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Nanosatellites and The DoD

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posted on Dec, 15 2004 @ 12:00 PM
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Part of my job is to track down competitors in the biotech industry. Since I am involved with anti-bioterrorism efforts, I frequently look at which projects the DoD is funding. Apparently, they are extremely interested in nanosatellites.

Now I had never heard of a nanosatellite before this morning, but they definitely exist, and apparently have been in the news on more than one occasion, and involves multiple countries.

Obviously the DoD has their fingers in every area of science. But for some reason this idea of nanosatellites bothers me, not that they exist, but that the DoD is so interested. Any speculation about WHY the DoD is interested in such small satellites. I would imagine for a purpose that cant be accomplished with larger satellites, but I cant figure out what they might be. Certainly there may be cost considerations in terms of launching large satellites, but I find it hard to believe thats the DoDs interest saving money.

So what are YOUR thoughts?


[edit on 15-12-2004 by mattison0922]




posted on Dec, 15 2004 @ 12:18 PM
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Money makes the world go round. Launching satellites is expensive and believe it or not DARPA doesn't have a cheaper method to do it. Less mass = much cheaper launch costs and the more money you save to more stuff you can do. Plus the smaller it is enables DARPA to send up swarms of these things up at one time, so even though the failure rate may be higher since you can send more up the chances of a catastrophic failure is minimalized. Through redundancy you get dependability. Just imagine, you could send up one rocket with say 10-20 of these Nanosatellites that would position themselves geosyncronisly above the target location and create 3d images of the terrain. They would be alot hard to shoot down as well. To the military the more eyes on the combat zone the better.



posted on Dec, 15 2004 @ 12:46 PM
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Originally posted by sardion2000
Money makes the world go round. Launching satellites is expensive and believe it or not DARPA doesn't have a cheaper method to do it. Less mass = much cheaper launch costs and the more money you save to more stuff you can do. Plus the smaller it is enables DARPA to send up swarms of these things up at one time, so even though the failure rate may be higher since you can send more up the chances of a catastrophic failure is minimalized.

Certainly the cost aspect is acknowledged. I certainly don't believe that DoD has unlimited resources. I suppose I just felt like much would need to be sacrificed to save so much on size in the short term. It could just be my ignorance re: these topics, but how much smaller can imaging equipment get and still obtain 3m resolution from space? I guess I don't even have a concept of how big said imaging equipment is in the first place. Are other things, such as orbital stability sacrificed with large decreases in size? What about power? How much power is required to do the things that satellites need to accomplish? This could be part of my concern as well; I envision most military applications as being quite power intensive. Certainly there's solar, but how much surface area is required to generate adequate solar for satellites? Obviously large decreases in size result in large decreases in surface area... of course the volume does decrease more than the surface area....


Through redundancy you get dependability. Just imagine, you could send up one rocket with say 10-20 of these Nanosatellites that would position themselves geosyncronisly above the target location and create 3d images of the terrain.

Although, one would imagine that if given the opportunity to send up 10-20 nanosatellites, in the interest of saving funds, one would send up 10-20 unique satellites. The redundancy may not be capitalized on.


They would be alot hard to shoot down as well.

This is an interesting point. Pardon my ignorance again, but are we currently able to shoot down satellites?



posted on Dec, 15 2004 @ 01:28 PM
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I pretty much make it my business to keep up to date on the cutting edge of technology and the catchphrase for electronics is smaller, better and cheaper. Satellites are no exception, on the Mars rovers its camera is one of the most advances to even send images back from another world(we're talking gigapixles not mega) and its not that big. It's kinda tiny to tell you the truth.



That white object in front of the USA flag houses the camera and a number of other instruments to boot. So a Nanosatellite the size of say a beachball could hold all sorts of things.




Are other things, such as orbital stability sacrificed with large decreases in size?


