Congress

Yes, there is a space-related hearing Wednesday

While the Senate Commerce Committee’s space subcommittee has cancelled their planned joint hearing today with the House Science and Technology Committee about the investigation into the NASA inspector general (going so far as to remove the press release last week announcing the hearing from their web site), there is a space-related hearing this afternoon. The Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is holding a hearing today titled “Weaponizing Space: Is Current U.S. Policy Protecting Our National Security?”. The purpose of the hearing is to “examine the 2006 National Space Policy (unclassified version) and the impact of Administration policies on the use of space by other countries, such as the January 2007 anti-satellite test by China.” The first panel of speakers includes the head of the National Security Space Office, Maj. Gen. James Armor, as well as a State Department official; the second features a fairly typical group of outside experts.

As a prelude to the hearing, the Center for American Progress issued a statement Tuesday critical of any future US plans to develop space-based weapons. The piece is a little odd in that it focused on space-based weapons for use against targets on the ground, as opposed to other spacecraft. Most of the debate, of course, has been on the latter, both after the public release of the policy and again after the Chinese ASAT test in January. Yet the Center for American Progress paper, after describing all the problems inherent with the use of space-based weapons against terrestrial targets, concludes with recommendations about how to protect US space assets from attack, or mitigate the effects of one: “Rather than investing in space-based weapons, the U.S. government should develop satellites that can operate from farther away to ensure safety from attack, and build a stockpile of satellites in case existing ones are jammed or destroyed.”

9 comments to Yes, there is a space-related hearing Wednesday

  • Dwayne Day

    If you look at the bottom of the CAP article there is a link for a July 2005 op-ed piece called “Visualize Iraq–in space.” It is clear that the current CAP press release is simply a shorter rewrite of this two-year old piece. It makes all the same points and is simply shorter. I suspect that either an intern or somebody in their public affairs office wrote that. Sloppy staff work by CAP. Somebody should have asked the obvious question if the situation in 2007 is still the same that it was in 2005–the answer is no, but they don’t realize that, or care.

    The July 2005 piece, however, was sloppy to begin with. It was a response to a NY Times article about the “impending release” of the Bush space policy. That NY Times article was pretty sloppy, and as we all know, the Bush space policy was NOT released in the summer of 2005. In fact, it was not even finished and signed by Bush until over a year later.

    The 2005 op-ed demonstrated a very shallow understanding of the issues. The US military was not then developing space-to-ground weapons as the article implied. And some of the ideas in that op-ed are weird, like moving satellites “farther away” to resist attack. There are serious limitations to this, and the basic fact is that anything that can be put in space can be shot down, but putting things in higher orbits gives the defender greater response time.

    Based upon these two pieces, and without doing much further research, I conclude that the CAP is not to be taken seriously on this issue. They’re clearly not very involved or fluent with the debate. There are other left-leaning groups (like CDI) that have a more sophisticated understanding of the issues. CAP is a lightweight.

  • richardb

    This space based weapon debate might be sterile in less than 10 years. China will have enough satellites in orbit by then that they too are at serious economic risk of losing essential birds. The US will be 10 years farther down the road to fielding earth based substitutes for GPS and sat comm. So could be, in 10 years time, the risk to the US military has gone down, while the risk to China’s economy has gone up. Of course it would be inexplicable for Darpa and others not to be nosing around quick and dirty earth or space based weapons to accomplish the mission China has tasked its own armed forces.

  • richardb: The US will be 10 years farther down the road to fielding earth based substitutes for GPS and sat comm.

    I hope not. GPS is currently one of the largest markets available to commercial American launch providers.

    – Donald

  • richardb

    As it happens, I ran across this a couple minutes ago
    http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2007/05/23/214154/us-military-plans-for-new-uav-to-stay-airborne-for-five-years.html

    As someone who owns Aervironment stock, I’m pleased.

  • richardb

    Key blurb:

    “VULTURE, in effect, will be a retaskable, persistent satellite capability in an aircraft package,” says DARPA in its fiscal year 2008 budget submission, which indicates the UAV will be solar powered, like the ISIS airship.

    True not gps. But whats to stop them from trying?

  • So much for one of the major markets SpaceX, et al, are counting on — and for our future in space. . . .

    – Donald

  • richardb

    Don’t know about that. I’m guessing DOD is doing this as a plan B in case we need to quickly replace lost satellite bandwidth. I also read somewhere that they are attempting to see if within an area, all the stationary RF emissions can be accurately mapped so that a ground based GPS can be created for a specific region.

    If SpaceX can deliver on price, they’ll be busy. Ariane, LMT & Boeing might not, regardless of GPS.

  • al Fansome

    Donald,

    Any UAV that is broadcasting a GPS signal will be telling everybody exactly where it is … which is a formula for getting shot down really fast. Anybody who can take out a GPS satellite, can easily take out a non-stealthy UAV.

    If you only need GPS augmentation for a short period … such as punching through jamming … then this might make sense. But it will not survive for long, so this is a matter of timing.

    BTW, UAVs can be useful for surveillance, which is a mission that stealth combines well with. This is not exactly news.

    - Al

  • Al, thanks for the interesting thoughts. I’m not sure I have an opinion.

    – Donald

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