[DEBATE] : Space Defense Program Gets Extra Funding
Riaz K. Tayob
riazt at iafrica.com
Tue Nov 13 17:09:12 GMT 2007
*Space Defense Program Gets Extra Funding*
By Walter Pincus Monday, November 12, 2007; A19
While wrestling with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon is
preparing weapons to fight the next battle from space, according to
information in the 621-page, House-Senate conference report on the
fiscal 2008 defense appropriations bill.
The $459 billion bill, which awaits President Bush's signature, provides
$100 million for a new "prompt global strike" program that could deliver
a conventional, precision-guided warhead anywhere in the world within
two hours. It takes funds away from development of a conventional
warhead for the Navy's submarine-launched Trident Intercontinental
Ballistic Missile and from an Air Force plan for the Common Aero Vehicle.
The new program, dubbed Falcon, for "Force Application and Launch from
CONUS," centers on a small-launch-vehicle concept of the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency. The agency describes Falcon as a "a
reusable Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle (HCV) capable of delivering
12,000 pounds of payload at a distance of 9,000 nautical miles from [the
continental United States] in less than two hours."
Hypersonic speed is far greater than the speed of sound. The reusable
vehicle being contemplated would "provide the country with significant
capability to conduct responsive missions with quick turn-around sortie
rates while providing aircraft-like operability and mission-recall
capability," according to DARPA.
The vehicle would be launched into space on a rocket, fly on its own to
a target, deliver its payload and return to Earth. In the short term, a
small launch rocket is being developed as part of Falcon. It eventually
would be able to boost the hypersonic vehicle into space. But in the
interim, it will be used to launch small satellites within 48 hours'
notice at a cost of less than $5 million a shot.
Conferees added $100 million above the Bush administration's request for
nearly $200 million to accelerate "space situational awareness." That is
code for protecting U.S. satellites in space and being able to attack
the enemy's satellites.
"Enhancing these capabilities is critical, particularly following the
Chinese anti-satellite-weapons demonstration last January," the
conferees wrote in their report. They were referring to a Jan. 11
incident in which a Chinese guided missile destroyed an aging weather
satellite in orbit.
"Counterspace systems" that would warn of impending threats to U.S.
satellites, destroy or defend against attackers, and interrupt enemy
satellites are in the Bush budget for $53 million. Conferees gave them
another $10 million.
One research project of $7 million in that category is directed at
"offensive counterspace," described in the Pentagon's presentation to
Congress as designing "the means to disrupt, deny, degrade or destroy an
adversary's space systems, or the information they provide."
Another $18 million would go for research into a second-generation
counter-satellite-communications system; it would explore and develop
capabilities "to provide disruption of satellite communications signals
in response to U.S. Strategic Command requirements," according to the
Pentagon congressional presentation. The first-generation system is
already operational, and an upgrade of those capabilities is in production.
The conferees want to increase funds for the Rapid Identification
Detection and Reporting System, which already had $28 million in the
Bush budget. This system is designed to provide "attack detection,
threat identification and characterization, and support rapid mission
impact assessments on U.S. space systems."
Its first-generation system is scheduled for initial operation at the
end of next year, while the new funds will allow continuation of
research on a second generation, which began this year.
Part of the funding will also go toward work on integrating this system,
which detects enemy threats to U.S. satellites, with the offensive
counterspace and counter-satellite-communications programs. Eventually,
they would be linked with U.S. command-and-control systems "in support
of space control and the counterspace mission areas," according to the
Pentagon's presentation to Congress.
Integration of these developing counterspace missions with a current
command-and-control system is expected by the middle of 2008, according
to documents provided to Congress.
National security and intelligence reporter Walter Pincus pores over the
speeches, reports, transcripts and other documents that flood Washington
and every week uncovers the fine print that rarely makes headlines --
but should. If you have any items that fit the bill, please send them to
fineprint at washpost.com <mailto:fineprint at washpost.com>
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502 http://www.space4peace.org globalnet at mindspring.com
<mailto:globalnet at mindspring.com> http://space4peace.blogspot.com (Blog)
http://www.myspace.com/brucekgagnon (MySpace profile)
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