Next-generation radiation-hardened computer enable previously impossible military small satellites to deep space missions

The advances in space demand next generation of space data and signal processing requirements High speed computers enable on-board image processing capability reduce the amount of bandwidth required to downlink the enormous images associated with emerging sensor developments. Onboard processing allows a complete image to be down linked directly to the battlefield commander, providing the operational forces with real-time imagery. This would reduce the dependence on the numerous ground stations.

An additional benefit of the high-performance space computer is the capacity to provide the user with autonomous mission operation, going beyond spacecraft control to increasingly independent information gathering, multispectral and hyperspectral data analysis, and data dissemination.

The increased satellite autonomy and processing capability will dramatically improve satellite system performance and decrease the support infrastructure while providing needed information directly to end users.

However, Deep-space and long-duration missions, where both crew members and spacecraft no longer benefit from the protection of Earth’s magnetic fields, are considered high risk for adverse radiation impacts. Long term exposure of astronauts to radiation is problematic and the effect that space radiation has on spacecraft electronics and software is equally challenging. The computers in space must meet the radiation-hardness requirements of the severest space environment.

Ionizing radiation takes a few forms: Alpha, beta, and neutron particles, and gamma and X-rays. The ability of Radiation to affect electronic devices depends on its ability to penetrate the electronic equipment and then to penetrate the packages with semiconductor devices in them. Usually it will be beta and gamma radiation that will have this ability; alpha particles will usually be stopped by outer packaging very easily.

The common quality that is measured in Radiation is its ability to ionise materials. In semiconductors this ionising radiation can have two major effects: one is to produce electron-hole pairs which can create “soft” errors (errors in operation but not permanent damage) and, if the radiation is sufficient, permanent damage by creating large numbers of charges with sufficient energy to be injected into Silicon dioxide regions (where they stick) and change a transistors characteristics. Such high levels of radiation can also disrupt the crystal lattice and damage the transistors in that way.

Normal semiconductor devices such as those in a typical computer would have sufficient soft errors at relatively low levels of radiation to render the computer unusable though not necessarily cause permanent damage. However, it is possible to make semiconductor devices that are very resilient to radiation – at least for a period of time. This involves different processing and careful design and, as a result, they are not cheap to make. Typically they will use a silicon-on-insulator process and complete computers can be made (and are made for military applications) that can withstand around 1 megarad, which would be lethal to a human.

U.S. government space researchers want industry to develop a next-generation radiation-hardened, general-purpose, multi-core processor within the next four years to meet on-board computing needs of future manned spacecraft and space robots.

Today’s radiation-hardened space processors typically are single-processor systems based on existing commercial or military computers. they operate at maximum required throughput, fault tolerance, and power levels. Air Force and NASA space experts, however, say they anticipate future missions that will require an increase in throughput and wider variations in throughput, fault tolerance, and power levels.

To do this they need a new space processor design that will provide orders of magnitude improvement in performance and performance-to-power ratio as well as the ability dynamically to set the power-throughput-fault tolerance operating point.


A BAE Systems develops RAD5545 Next-generation single-board space computer

BAE Systems, a world leader in radiation-hardened computers and processors for satellites and spacecraft, today announced a new generation of its flagship space computer that combines fast performance and extreme resiliency to enable previously impossible missions in the harsh environment of space.

The new RAD5545TM single-board computer (SBC) provides next-generation spacecraft with the high-performance onboard processing capacity needed to support future space missions — from weather and planetary exploration to communications, surveillance, tracking, and national security missions. The RAD5545 SBC delivers exponential improvements in size, speed, and power-efficiency over its proven predecessor, the RAD750® SBC.

“The RAD5545 SBC is the next step in the evolution of space computers. It’s the most technologically advanced radiation-hardened, general-purpose processor for space applications,” said Dave Rea, director of On-board Processing and Advanced Technology at BAE Systems.

A single RAD5545 SBC replaces multiple cards on previous generations of spacecraft. It combines high performance, large amounts of memory, and fast throughput to improve spacecraft capability, efficiency, and mission performance. With its improved computational throughput, storage, and bandwidth, it will provide spacecraft with the ability to conduct new missions, including those requiring encryption processing, multiple operating systems, ultra high-resolution image processing, autonomous operation, and simultaneous support for multiple payloads — missions that were impossible with previous single-board computers.