No I do not believe so, Google up MEMs Gyroscopes in relation to satellites. I'm pretty sure that an even smaller satellite is gonna be launch for scientific purposes next year(its supposed to test a number of Einstiens predictions)



Are other things, such as orbital stability sacrificed with large decreases in size? What about power? How much power is required to do the things that satellites need to accomplish?


From what I've heard satellites don't really require all that much power to run, thats why the majority of them are Solar Powered. Make them even smaller and the power requirments would probably drop as well(this is just a guess here, as I am sure that DARPA has a number of power intensive ultra secret devices they arent tell us about just yet.) As for the power, they could hook up solar panels to it just as easily as any other satellite, allthough Radio Isotope Decay would be ideal for long term missions.



but how much smaller can imaging equipment get and still obtain 3m resolution from space?


3m is what DARPA acknoleges? HAH! Don't make me laugh, they are terrible liars
I would say 3ft resolution is more accurate and as for how big it would have to be, I have no Idea but you could make composite images through a Swarm of Sattelites that are all identicle, cheap to produce and launch and the best part of all expendable. You ever heard about that new space telescope NASA is building? It's based around a constellation of telescopes flying in tight formation to increase resoloution by an extreme amount, enought to theoretically detect earth sized planets outside our solar system. I do not see why the same principal cannot be utilized for spying on earth, or even to observe the earth for scientific purposes.

Right now satellites are big, bulky, expensive and impossible to maintain. They can also prove to be hazordous if they re-enter as a number of them has reactors onboard
and are fairly big so they could also survive reentry.

Hope this helps.





This is an interesting point. Pardon my ignorance again, but are we currently able to shoot down satellites?


The USA and Russia most definately do even though they don't advertise the fact. One of the first things in war to get targeted is Nodes for Information and Intelligance. The more Fog of War your enemy is subjected to the easier it is to complete your objectives. It would be pretty naive to think they didn't have the capacity to knock out satellites. One Nuke armed ICBM should do the trick. Doesn't have to be a megatonne nuke just enough to create a sizable EM pulse. There must be other methods as well.

[edit on 15-12-2004 by sardion2000]



posted on Dec, 15 2004 @ 02:10 PM
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on the Mars rovers its camera is one of the most advances to even send images back from another world(we're talking gigapixles not mega) and its not that big. It's kinda tiny to tell you the truth.

Actually, a close friend of mine is involved with the Mars rover project. I could certainly consult him for some of the more technical details re: the camera. Thanks for the pic!!



Are other things, such as orbital stability sacrificed with large decreases in size?



No I do not believe so, Google up MEMs Gyroscopes in relation to satellites. I'm pretty sure that an even smaller satellite is gonna be launch for scientific purposes next year(its supposed to test a number of Einstiens predictions)

Thanks for the recommendations.



but how much smaller can imaging equipment get and still obtain 3m resolution from space?


3m is what DARPA acknoleges? HAH! Don't make me laugh, they are terrible liars
I would say 3ft resolution is more accurate and as for how big it would have to be, I have no Idea but you could make composite images through a Swarm of Sattelites that are all identicle, cheap to produce and launch and the best part of all expendable.

This is an interesting point re: composite images.


You ever heard about that new space telescope NASA is building? It's based around a constellation of telescopes flying in tight formation to increase resoloution by an extreme amount, enought to theoretically detect earth sized planets outside our solar system. I do not see why the same principal cannot be utilized for spying on earth, or even to observe the earth for scientific purposes.

Heard about the telescope, seems like a great idea to me, but I never considered the size of such things. And your analysis seems to be correct.


Right now satellites are big, bulky, expensive and impossible to maintain. They can also prove to be hazordous if they re-enter as a number of them has reactors onboard
and are fairly big so they could also survive reentry.

Hope this helps.

