the missile defense elements are deployed in such a way as to ensure the effective interception of precisely Russian strategic missiles.

Despite the statements of the United States that the missile defense system deployed by them is unable to withstand a massive attack by Russian ballistic missiles, we must not forget that in the event of a first surprise attack from the United States, the balance of forces may change, and in this case the role of a strategic missile defense system can hardly be overestimated. Who knows, if Russia did not start updating its strategic nuclear forces and missile attack warning systems, what would all this lead to …

The next victim was the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), and this time the Russian Federation was the initiator. Despite the fact that formally the Russian Federation remains a party to the agreement, its implementation has been suspended since 2007. The formal reason was the accession to the NATO bloc of new members, which are not subject to the CFE Treaty, and whose accession made it possible to increase the number of NATO armed forces in Europe.

And finally, the last, at the beginning of 2019, was the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty), which was again initiated by the United States. As an excuse for the exit, the existing Russian 9M729 missile with characteristics allegedly outside the scope stipulated in the INF Treaty was chosen. Along the way, they pulled China by the ears, which in general had nothing to do with the INF Treaty. It seems that their medium-range missiles threaten Russia, therefore, she herself is interested in the new INF Treaty, which includes the PRC as a participant.

In fact, the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty can and should be considered in conjunction with the withdrawal from the Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems. By deploying medium-range and shorter-range missiles in Europe, especially on the territory of the new NATO members, one can obtain significant advantages when delivering the first disarming strike, in which the US strategic missile defense system begins to play its role. Russia did not receive such advantages when it left the INF Treaty. Yes, in the event of a conflict, we will destroy missile defense sites and nuclear weapons in the US in Europe, but it will be too late, "the birds will already fly away." The United States itself does not care what will be left of Europe as a result, if at the same time they can neutralize the Russian Federation, the main thing is that as few warheads reach them as possible.

There is another international treaty - the Outer Space Treaty. Among the principles, the prohibition for member states to place nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction in Earth orbit, install them on the Moon or any other celestial body, or on a station in outer space, restricts the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies only for peaceful purposes and directly prohibits their use for testing any kind of weapon, conducting military maneuvers or creating military bases, structures and fortifications.

Despite the fact that the Outer Space Treaty does not prohibit the placement of conventional weapons in orbit, in fact, no country has so far deployed weapons in space capable of delivering strikes from outer space to the surface of the Earth. Can it be considered that this was a consequence of the goodwill of the superpowers? It is unlikely, rather, this was a consequence of the fact that the deployment of strike weapons in orbit could upset the balance of forces and lead to a sudden and unpredictable development of the conflict, and the approximately equal opportunities of the superpowers in space exploration guaranteed the rapid emergence of similar weapons systems from a potential adversary.

Based on this, it can be argued that in the event that one of the parties gains an advantage in deploying weapons in space, it will definitely use it.

At the moment, there are three powers that are capable of creating and deploying weapons in outer space - the United States, Russia and the PRC (the capabilities of the rest are significantly less).

China is actively developing its space technologies, but still it must be admitted that at the moment it is significantly inferior to both the United States and Russia. On the other hand, with the existing course, the PRC's capabilities in space in the near future may significantly increase.

Due to incessant corruption, a lack of clearly formulated goals and the loss of the ability to produce many critical components, Russia is gradually losing its position as one of the leading space powers. Numerous accidents with both launch vehicles and payload (PN) lead to an increase in the cost of launch - a key commercial advantage of the Russian cosmonautics. Most of the launches are carried out on carriers developed during the Soviet period, and new carriers, such as the "Angara" launch vehicle (LV), are often criticized due to the high cost of development and production, as well as the use of dubious technical solutions.

Russian cosmonautics associate new hopes with the active development of the Soyuz-5 launch vehicle, the Yenisei super-heavy launch vehicle and the promising reusable manned spacecraft (SC) Federation. Time will tell to what extent these hopes are justified.

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The US space industry has been booming lately. This was achieved by attracting private companies, whose ambitions and approach to work made it possible in a short time to create launch vehicles that significantly advanced the Russian Federation in the space transportation market.

First of all, this applies to the repeatedly discussed and criticized SpaceX company. The initial message “they won't succeed”, numerous analytical articles about what SpaceX is doing wrong and what SpaceX stole from the Soviet / Russian cosmonautics, were replaced by questions to Roscosmos: “Why don't we have this?” In fact, SpaceX has taken away from Russia most of the space transportation market, and, possibly, in the near future it will slaughter the last "cash cow" of Roscosmos - the delivery of Americans to the ISS.