The RAD5545 SBC is produced at the company’s facility in Manassas, Virginia. The facility is a U.S. Department of Defense Category 1A Microelectronics Trusted Source.

BAE Systems’ radiation-hardened electronics have been onboard satellites and spacecraft for almost 30 years, delivering long-lasting computing power in extreme environmental conditions. The company has provided more than 900 computers on over 300 satellites, and has provided the computers that power key national space assets, including some that are hundreds of millions of miles away from Earth.


Air Force, NASA to develop radiation-hardened ARM processor for next-generation space computing

Officials of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., issued the final solicitation Monday for the High Performance Spaceflight Computing (HPSC) Processor Chiplet program for NASA and U.S. Air Force manned and unmanned spacecraft.

This four-year project is expected to deliver a next-generation rad-hard space processor based on the ARM processor architecture to provide optimal power-to-performance for upgradeability, software availability, ease of use, and cost.

The HPSC project also will use Radiation Hard By Design (RHBD) standard cell libraries, as well as the ARM A53 processor with its internal NEON single instruction, multiple data (SIMD) design. Experts say a heterogeneous multi-core architectures using many different processor core types will not provide the best possible return on investment.

Applications for the HPSC processor will include military surveillance and weapons systems, human-rated spacecraft, habitats and vehicles, and robotic science and exploration platforms. System applications range from small satellites to large flagship-class missions.

Space computing tasks of the HPSC processor will include command and data handling, guidance navigation and control, and communications like software-defined radio; human assist, data representation, and cloud computing; high-rate real-time sensor data processing; and autonomy and science processing.

The software infrastructure for the HPSC Chiplet is envisioned to support both symmetric and asymmetric processing, and support both real-time operating systems and Unix/Linux based parallel processing. This infrastructure is also envisioned to support hierarchical fault tolerance, ranging from single Chiplet missions to multi-Chiplet highly redundant human missions. This software infrastructure is a contract deliverable.

Fault tolerance management middleware will enable the processor to detect and log errors; remove services likely to experience hard failures; respond to uncorrectable errors; and implement n-modular redundancy, checkpoint/rollback, or other high-level fault tolerance.

This four-year project will consist of a preliminary design phase, a detailed design phase, a fabrication phase, and a test and characterization phase. The project should lead to a processor behavioral model, prototype processors, processor evaluation boards, and system software.

A key goal for the HPSC project is the ability to trade dynamically between processing throughput, power consumption, and fault tolerance. The HPSC processor architecture sometimes will be inside a dedicated spaceflight computer, and sometimes may be embedded in a science instrument or spaceflight subsystem.


Next Generation Space Processor (NGSP) study

Collaborative discussions with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) determined that many of NASA’s future onboard computing needs have commonality with the USAF’s future needs, and that a radiation-hardened, general purpose multi-core processor of the kind envisioned by NASA would also be relevant to the USAF.

Based on these shared interests, NASA partnered with AFRL on a Next Generation Space Processor (NGSP) study. This study, led by AFRL, engaged industry to assess, in greater detail, USAF’s requirements, compare USAF’s requirements with NASA’s previously defined detailed requirements, 3 develop processor architectures that would satisfy the superset of NASA/USAF requirements and evaluate these architectures against a set of government provided benchmarks.


The NGSP study provided the government team valuable guidance regarding the optimal architecture for a future spaceflight processing device:

– The use of COTS IP (specifically ARM based IP) provides optimal power-to performance, extensibility, evolvability, software availability, ease of use, and cost.

– The use of Radiation Hard By Design (RHBD) standard cell libraries provides required radiation tolerance.

– The augmentation of RHBD with higher-level fault tolerance techniques improves reliability.

– The use of the ARM A53 processor with its internal NEON Single Instruction, Multiple Data (SIMD) is sufficient for most near term applications.

– Heterogeneous multi-core architectures using multiple processor core types do not provide the optimum return on investment at this time.

– Architectural flexibility such as the ability to turn on/off cache coherency and use of L3 cache, as well as the ability to dynamically depower unused cores, including memory and Input/Output (I/O) interfaces, is useful to enable setting of optimal power: performance: fault tolerance operating point.