Sure thanks for your posts. It seems like satellites then, like all electronics, will continue to decrease in size. Given the current size of the 'nanosatellites' and the propensity of electronics to get smaller perhaps they should've called this generation microsatellites. Of course that conflicts with the biological definition of microsatellites, but at least the next generation of even smaller satellites wouldn't have to be called picosatellites



posted on Dec, 15 2004 @ 04:31 PM
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Wouldn't it make sense that nanosatellites are the classified program that was recently brought up in Congress as being "stunningly expensive" and dangerous to national security? If you look at the projects awarded money by DARPA in 2003 (see the link in the original post), a huge chunk of them deal with nanosatellite technology.

I'd say that the government wants these things for defense against missiles or enemy satellites. The DARPA projects given to Intellitech and SPEC include specifications for nanosatellites that have "precision pointing and agility" and are able to perform "on-orbit rendezvous, docking, servicing, formation flying, inspection, imaging, remote sensing and communications." DARPA wants nanosatellites that contain an "earth referenced ... sensor suite [that] allows long term, accurate pointing in addition to short-term high-speed maneuver sensing capability." (English translation: it looks at the ground constantly, waiting for a high-speed target such as an ICBM.) There is even an admission that the satellites are needed for "use on station keeping Satellite countermeasures," which certainly sounds like anti-satellite weapon to me.

My vision is that there would be thousands of these things scattered in orbit passively waiting and watching the ground. On command during an enemy launch, selected ones would move to a location in the flight path of an ICBM or other target. If there are enough of them, the odds are that several would be within intercept distance. Correct me if I'm wrong, but explosives wouldn't even be needed in the nanosatellite, since the energy from an ICBM traveling at 15,000mph+ hitting a 1kg chunk of metal would be sufficient to kill the missile. (I'm not sure about killing an enemy satellite; it would probably depend on the relative velocities.)

Any ideas?



posted on Dec, 15 2004 @ 04:47 PM
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Possum,

Thanks for your input. When I was looking at that site, I was astonished by the money being put into nanosatellites. Your speculation is entirely plausible.

I further appreciate that analysis that went into your post. Personally, I didn't read the abstracts to thoroughly, but what I did read left me feeling somewhat uneasy.

So your postulate is that these satellites would actually intercept the missles themselves. Interesting. I hadn't thought about it that way, but it makes sense, at least the way you put it. It certainly would take care of the large power output required to destroy things with a laser or other such weapons.

Let me ask you this: Do you perceive difficulties in accelerating the nanosatellite to catch the ICBM, or are you postulating an interception more akin to stepping in front of the missle as opposed to catching up to it.
How far up in the atmosphere do ICBM's travel?



posted on Dec, 15 2004 @ 05:08 PM
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I would imagine that the nanosatellites would be scattered widely and frequently enough that they would not have to travel that far. Here's an interesting link about North Korean ICBM flight characteristics:

www.carnegieendowment.org...(3).pdf (Sorry, I haven't learned to disguise the link in normal text yet.)

Basically, 200-300 second burn-time, boosting the missile in an arc to a little over 3,000km.

Let's say that a launch is detected, then authorization is given for shoot-down. The closest cluster of satellites would move into the flight path, stepping in front of the missile. I'd think it would be a bit like placing a toilet on a freeway: the Cadillac driven by a little old lady fails to notice the ceramic bowl in her way, hits it dead on, and destroys her radiator and windshield, thus ending the trip to the bank.

This would eliminate many of the problems with shooting down an ICBM with a ground based interceptor. For example, the kill vehicle would already be in space, so there would be no time to warm-up or fuel the launch mechanism.