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Also, SpaceX already has the world's most-lifting Falcon Heavy launch vehicle, with a payload of 63.8 tonnes for low reference orbit (LEO).

But SpaceX's most ambitious and exciting development is the BFR super-heavy reusable rocket with the Starship spacecraft. It should be a fully reusable two-stage methane-powered system capable of delivering 100-150 tonnes of payload to LEO. SpaceX founder Elon Musk expects the cost of putting the load into orbit from BFR / Starship to be comparable to that of SpaceX's main workhorse of the Falcon-9 rocket.

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SpaceX's successes are spurring other players in the US space market. The Blue Origin company of the richest man on the planet, Jeff Bezos, is developing its own New Glenn heavy rocket project, powered by BE-4 methane engines with a 45 tonne LEO payload. By the way, it is the BE-4 engines that should replace the Russian RD-180 engines on the promising American Vulcan launch vehicle, the successor to the Atlas-5 launch vehicle, currently equipped with the RD-180. Blue Origin lags behind SpaceX, but overall work is progressing well, and cooperation with ULA (United Launch Alliance), a joint venture owned by major US Department of Defense contractors Boeing and Lockheed Martin, ensures that at least BE -4 will be brought to serial production.

Finally, another major player is Boeing with its super-heavy rocket SLS (Space Launch System), with a payload of 95 - 130 tons at LEO. This super-heavy rocket, all stages of which are powered by liquid hydrogen, is being developed at the request of NASA. The SLS program has been the subject of repeated criticism for its enormous cost, but NASA is still holding on to this program, which will ensure NASA's independence from private contractors such as SpaceX on mission-critical missions.

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Thus, in the near future, the United States will receive a significant amount of launch vehicles using promising methane and hydrogen fuel. The failure of one or several programs will not leave the United States without promising launch vehicles, but will only give an additional impetus to the development of competing projects. In turn, competition in the space cargo transportation market will lead to a further decrease in the cost of launching a payload into orbit.

The resulting advantage may spur the US Department of Defense to actively militarize outer space. US President Donald Trump signed a memorandum on the creation of the US Space Force on February 20, 2019. Among the goals of the Space Forces, they named the protection of US interests in space, "repelling aggression and defending the country", as well as "projecting military force in space, from space and into space."

At the moment, the military use of outer space is limited to the provision of intelligence, communications and navigation to the traditional types of armed forces, which in itself is a very important task, since this repeatedly “catalyzes” their capabilities.

One of the most secret projects of the US armed forces is the flight of an unmanned spacecraft Boeing X-37. According to open data, this spacecraft (SC) is designed to operate at altitudes of 200-750 km, is capable of rapidly changing orbits, maneuvering, performing reconnaissance missions, delivering into space and returning a payload. The launch of the Boeing X-37 spacecraft into orbit can be carried out by the Atlas-5 and Falcon 9 launch vehicles.

The exact goals and objectives of the X-37 were not disclosed. It is assumed that it serves, among other things, to develop technologies for intercepting enemy spacecraft.

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The basis for the rapid growth of the private space industry in the United States is considered to be promising projects for the deployment of a low-orbit satellite network that provide global access to the Internet. There are several competing projects, for the deployment of which it will be necessary to launch from several thousand to several tens of thousands of satellites into orbit, which in turn creates a need for promising launch vehicles.

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There is no doubt that LEO networks will be used by the armed forces of the countries whose companies are implementing these projects. Low-orbit Internet communication satellites will reduce and reduce the cost of both terminals and the cost of access, increase the speed and bandwidth of communication channels. As a result, a large number of unmanned and remotely controlled vehicles for various purposes may appear.

The low cost of delivering the payload to orbit, and the presence of heavy and super-heavy launch vehicles can force American generals to dust off the old developments in the militarization of space.

First of all, this concerns the anti-missile defense system. Placing in orbit not only satellites capable of tracking the launch of strategic missiles and issuing target designation to ground-based interceptor missiles, but also combat platforms with missile or laser weapons, can significantly enhance the capabilities of the missile defense system due to the impact both on the warheads and on the missile itself., in the initial phase of the flight (until the warheads are disengaged). For those who doubt the capabilities of laser weapons, one can recall the YAL-1 project, designed to destroy ballistic missiles in the initial phase of flight using a laser with a power of the order of one megawatt, placed on a Boeing 747-400F aircraft. As a result of the tests, the fundamental possibility of such an interception was confirmed. The defeat of the target was envisaged at a distance of up to 400 km. The closure of the program is most likely due to the ineffective type of laser used - chemical reagents. Modern technologies make it possible to create laser weapons with a power of up to a megawatt based on fiber-optic or solid-state lasers.