Radiation effects on Electronics and radiation hardening

Radiation has the potential to interfere with electronic devices and systems, creating so-called radiation-induced effects. Radiation effects on electronics are normally divided into 3 different categories according to their effect on the electronic components:

Total ionizing dose (TID):

Total Ionizing Dose effects on modern integrated circuits cause the threshold voltage of MOS transistors to change because of trapped charges in the silicon dioxide gate insulator. For sub-micron devices these trapped charges can potentially “escape” by tunneling effects. Leakage currents are also generated at the edge of (N)MOS transistors and potentially between neighbor N-type diffusions. Commercial digital CMOS processes can normally stand a few Krad  without a significant increase in power consumption. Modern sub-micron technologies tend to be more resistant to total dose effects than older technologies (in some cases up to several hundred Krad). High performance analog devices ( e.g. amplifiers, ADC, DAC) may though potentially be affected at quite low doses. Total dose is measured in Rad or Gray ( 1 Gray = 100 Rad.)


Displacement damage:

Hadrons may displace atoms (therefore called displacement effect) in the silicon lattice of active devices and thereby affect their function. Bipolar devices and especially optical devices ( e.g. Lasers, LEDs, Optical receivers, Opto-couplers) may be very sensitive to this effect. CMOS  integrated circuits are normally not considered to suffer degradation by displacement damage. The total effect of different types of hadrons at different energies are normalized to 1 Mev Neutrons using the NIEL ( Non Ionizing Energy Loss) equivalent.


Single event effects (SEE):

Single Event Effects refer to the fact that it is not a cumulative effect but an effect related to single individual interactions in the silicon. Highly ionizing particles can directly deposit enough charge locally in the silicon to disturb the function of electronic circuits. Energetic Hadrons ( > ~20Mev) can by nuclear interactions within the component itself generate recoils that also deposits sufficient charge locally to disturb the correct function. The different SEE effects are normally characterized by an energy threshold and a sensitivity cross-section at energies well above the threshold.


Single event upset (SEU):

The deposited charge is sufficient to flip the value of a digital signal. Single Event Upsets normally refer to bit flips in memory circuits ( RAM, Latch, flip-flop) but may also in some rare cases directly affect digital signals in logic circuits.


Single event latchup (SEL):

Bulk CMOS technologies (not Silicon On Insulator) have parasitic bipolar transistors that can be triggered by a locally deposited charge to generate a kind of short circuit between the power supply and ground. CMOS processes are made to prevent this to occur under normal operating conditions but a local charge deposition from a traversing particle may potentially trigger this effect. Single event latchup may be limited to a small local region or may propagate to affect large parts of the chip. The large currents caused by this short circuit effect can permanently damage components if they are not externally protected against the large short circuit current and the related power dissipation.


Single event burnout (SEB):

Single event burnout refers to destructive failures of power MOSFET transistors in high power applications. For HEP applications this destructive failure mechanism is normally associated to failures in the main switching transistors of switching mode power supplies.


Radiation hard/tolerant design

For environments with high levels of radiation special technologies made to be immune to radiation must often be used (e.g. DMILL). Modern sub-micron CMOS technologies can often also be used in high radiation environments if special precautions are made in their design (e.g. enclosed transistors with guard rings).

Basically all CMOS technologies will be sensitive to single event upsets in their memory elements unless special schemes have been used. The general principles used to be insensitive to single event upsets is to use triple redundant logic and memories with error correcting codes (e.g. Hamming coding). Circuits with large memories and S-RAM based FPGAs should only be used in radiation environments after a careful analysis of single event upset problems.

The problem of single event burnout in power MOSFETs can in many cases be resolved by using a de-rating factor of ~2 of the main voltage and current limitations of the power transistor (implies redesign of power supply).



References and Resources also include:

“32-bit Radiation-Hardened Computers for Space,” Captains Joseph Nedeau and Dan King,


NASA and China are developing X-ray pulsar-based navigation and timing (XNAV) for faster,autonomous and secure space missions

Pulsars are highly magnetized, rotating neutron stars that emit electromagnetic radiation at regular intervals. They radiate energy across a broad range of frequencies, but they are most visible in their X-ray beams. Pulsars emit powerful beams in opposite directions as they spin. These beams are observable only when they’re pointed toward Earth, making it seem as if these objects pulse (hence the name). In some cases, this apparent pulsing occurs with the predictability and consistency of an atomic clock.