Since an ICBM has a flight time of 30 minutes plus, I don't think it would be that hard to give a nanosatellite the power to catch it. (I am assuming that there would be more than a few of these things, so the movement would not have to be that far.) Already a weightless environment, and the nanosatellite would be low in mass, so the energy required to intercept would not be that great.



posted on Dec, 15 2004 @ 05:34 PM
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Thanks again for your thoughts on this matter Possum. With respect to the toilet in the road analogy. Simply smashing the radiator of a cadillac would likely prevent the trip to the bank, BUT would it prevent the little old lady from driving to the nearest service station. I would imagine you see the analogy I am going for. Does somewhat or even nearly completely incapacitating an ICBM neutralize it? Can critical mass still be reached resulting in a nuclear explosion, even if it's not over the intended target... seems like this could be bad too. Interested to hear your comments.



posted on Dec, 15 2004 @ 05:37 PM
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I can see how this idea would work, but instead of relying on the luck that an ICBM will stumble on these things, turn them into proximity EMP-Mines. If you knock out the electronics then you can't detonate. Of course there will be defenses but that will result in the ICBM becoming more bulky and massive.



posted on Dec, 15 2004 @ 07:14 PM
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Mattison,

You've got a point about the ICBM still being a problem after striking a nanosatellite. I think, in the grand scheme of things, trying to knock it out would be better than not. Even if the missile eventually gets through to the ground and detonates, its trajectory would probably be changed slightly away from the targeted impact point. So, it detonates on West Virginia instead of DC.

I do not know enough about the warheads on these things to know if critical mass would be reached. My gut feeling tells me that the warhead would have to survive the stresses of launch and reentry without a premature detonation, so a strike with a nanosatellite would not make it detonate (it probably does not arm until the very end of the flight.)

As to the benefits of a nanosatellite strike, it could malform the nose and make it burn up on reentry. Depending on if the ICBM has dumped all its booster phases, it could still have pressurized fuel tanks that could be blown, or a solid rocket fuel engine and casing could be malformed enough to change the trajectory.

For disadvantages, an air detonation at the right altitude would be A Bad Thing, since it could trigger an EMP pulse that a ground hit would not cause. Although, I imagine that an EMP-causing blast is already in the targeting list of every country that would fire against us.

My personal problem with spending billions of dollars on these is that the enemy is quite adaptive. We put up a cluster of space-debris-looking nanosatellites, and the enemy shifts to submarine based cruise missiles that never leave the atmosphere (or something else entirely.)



posted on Dec, 15 2004 @ 07:22 PM
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hmmmm...Wierd thoughts, but not realistic. (time for my 2 cents)

Nanosatellites are becoming a bigger thing, The Boeing Delta 4 Heavy will put 2 of them in space when it launch's (Its currently delayed). Which have being build from commercail (off-the-shelf) products like digital cameras, so if those nanosats work then people will know that off the shelf products work in space, which means you dont need to pay big money for a big company to build them, and this will result in more nano launches.

In 2007 Arainespace will launch 1 rocket that will hold 50 nanosats, they will all be released and be able to stay in space for 2 years.



Darpa is developing RASCAL (Responsive Access Small Cargo Affordable Launch), which will cost under 1 million to launch a nanosat, with it being this cheap a lot of nanosats could be launched with a very good price tag.



Just to clear things up, Microsats are a little bigger then a washing-machine, while nanosats are a little smaller then a microwave. They usually have solar panals on 4 sides.


mattison0922
Certainly there may be cost considerations in terms of launching large satellites, but I find it hard to believe thats the DoDs interest saving money.

Why wouldn't they want to save money? Its more to spend on another launch or another program.


mattison0922
This is an interesting point. Pardon my ignorance again, but are we currently able to shoot down satellites?

Its public knowledge that we can shoot down LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites by either a missile fired from a F-14, to a Laser frying it out of the sky. But the ones that are really high like GEO, those couldn't be hit by normal means, but the government have different satellites up there that are built for one purpose only, to ram into another satellite or by other means disable it.



Sardion2000
One Nuke armed ICBM should do the trick.

Ummm...yeah, if your objective is to take some of our sats out as well.



Sardion2000
You ever heard about that new space telescope NASA is building? It's based around a constellation of telescopes flying in tight formation to increase resoloution by an extreme amount, enought to theoretically detect earth sized planets outside our solar system. I do not see why the same principal cannot be utilized for spying on earth, or even to observe the earth for scientific purposes.

