The United States wants to deploy a network of satellites intercepting nuclear missiles. Experts say it is impossible

Last week the Pentagon posted a massiveA report detailing the new capabilities that he wants to use to enhance US missile defense, and part of this list includes a renewal of the country's assets in space. But while some of the proposed space technology upgrades may be useful, others — such as stopping nuclear strikes right in orbit — are considered by experts to be fantastic.

US Space Weapons and Missile Defense

The document titled "Review of the MissileDefense "calls for the creation of a new constellation of satellites equipped with infrared sensors that can better track the warheads on Earth. This technology will help the United States go on the path of new supersonic devices that are being developed to transport nuclear missiles from one place to another. Also in this review, the Pentagon is urged to explore the possibility of creating satellites capable of intercepting nuclear missiles from space. For this study, the Pentagon will have to experiment and demonstrate technology in Earth orbit.

"Much has changed since the UnitedStates last considered space interceptors in a possible architecture, including significant improvements in technologies applicable to space bases and directional energy, ”the report writes.

Recall that just the other day, the head of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin promised to create a system of "Sovereign eye", which will literally "watch all the processes on the planet." Nothing but a coincidence.

Satellites designed to shoot down a rocket inthe moment of its launch, it was proposed and developed (at the level of drawings) many times in the past. In the United States, this idea dates back to the Reagan administration, to the Strategic Defense Initiative, which critics have called Star Wars. Then they called for the creation of a large number of space technologies to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into American soil. But the general consensus on these assets has long remained unchanged: such interceptors would be too expensive and too complicated to be taken for them at all. First, they would take a lot - hundreds or thousands - to achieve global coverage. They would have to perform a lot of complex technical tasks in a very short time in order to remain effective.

"From the point of view of physics, of course, you can senda satellite into space at the right time to intercept an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile), ”said Laura Grego, senior researcher at the Union of Concerned Scientists (yes, there is a Union of Concerned Scientists) who is engaged in anti-missile defense and space security. “This is a technical issue. The real difficulty is only in the enormous size needed. ”

Although now the question of spaceInterceptors are not on the agenda of the Pentagon, US President Donald Trump hinted that he would like to see coverage of this kind provided by the satellites. “Our goal is simple - to ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States, anywhere, anytime, anywhere,” Trump said. "This kind of coverage can only be obtained from a system of many thousands of space satellites."

At the moment, the US missile defense system for the most parttied to earth. The largest interception system at their disposal is GMD, Ground-Based Midcourse Defense, which depends on the operation of a network of sensors, personnel and missiles. If nuclear weapons are launched from North Korea, for example, infrared satellites with land and sea radars will detect it and quickly calculate the final destination of the rocket. GMD employees will then order rockets based in Alaska or California to be launched. These interceptors will try to meet a nuclear missile during its flight in the vacuum of space - the longest phase of the flight of the ICBM. Then they will crash into it and destroy it until it reaches the ground.

Interceptor Tests in Hawaii in 2011

If we talk about the destruction of any missile "whereAnytime, anywhere, anywhere, GMD simply cannot do this because there are a limited number of interceptors. GMD has 44 interceptors, although a new plan requires the creation of another 20. But this arsenal would not be enough if Russia and China decided to launch their nuclear fleet overnight. Such a system is more focused on eliminating threats from small players, such as North Korea or Iran. Another problem is that these interceptors are not always effective. Of the 19 test interceptions, only 10 were considered successful.

Part of the problem is getting into the ICBM,flying at a speed of thousands of kilometers per hour is incredibly difficult. Another complication is that the interceptor himself is quite difficult to determine which object he should get into. During the flight, the ICBMs drop parts and equipment that may confuse the interceptor. In addition, countries are developing their rockets so that they are harder to notice. More sophisticated ICBMs are able to deploy bait during flight, making it difficult to determine which part is the real warhead. The interception takes place in the cosmic vacuum, where a heavy warhead moves at the same speed as a light bait. “He is trying to understand where the real warhead is, and this is quite a difficult task,” says Grego.

According to Grego, it is this problem baitmakes some people think about space defense. The idea is that satellites equipped with interceptors can be aimed at ICBMs during a launch or acceleration phase, and not during a long flight in space. At the stage of dispersal, the rocket is in the most vulnerable state, since it performs the controlled burning of its rocket engine and has not yet unrolled any lures. But the overclocking stage has a very limited window. It lasts only a few minutes, so any interceptor must be relatively close and act very quickly to hit the rocket at the right time. In the past, such an option had already been tried using ground or sea interceptors and found that they simply could not deliver them quickly enough.

Satellites will work if they are onlow enough orbit and fly overhead at the time of launch. But if you move away and estimate the number of rockets around the globe, you will need a huge number of satellites to catch any launch at any time. Satellites in low earth orbit are not located on the same piece of Earth. They fly at speeds in excess of 30,000 kilometers per hour, completing a single orbit around the planet every hour and a half. That is why the mega constellation of satellites working in tandem must zigzag across the Earth to cover the required area.

A similar problem faced by such companieslike SpaceX and OneWeb, trying to develop satellites to provide Internet coverage on Earth. For example, SpaceX offers to launch thousands of probes to get the desired coverage. But the satellite transmitting the Internet will transmit only light signals. The space interceptor will have to push tiny rockets with engines and fuel tanks out of orbit.

Some experts suggested usinglasers, focused energy beams, instead of physical interceptors. Thanks to lasers, the time to reach the incoming rocket will not be a particular problem. However, there may be limitations on how much energy a satellite can transmit through the Earth’s atmosphere — lasers mounted on satellites may simply not be powerful enough to destroy ICBMs.

And the constellation of laser-equipped satellites is allequals huge. The National Academy of Sciences published a detailed missile defense report in 2012, which states that the United States will need many hundreds or even thousands of such vehicles to truly cover all areas where a rocket can be launched on the globe. And the cost of running such a constellation will be astronomical. According to NAS estimates, the total life cycle cost of just 650 satellites will be above $ 300 billion.

Be it a laser or a rocket, a space interceptorshould be able to perform a huge number of tasks in a three-minute period. He will have to detect the launch, determine that this is a threat to the United States, decide to intercept the missile, determine the trajectory of the target, work. Some experts believe that since all this happens quickly, the satellite will have to work autonomously. This is a scary prospect, considering how many of them should be in the sky at the same time. These are thousands of killer satellites that will autonomously identify the threat and eliminate it.

Finally, do not overlook the policy. Launching hundreds or thousands of weapons into space - and that is it - neither China nor Russia will like it. These two states can retaliate by upgrading their launch systems to make nuclear bombs more sustainable during the acceleration phase, or they can increase the ability to destroy satellites in orbit.

For many, the very concept of missile defensenot as effective as the concept of mutual assured destruction - if one country decides to strike at another, it will also be destroyed in response. In addition, missile defense leads to an arms race. Is it necessary to threaten the deaths of millions of people to maintain peace? This is a difficult moral dilemma. Because it works.

In general, let's see what the Pentagon will come to. Obviously, the decision will not be easy. You can discuss options in our chat in Telegram.

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