X-ray pulsar-based navigation and timing (XNAV) is a theoretical navigation technique whereby the periodic X-ray signals emitted from pulsars are used to determine the location of a vehicle, such as a spacecraft in deep space. A vehicle using XNAV would compare received X-ray signals with a database of known pulsar frequencies and locations. Similar to GPS, this comparison would allow the vehicle to triangulate its position accurately (±5 km).

Current spacecraft navigation systems rely on global network of large ground-based radio antennas like NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) and ESA’s European Space Tracking (ESTRACK). These networks require a spacecraft to communicate with ground-based systems for months or years, while XNAV would enable autonomous navigation, minimizing the necessity of communications with Earth. Moreover, the new method is expected to provide faster estimation of spacecraft location as current systems are limited by the time delay at great distances. XNAV is also seen as the cheaper alternative for radio-based systems, as it would require reduced ground infrastructure and because X-ray telescopes can be made smaller and lighter.

Keith Gendreau, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and a team of NASA researchers announced in  Jan 2018 that they had finally proven that pulsars can function like a cosmic positioning system. With the help of an enhancement known as the Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology (aka Sextant), Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), a pulsar-measuring instrument  was able to determine the station’s position in Earth’s orbit to within roughly three miles—while it was traveling in excess of 17,000 miles per hour. SEXTANT is a NASA-funded project  at the Goddard Space Flight Center that tested  XNAV on-orbit on board the International Space Station in connection with the NICER project.

On 9 November 2016 the Chinese Academy of Sciences launched an experimental pulsar navigation satellite called XPNAV 1. XPNAV-1 will characterize 26 nearby pulsars for their pulse frequency and intensity to create a navigation database that could be used by future operational missions. The satellite is expected to operate for five to ten years. XPNAV-1 is the first pulsar navigation mission launched into orbit.

In 2014, a feasibility study was carried out by the National Aerospace Laboratory of Amsterdam, for use of pulsars in place of GPS in aircraft navigation. The advantage of pulsar navigation would be more available signals than from satnav constellations, being unjammable, with the broad range of frequencies available, and security of signal sources from destruction by anti satellite weapons

Pulsar-Based Navigation System Gets Tested on Space Station

On June 1, the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) was  installed aboard the space station as the first mission dedicated to studying neutron stars, a type of collapsed star that is so dense scientists are unsure how matter behaves deep inside it, says NASA. “If you took Mount Everest and squeezed it into something like a sugar cube, that’s the kind of density we’re talking about,” said Keith Gendreau, the principal investigator for NICER at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

NICER, which will be robotically mounted to the outside of the station, contains 56 X-ray mirrors to illuminate the structure and inner workings of neutron stars. Of particular interest are pulsars, which are fast-spinning neutron stars with especially luminous magnetic fields. “NICER is designed to see the X-ray emission from those hot spots,” Arzoumanian said. “As the spots sweep toward us, we see more intensity as they move into our sightline and less as they move out, brightening and dimming hundreds of times each second.”

NICER will also provide scientists and technologists with a unique opportunity to make advances in deep space navigation. Its X-ray measurements will record the arrival times of pulses from each neutron star it observes, using the regular emissions of pulsars as ultra-precise cosmic clocks, rivaling the accuracy of atomic clocks such as those used inside GPS satellites. Built-in flight software — developed for the Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology (SEXTANT) demonstration — can see how the predicted arrival of X-ray pulses from a given neutron star changes as NICER moves in its orbit. The difference between expected and actual arrival times allows SEXTANT to determine NICER’s orbit solely by observing pulsars.

Although spacecraft in Earth orbit use the same GPS system that helps drivers navigate on the ground, there’s no equivalent system available for spacecraft traveling far beyond Earth.

“Unlike GPS satellites, which just orbit around Earth, pulsars are distributed across our galaxy,” said Jason Mitchell, the SEXTANT project manager at Goddard. “So we can use them to form a GPS-like system that can support spacecraft navigation throughout the solar system, enabling deep-space exploration in the future.”

