Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Space Corps

(Source)
The satellite launched from the Asian land mass, known to the U.S. Air Force as Gaofen-12, had been in orbit for a number of months. The Western powers had never detected any energy emanating from it, so everyone assumed that the vehicle had somehow failed once achieving orbit. It was catalogued with all of the other "space junk" and promptly forgotten.

USA-244 had been in orbit since 2013. This bird and its siblings provided secure military communications for the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. The first bird in the series had had some issues early on, but those glitches were soon ironed out.

USA-244 was nearing the end of it's service life, it's replacement was already up and taking on some of 244's communications load. These satellites were essential to communications between higher headquarters and lower level headquarters. Some lower level units also used these birds for their communications. As one admiral had put it, "Without these communications assets, my carrier strike groups might as well stay tied up to their piers."

One morning an analyst at Space Command in Colorado Springs began to notice that Gaofen-12 was starting to show signs of life. It had generated a couple of bursts of random noise over the past few days. She brought this to the attention of her superiors who told her, "don't worry about it, probably just random discharges aboard the bird causing it to transmit noise."

In reality, Gaofen-12 was signaling its home base that it was alive and in position to go to work. On Friday, the 17th of March, home base sent three bursts of highly focused energy at Gaofen-12. Anyone recording that data would assume that it was a self-destruct signal.

And it was. Sort of.


"Sir, I'm picking up a lot of static on the line to Pearl."

Lieutenant Commander Willis "Buck" Owens walked over to the operator's console and asked the petty officer to show him what was up. Which the petty officer proceeded to do. They both listened for a moment and it seemed that the static was getting worse.

"Bad atmospherics?" LCDR Owens suggested. They both chuckled, Tora! Tora! Tora!, was playing on the ship's entertainment system this week. Both had seen it, both were somewhat incredulous at how badly the government had dropped the ball before the attack on Pearl Harbor.


High in space, Gaofen-12 came to life. Two brief bursts from its maneuvering jets moved it onto a collision course with USA-244. At the appropriate time, Gaofen-12 released two small packets of tiny steel balls. These immediately spread out, much like a shotgun blast. After doing so, Gaofen-12's maneuvering jets fired again.

In moments the satellite was dropping out of orbit, soon to burn up upon re-entry into the atmosphere. In Colorado Springs, the overworked, over-tasked office charged with keeping track of the myriad objects orbiting the Earth noted that the signal sent up to Gaofen-12 apparently was a self-destruct of sorts, commanding the satellite to leave orbit and plunge to its "death" upon re-entry.

No report of Gaofen-12's activities was ever filed.


The first few steel balls to hit USA-244 impacted in two places. Some went through a solar panel, causing complete disruption of that panel. The panel was used to help keep the bird oriented properly in space with relation to Earth. The others, which actually hit the satellite, damaged some external shielding and one of the communications antennae. Not enough to put the satellite out of action, but enough to degrade its communications capabilities.

The rest of the steel balls missed completely.

USA-244 began to develop a slight "wobble."


At Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Lance Corporal Mitch Higgins noted that the comms output from USA-244 was starting to fluctuate. As if the bird was pointing at them, then pointing away. Not by much, but a little more with each passing minute. He called over his boss, Gunnery Sergeant Isaiah Robertson.

"Damn, that bird looks like it's going flaky on us. How long has this been doing that?"

"About ten minutes now Gunny, and it's getting worse."


At that moment all communications were lost with the Kennedy Strike Group. At that point, the strike group started paying more attention to their organic sensors, passive at first, which were all fairly short range. They no longer had their giant "eye in the sky" data which USA-244 had been providing them.

"Get on the horn to Pearl, I'm blind for the moment, I might need to radiate, and soon."

"On it Admiral!"


USS LeFon*, an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer was the first to detect the incoming "vampires." The Chinese bombers which had launched them had been inbound since USA-244 went offline. They were coming in supersonic when they launched their anti-ship missiles, they wanted to get in and hit the Americans before their sensors were online.

They almost succeeded...


(Source)
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So, do I think a new branch of our military is a good idea, to keep an eye on things in space?

Yes, yes I do.

But I'd be interested in hearing (reading) your thoughts on it. Chase those sources down under the pictures, interesting reading. Especially the bits where certain Congress-critters are upset with their staff wienies for not keeping them informed.





* With a tip of the hat, and apologies, to Claude Berube, who's Connor Stark novels are well worth your time.

30 comments:

  1. A Space branch might be OK, but for heaven's :-) sake don't put it under the Air Farce. It was CAPTAIN Kirk commanding The Enterprise, after all.

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  2. Gravity isn't just an inconvenient idea, it's the law. Ditto the physical laws of motion. No one on the planet has lift/maneuvering capabilities commensurate with our present level of terrestrial/aerial technology/capacity.

    If you study a bit of earth science and history it's hard not to conclude that stubbornly clinging to this rock will take us to the same place the dinosaurs went. If we're to survive as a species, survival is up there.

    None of the problems of living and operating in space are insurmountable, but our present level of space technology compares as a Curtiss JN-4 with gps and a cell phone to a Tomcat.

    If we want to survive and thrive in space we're gonna have to be able to shoot, move and communicate.

    Will expanding the permanent federal workforce by adding 200,000 GS-space bureaucrats help?

    Yeah, probably not.

    We need to get into space and learn to be good at it, but the proposed federal jobs/voters program will stifle that aim.

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    Replies
    1. Baby steps Shaun, baby steps. Before we can colonize Mars we need to prevent the bad guys from killing our satellites. The Air Force is ill-equipped to do so, we can't even manage the force we've got. Otherwise why are all the pilots leaving?