The density of the atmosphere, overcome by the laser beam when working from space, will be significantly lower. Based on this, a spacecraft capable of changing the altitude of the orbit, with a high-energy laser on board, will pose a serious threat to existing and future ballistic missiles.

The militarization of outer space is the next step for the United States. SpaceX and lasers in orbit
The militarization of outer space is the next step for the United States. SpaceX and lasers in orbit

Another area of space militarization may be the creation of space-to-surface weapons. Projects of such weapons were developed in the United States within the framework of the "Rods from God" program.

Within the framework of this program, it was supposed to place massive tungsten rods on special satellites with a length of about 5-10 meters and a diameter of 30 centimeters. When flying in the target area, the satellite drops the rod and corrects its flight until the target is hit. The target is hit by the kinetic energy of a tungsten rod moving at a speed of about 12 kilometers per second. It is almost impossible to dodge or resist such a blow.

Another type of warhead was developed under the Prompt Global Strike program. The ballistic missile warhead was supposed to load several thousand small-sized tungsten submunitions. At a certain height above the target, the warhead must detonate, after which the target will be covered with a downpour of tungsten pins capable of destroying all manpower and equipment over an area of several square kilometers. This technology can be adapted for use from space.

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How realistic are these projects? With the current level of technology, they are quite realizable. Reducing the cost of launching a launch vehicle into orbit will allow developers to actively test advanced weapons, bringing them to a working condition.

The militarization of outer space by the leading powers will create an arms race that many countries will never be able to master. This will divide the world and the powers of the first rank and all the others who will not be able to afford space weapons. The threshold for entering this technological level is significantly higher than for the creation of aircraft, ships or armored vehicles.

The ability to launch strikes from space will significantly affect the balance of power between countries. The US Armed Forces can finally realize their Global Rapid Strike dream. Orbital strike platforms, if implemented, can strike the enemy within hours after receiving the order. All stationary targets are hit, and if the possibilities for correcting ammunition allow, then moving targets such as ships or mobile strategic missile systems.

The missile defense system will receive new opportunities, if one can still be skeptical about the placement of laser weapons, then the placement of interceptor satellites of the "Diamond Pebble" type in orbit is quite realistic.

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And finally, thanks to the deployment of low-orbit communication systems, new types of remotely controlled means of reconnaissance and destruction of targets will appear.

For Russia, this means the emergence of another challenge that threatens to shift the balance of power towards a potential adversary. The emergence of space-to-surface weapons, along with the deployment of medium-range missiles and an increase in the effectiveness of the missile defense system, will require new solutions to ensure the possibility of delivering a guaranteed nuclear retaliation strike.

Most likely, the means to counter space weapons are already being developed. The development of satellites "killers" was carried out back in the Soviet years, with a high probability Russia continued to develop this direction. Similar projects are probably being worked out in the PRC as well.

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Unfortunately, asymmetric measures can only maintain the fragile balance of the US strategic nuclear parity. In conventional wars, the capabilities of low-orbit space communications and attack orbital platforms will provide the side that owns them with colossal advantages.

LEO networks, which provide global access to the Internet around the world, will contain a huge number of satellites, which can be more expensive to destroy than to deploy new ones. And in many cases there will be no formal reason, since the projects are initially civil. And what kind of information is running on VPN tunnels, go and understand.

The capabilities of the orbital strike platforms will make it possible to exert tremendous influence on the leaders of states that dare to confront the United States. Those who disagree will be hit by a tungsten shower that cannot be seen and cannot be protected from.

Based on the foregoing, it becomes clear that it is critically important for Russia to preserve and increase its capabilities for deploying systems of a similar class.

Our advantages include a huge backlog of domestic cosmonautics, a well-developed infrastructure, including several cosmodromes. Perhaps it is worth "renewing the blood" by allowing previously purely defense enterprises to work for the space industry, for example, the Makeev SRC. Healthy competition will benefit the industry. In the event of a favorable development of events, a huge advantage for Russia can be provided by the achievements of Rosatom on the creation of space-based nuclear reactors of the megawatt class.

It is imperative to create efficient and reliable methane-fueled launch vehicles that provide a low cost of launching a payload into orbit, to provide domestic enterprises with a modern element base capable of operating in outer space.

This will make it possible to implement our own projects of low-orbit satellite Internet communication systems such as the sounded project "Sphere", to provide the armed forces with a sufficient number of reconnaissance and target designation satellites, to develop and test orbital strike platforms and other space systems that will be required to solve military or civilian tasks in the interests of the Russian Federation.

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