“It all comes back to the A-word: autonomy,” says NASA’s Jason Mitchell, an aerospace technologist at Goddard and project manager for the Sextant project. When a spacecraft can determine its location in space independently of infrastructure on Earth, “it lets mission planners think about navigating in places they wouldn’t otherwise be able to navigate,” he says.

Pulsar navigation could allow spacecraft to perform maneuvers behind the sun, for example (signals to and from the DSN cannot cut through our parent star). In the more distant future, missions at the fringes of our solar system and beyond—in the Oort cloud, for example—could perform maneuvers in real time, based on self-determined coordinates, without having to wait on instructions from Earth.

Installation on the space station provides scientists and technologists with an opportunity to develop a multi-purpose mission on an established platform.

“With the NICER-SEXTANT mission, we have an excellent opportunity to use the International Space Station to demonstrate technology that will lead us into the outer solar system and beyond, and tell us about some of the most exciting objects in the sky,” Gendreau said.

China launches ‘XPNAV-1’ X-ray Pulsar Navigation Satellite for space mapping

The X-ray pulsar, developed by Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. Fifth Academy, was sent into space from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center aboard a Long March-11 solid fuel rocket, which also carried the Xaiaoxiang-1 and three Lishui-1 satellites. The move brings autonomous spacecraft navigation and a more precise deep-space GPS one step closer to reality.

The X-ray pulsar captures X-ray signals emitted from pulsars. By mapping those signals, they can be used to determine spacecraft location in deep space, which will eliminate the hours-long delays incurred in using ground-based navigation like the Deep Space Network and European Space Tracking network. Some pulsars emit radiation with the precision of an atomic clock.

The satellite is equipped with two detectors that test its functions and outline pulsar contours to create a database for navigation. The sensors need to be able to sort the pulsar blasts from background noise. Space Daily reported the satellite will detect emissions from 26 nearby pulsars. Chief scientist Shuai Ping said the database could be completed within 10 years.

X-ray pulsars consist of a magnetized neutron star that draws gas from a companion normal star, forming a rotating disk that channels the gas to its magnetic polls, resulting in the generation of intense energies. They are found in deep space, and scientists say they could act like signal buoys. Pulsars cannot be studied on earth because the X-ray signals are blocked by the atmosphere.

Researchers perform detailed simulations for XNAV feasibility

Meanwhile, team of researchers, led by Setnam Shemar of NPL, has lately published a paper in Experimental Astronomy, detailing simulations that bring the new navigation system one step closer to reality.

The simulations made by the team provided crucial measurements regarding the future development of the XNAV method. The scientists concluded that at the distance of Neptune (about 30 astronomical units from the Earth), a 3-D location of a spacecraft with an accuracy of 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) can be calculated by locking onto three pulsars. Moreover, they estimated that even an accuracy of 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) can be achieved when locking onto a particular pulsar, called PSR B1937+21, for 10 hours. Due to the fact that PSR B1937+21 is a millisecond pulsar, completing almost 642 rotations per second, and thanks to its very stable rotation, it is capable of keeping time as well as atomic clocks.

However, major challenges still need to be overcome to develop this system as a ‘GPS’ in space, including the availability of a practical system, for steering the telescope to sufficient accuracy and reducing further the required pulsar observation times and the craft positioning errors. One limiting factor is the error to which the position of each pulsar in the sky is known.

“If, in the next couple of decades, these can be reduced by a factor of 10 using ground-based radio telescopes such as the Square Kilometre Array, then depending on the size and type of instrument used on the craft, and assuming the noise in the pulsar measurements is lower than the uncertainty contributed by the pulsar position error, it may be possible to get accuracies on the order of five kilometers (3.1 miles) at 100 astronomical units. This is roughly two-and-a-half times the distance to Pluto,” Shemar said.

He added that even an accuracy of 650 feet (200 meters) would be possible in one dimension, but only along the direction of the pulsar PSR B1937+21. These errors would increase proportionately with distance.

The scientists emphasize that as well as X-ray, a practical instrument for radio observations should also be properly considered. Initially, a system may offer the most benefit in the outer solar system, particularly during the interplanetary cruise phase.