That telescope will be able to see farther then the others because it will have several mirrors that are looking at the same area, they are not individual seperate units. I'm assuming that with this paragraph you are no longer talking about Nanosats, because the only way you can see farther into space (or earth) is the size of the mirror, so yes, the CIA could send up a few satellites to look down on earth with amazing clarity they would need to use a big rocket to hold it all in one launch.

Possum Sandwich - No, I highly doubt that nanosats are the "Stuningly expensive" thing they are referring to, that is would be the MDS (Missile Defence Shield). The whole point of nanosats compared to regular ones is there cheaper to build & launch.
Also, your "vision" of thousands of nanosats that will impact the rocket while its in space is plan crazy, You dont relize how big space is, and a ICBM only takes 45 mins from launch to impact, there is no time for you to position a few of these things in place, not to mention that because of the US's MDS they are now making there Rockets flight path be more iratic, which means if you could get a few nanosats in front of it that are waiting for the rocket the rocket would all the sudden change its current path, which would make it miss your nanosats. They are doing this in hope our Missiles will miss theirs.



mattison0922
How far up in the atmosphere do ICBM's travel?

They leave earths atmosphere. They go Mach 23 and can go 700 miles high. (have fun getting a microwave sized object in front of that)



posted on Dec, 15 2004 @ 07:50 PM
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There are actually missiles that can be placed on our high performance fighters (F-15/F-14) that can be launched at low-orbit satellites... I believe the last time we did a test launch was ~5 years ago, no? It has existed since the 80's...


E_T

posted on Dec, 16 2004 @ 02:31 AM
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Missile is ASAT, its carried in F-15's centerline store and first and only test fire was 85.
www.designation-systems.net...
www.edwards.af.mil...


Using these nanosatellites for intercepting ICBMs would require much of them, earth's diameter is ~13000 km so you can calculate how much there's area to cover, of course you wouldn't have to cover all of that but even ten % of that is much.


And about nuclear weapons, implosion has to "perfectly" symmetrical to produce critical mass/density.
There have been many broken arrows, like aircraft crashes in which resulting fire has caused explosive's in primary to go off.


E_T

posted on Dec, 16 2004 @ 02:37 AM
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Originally posted by sardion2000
I pretty much make it my business to keep up to date on the cutting edge of technology and the catchphrase for electronics is smaller, better and cheaper. Satellites are no exception, on the Mars rovers its camera is one of the most advances to even send images back from another world(we're talking gigapixles not mega) and its not that big. It's kinda tiny to tell you the truth.

"The Pancam cameras are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand (270 grams or about 9 ounces), but can generate panoramic image mosaics as large as 4,000 pixels high and 24,000 pixels around."
marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov...
Notice word "mosaics", so I guess that's resolution for mosaic image covering 360 degrees.



posted on Dec, 16 2004 @ 01:24 PM
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Originally posted by E_T
Missile is ASAT, its carried in F-15's centerline store and first and only test fire was 85.





The first ASAT launch from an F-15 took place early in 1984 and was directed merely to a predetermined point in space, as a test of the missile's propulsion system.


And 1984... I assume with software upgrades the F-14 could have easily done the same.

Ground based ASLs...


E_T

posted on Dec, 16 2004 @ 04:28 PM
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Originally posted by ChrisRT
I assume with software upgrades the F-14 could have easily done the same.
Tomcat doesn't have same kind centerline store for very big&heavy stuff.



posted on Dec, 16 2004 @ 07:21 PM
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Tomcat doesn't have same kind centerline store for very big&heavy stuff.


I suppose... If you just had to I guess to could stress the AIM-54 pylons as seeing that the missiles are 'almost' the same size...

I think the main factor in the F-15A getting it was because the USAF controls most space activities and the F-15A had better time to altitude performance...

But whatever... It's irrelevant and obsolete by newer weapons standards...



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