      But you're probably right, it will create about 1000 folks wearing new uniforms designed by some O-10 and add 250,000 employees to some non-functioning, newly created bureaucracy in the Federal government.

      I'm for it, but only if we do it right. I mean at one point in our history NASA was pretty damned capable before the politicians and the tree huggers killed it.

      Delete
  3. As mentioned above not too keen on more federal bureaucrats on the payroll but space is the high ground......

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    Replies
    1. Space is critical to our communications, weather prediction, reconnaissance and such. As such, it's kinda important to keep the dipshits in foreign shitholes from disabling all that fancy gear.

      Just my thought.

      Delete
  4. I have to agree to a point. The moon owned by whatever cooperation, or some other country? Not a good place to be then. But, then the only other option, is some governing body to "regulate" who, can own a piece of land, even in space.but, sounds like a good sf read.

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    Replies
    1. I would think that the Moon would follow the Antarctica model, international, no one body or government "owns" it. But for now I'm more interesting in protecting us from bad guys blinding our satellites.

      Delete
  5. I suspect that space is going to be militarized no matter what treaties to the contrary may state.

    I think a good case could be made for the wet and submerged Navy being a near ideal candidate for the core of the Space Navy.

    In support I suggest that the Submarine Navy has the cultural and the experience in dealing with an airless dangerous environment and is used to long patrols away from home base. And I learn more the the fast attack part of that Navy.

    I also suggest a homework assignment of skimming some of the information on this site. "Atomic Rockets." The site discusses in great detail the theory of space and space weapons and does the math to support the discussion.

    http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/

    A good thought provoking post.

    And maybe some thought on the SEALS role in space warfare is in order.

    The reading list for science fiction's treatment of Space Navies would be a very, very, long list.

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    Replies
    1. The Navy would be my choice as well, for just the reasons you state.

      Delete
  6. Then there is this:

    Rear Admiral Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. (November 18, 1923 – July 21, 1998) was an American astronaut, naval aviator, test pilot, and businessman.
    A graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Shepard saw action with the surface navy during World War II.

    Shepard made his second space flight as Commander of Apollo 14 from January 31 to February 9, 1971. It was America's third successful lunar landing mission. Shepard piloted the lunar module Antares to the most accurate landing of the entire Apollo program.[99] He became the fifth and, at the age of 47, the oldest man to walk on the moon, and the only one of the Mercury Seven astronauts to do so. (from Wikipedia)

    Fly Navy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The color of ones wings does not bestow "best". Ones ability to perform ones mission determines that. Just sayin'.

      Delete
    2. I knew that as soon as I wrote that, that you would weigh in on that. Understandable. With two kids in Naval Aviation, I am not an unbiased observer.

      I was merely providing the rest of the quote. That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.

      ;)

      Delete
  7. I concur that there are excellent pilots and WSOs in every service, and they carry out some amazing and difficult missions in very challenging circumstances. But it was my experience that in any Officers Club (when there still were such a thing) in any service anywhere in the world if there was a Naval Aviator there the conversation would eventually turn to Carrier Landings and the difficulty/challenges thereof. Just saying'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Getting off and on the boat makes a big difference.

      Delete
    2. Carrier landings in an O Club had nothing to do with ships and everything to do with a flat table, a rolled up tablecloth and beer, lots and lots of beer. At least in my experience.

      Delete
    3. They were like that in certain off-base establishments in Korea as well.

      I hated a wet deck.

      Delete
  8. Have to agree with Shaun and Nylon12. First thing I thought when I heard the proposal being floated again was "right, more bureaucratic overhead" and who's bread gets buttered for that?

    To my mind, Navy would be running the large spaceships/vessels that provide the platforms for the tactical fighters to operate from, be they Navy or USAF piloting tactical craft, or Space Marines or SEALs/SOF types doing "hands-on" sorts of work. Great Science Fiction is full of this sort of stuff!

    /
    L.J.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, no matter what, somebody's rice bowl will get filled.

      Delete
  9. 5 years working at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command tell me to give this to the Marines. Some of could, literally, not stop the unending stream of experts from DC who inisted we could save $ by offboarding 99% of our computer capability and use land based big frames with far larger capabilities which would be connected over various satellite comm bands. It was extremely annoying dealing with them. They simply assumed that we had command of space and could wage space denial warfare if we ever wanted to. They never ever thought our enemies could do it better than us and with feeling!

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    Replies
    1. Shudder.

      Those same "experts" will be the death of this nation.

      Give it to the Marines, aye!

      Delete
  10. My former service is apparently dead. There seems to be no respect. No hope lies in the shadows of the bureaucracy for its resurrection. In my day, we could plan a mission (google "Operation Bolo"), keep airplanes flying (even with tail number scheduling) and make a "trap" without any training.
    Maybe if we get some real men in leadership before menopause takes the service completely, there will be hope.

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    Replies
    1. There are days I just wish the Army would take us back.

      Where, oh where, did our old service go wrong?

      Delete
    2. We used to replace 25% of the crew every single month, take a day off and then head back into active mine fields in the middle of a war zone, one in which we were participants. There was none of this sh#t they call training and certification. It was a myth, a facade. I liked it. Some of us thrived on it.

      Delete
  11. Number one post and number one+ comments. How do I keep missing these posts? I swear that I stop by here every day, but too often I look past the current post and there is a post from the previous day that I haven't read. Dagnadit.

    Paul L. Quandt

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    Replies
    1. There's always time to play catch up here at The Chant, we're up and running 24/7.

      ;)

      Delete
  12. "...we're up and running 24/7." Don't you get tired and out of breath?

    Paul

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)