According to the authors of the paper, the main challenge for the future is how to implement X-ray telescopes in XNAV systems. They should have low enough mass, power and volume to make them attractive as subsystems to put onto the spacecraft. The team suggested a method of using the evolution of existing technologies, but much work is still needed to optimize and develop this idea.



References and Resources also include

Space is a war fighting domain and all major powers US, Russia and China are developing Anti Satellite Weapons

“Space is not a sanctuary, it is a war fighting domain,” US Air Force Brigadier General Mark Baird said at the Defense One Tech Summit. US, Russia and China are reportedly pursuing development of space weapons secretly.  Congress added more than $32 million to the Air Force’s space budget in fiscal 2015 to study future antisatellite capabilities, including offensive and “active defense” capabilities. It also instructed DOD to “conduct a study of potential alternative defense and deterrent strategies in response to the existing and projected counterspace capabilities of China and Russia.”

Concerns have grown in the aftermath of Chinese antisatellite tests, most recently in July 2014, that demonstrated the capability to destroy military communications satellites, perhaps even those in geostationary orbits. Since 2005, China has conducted eight anti-satellite tests. Tests conducted in 2010, 2013, and 2014 were labelled “land-based missile interception tests.” “There have been additional tests that didn’t destroy a satellite since that time.” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado: “The testing has continued, so that is an ongoing concern, something that we are watching.”

Russia is also a cause for concern, she added. In May 2014, it launched three communication satellites, along with a fourth spacecraft that is maneuvering between higher and lower orbits and sidling up to other objects. Russian Nudol missile tests  which Moscow has claimed is for use against enemy missiles, are ASAT tests according to reports.

Compared to both Russia and China, US Military is more  dependent on space assets, hence more  vulnerable to ASAT weapons which are regarded as important asymmetric warfare weapons.

US Navy itself shooted down a satellite in 2009, stated to be in danger of falling out of earth’s orbit at 133 miles and traveling at 17,000 mph with an SM-3 missile, which the US military fields hundreds of. Recently the  ageing US Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13 (DMSP-F13), is said to have suffered a “catastrophic event” due to which it exploded into 43 unsalvageable pieces. Furthermore the “catastrophic event” happened after “a sudden spike in temperature,” followed by “an unrecoverable loss of attitude,” According to the US Air Force.

The incident was not revealed to the public even though it happened on 3 February. Details of the event were only publicized after questions were asked by the Space News website. The first public indication of a problem with DMSP-F13 came from T.S. Kelso, a senior research astrodynamicist for Analytical Graphics’ Center for Space Standards and Innovation in Colorado. He noted that in 25 February that there had been “another debris event with 26 new pieces”. The more plausible theory is that it was an US ASAT test, either of laser ASAT weapon or killer microsatellite.

The U.S. Air Force, under pressure from Congress to take more seriously a potential war in space, is creating a new job for a three-star general who will serve as a space advisor on staff with the Air Force secretary and chief of staff. The new general will “come to work every day focusing on this: making sure that we can organize, train, and equip our forces to meet the challenges in this domain,” said Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command.

Russian ASAT Capability

Russia successfully flight tested a new missile capable of knocking out strategic U.S. communications and navigation satellites, according to Pentagon officials. The test of the PL-19 Nudol missile was carried out Dec. 16 from a base in central Russia, and was monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies. It was the fifth test of the Nudol missile and the third successful flight of a system Moscow has claimed is for use against enemy missiles, said officials familiar with the reports of the launch. Earlier tests took place May 24 and Nov. 18, 2015.

The Nudol is viewed by the Pentagon as a so-called “direct ascent” anti-satellite missile. Russia, however, has sought to mask the missile’s anti-satellite capabilities by claiming the missile is for defense against incoming ballistic missiles. Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza declined to comment. “We generally don’t comment on other countries’ capabilities,” she said.

“It is unclear whether or not it was an ASAT test,” according to Theresa Hitchens, senior research scholar at the Center for International & Security Studies at the University of Maryland. Howver it also could be part of the Russian military’s missile defense system. “Of course, any ballistic missile used for missile defense could also be used as an ASAT,” she added. “Perhaps the answer lies in the eyes of the beholder.”

Russian Lt. Gen. Oleg Ostapenko, former commander of space forces, has  claimed that the S-500 anti-missile system is capable of hitting “low-orbit satellites and space weapons.”


China’s Counterspace capabilities

China continues to develop a variety of capabilities designed to limit or prevent the use of spacebased assets by adversaries during a crisis or conflict, including the development of directed-energy weapons and satellite jammers. “As China’s developmental counterspace capabilities become operational, China will be able to hold at risk U.S. national security satellites in every orbital regime,” says 2015 Report to Congress.

China has conducted a flight test of a new anti-satellite missile, the The Washington Free Beacon reports. The test of a so-called Dong Neng-3 missile occurred on October 30 2015 at the Korla Missile Test Complex in western China. According to the Hong Kong-based newspaper Ming Pao the “final-phase missile interception test had been conducted in the upper atmosphere.” However, in the past, China has repeatedly tried to disguise anti-satellite tests as missile defense interceptor tests. Since 2005, China has conducted eight anti-satellite tests. Tests conducted in 2010, 2013, and 2014 were labelled “land-based missile interception tests.”

“On July 23, 2014, China conducted a space launch that had a similar profile to the January 2007 test that resulted in the deliberate destruction of a defunct weather satellite, and the creation of hundreds of pieces of long lived space debris. Much of that debris continues to orbit the Earth where it poses a risk to the safe operation of many nations’ satellites. China’s 2014 launch did not result in the destruction of a satellite or space debris.”

On May 13, 2013, China launched ballistic missile (DN-2) on a ballistic trajectory with a peak altitude above 30,000 km. This trajectory took it near geosynchronous orbit, where many nations maintain communications and earth sensing satellites. Analysis of the launch determined that the booster was not on the appropriate trajectory to place objects in orbit and that no new satellites were released.

The launch profile was not consistent with traditional space-launch vehicles, ballistic missiles or sounding rocket launches used for scientific research. It could, however, have been a test of technologies with a counterspace mission in geosynchronous orbit. The United States and several public organizations expressed concern to Chinese representatives and asked for more information about the purpose and nature of the launch. China thus far has refrained from providing additional information

PLA writings emphasize the necessity of “destroying, damaging, and interfering with the enemy’s reconnaissance … and communications satellites,” suggesting that such systems, as well as navigation and early warning satellites, could be among the targets of attacks designed to “blind and deafen the enemy.” PLA analysis of U.S. and coalition military operations also states that “destroying or capturing satellites and other sensors … will deprive an opponent of initiative on the battlefield and [make it difficult] for them to bring their precision guided weapons into full play.”

In September 2006 the U.S. publication Defense News, citing unnamed U.S. officials, was the first to report that China had used ground based lasers to “dazzle” or blind U.S. optical surveillance satellites on multiple occasions.

Possible Chinese confirmation of their ground-based laser testing appeared in the December 2013 issue of Chinese Optics was an article titled “Development of Space Based Laser Weapons” written by Gao Min-hui, Zhou Yu-quan and Wang Zhi-hong, all from the Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics. It is one of China’s leading institutes for the development of civil and military application laser technology. The article states: “In 2005, we have successfully conducted a satellite blinding experiment using a 50-100 KW capacity mounted laser gun in Xinjiang province. The target was a low orbit satellite with a tilt distance of 600 km. The diameter of the telescope firing the laser beam is 0.6 m wide. The accuracy of ATP (acquisition, tracking and pointing) is less than 5 microradians.

This would constitute militarily useful performance; an accuracy sufficient to track a large number of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) surveillance satellites and to degrade their optical imaging systems. A “tilt” distance of 600km means it can reach higher if the target passes closer to the laser. While the target satellite for the 2005 test was not identified, the ground-based laser was likely located in Korla, Xinjiang Province. Starting with the 640 Program, Korla has hosted a major base deeply involved in testing China’s anti-missile and anti-satellite weapons, writes Richard D. Fisher, Jr. Senior Fellow, International Assessment and Strategy Center.


ASAT testing is probable causes of US Satellite failure

The satellite failure could be triggered by natural causes like collision with debris or space weather degradation or The collision with debris larger than 10 cm has the potential to cause complete destruction of satellite, like that happened. However the US operates one of the world’s largest Space Surveillance Network (SSN) to detect, track and identify objects orbiting earth. It maintains the most complete tracking database of 23,000+ space objects bigger than 10 cm. Therefore the theory that destruction from collision with space debris is very unlikely.

The other natural cause is space weather degradation, which can impact satellite degradations through surface charging or electrostatic discharge, degraded solar panels, Phantom commands, data corruption, power loss e.t.c. On 2nd feburary 2015, there was Class C minor solar flare as well as level G1 minor geomagnetic storm, both minor events unlikely to result in catastrophic failure. Moreover US also operates comprehensive space weather monitoring and forecasting infrastructure, incidentally the destroyed satellite was itself part of space weather monitoring DMSP satellite constellation. Moreover destruction by natural causes is unlikely to result in such delayed US response in revealing the event.

The more plausible theory is that it was an ASAT test, either of laser ASAT weapon or killer microsatellite. “The United States will proceed with development of an anti-satellite (ASAT) capability, with operational deployment as a goal. The primary purposes of a United States ASAT capability are to deter threats to space systems of the United States and its Allies, and within such limits imposed by international law, to deny any adversary the use of space-based systems that provide support to hostile military forces.” As enunciated by President Ronald Reagan in National Space Policy, July 1982

Depending on their power, lasers can damage, disrupt, or destroy a satellite by overheating its surface, puncturing the outer surface of the spacecraft to expose internal equipment, or by blinding critical on-board mission or control sensors. Microsatellites carrying hard-kill or soft-kill payloads can permanently or temporarily disable a large satellite. One of the most effective threats from a micro-satellite is in the form of a ‘space mine’. The microsatellite is covertly deployed and attached to the satellite, which can then be remotely commanded to destroy the host satellite.

The large number of debris created by the explosion, both trackable and non-trackable, has enhanced the risk to the operational satellites in this orbit.


References and resources also include:

DARPA develops Testbed to test space warfare strategies integrated with air, cyber, land, and maritime domains

There has been exponential growth of space objects, including orbital debris that has increased the in-orbit collision risk. NASA estimates there are 21,000 objects orbiting Earth that are larger than 10 cm, 500,000 between 1 and 10 cm, and more than 100 million that are less than 1 cm. Orbital debris of even 1cm size, travelling at an average speed of about 11 km/sec can cause partial or complete destruction of satellite. Space agencies in the US and Russia track thousands of pieces of space junk larger than 10cm but estimate there could be trillions of smaller pieces.

Space is also becoming another domain of conflict due to enhanced militarization and weaponization of space. China continues to develop a variety of capabilities designed to limit or prevent the use of space based assets by adversaries during a crisis or conflict, including the development of directed-energy weapons and satellite jammers. “As China’s developmental counterspace capabilities become operational, China will be able to hold at risk U.S. national security satellites in every orbital regime,” says 2015 Report to Congress.

As the space domain has become more congested, the potential for intentional and unintentional threats to space system assets has increased. To mitigate these threats, the Department of Defense (DOD) has undertaken a variety of initiatives to enhance its network of sensors and systems to provide space situational awareness (SSA)—the current and predictive knowledge and characterization of space objects and the operational environment upon which space operations depend.

“The Department of Defense (DoD) has developed superior capabilities over decades in the physical domains of land, sea, air, and space. Space is increasingly important as a domain of strategic interest; however, nations and geo-political entities are developing the ability to exploit potential vulnerabilities and threaten U.S. freedom of action in space”, writes DARPA.

DARPA is seeking to develop a testbed for measuring, understanding, and integrating the complete spectrum of systems and capabilities to ensure stability, security, and operational dominance in space. The goal of Hallmark Software Testbed is to develop comprehensive and effective set of space command and control (C2) capability technologies that can be spiraled into the Joint Space Operations Center and/or the Joint Inter-Agency Combined Space Operations Center.

When called upon, the U.S. military must have superior capabilities to rapidly plan, assess, and execute space operations in support of the full spectrum of military actions. Because the space domain enables and supports military operations in the land, sea, and air domains, space operations must also be integrated with existing and future military and intelligence operations in those domains.

The program has completed initial research and awarded Phase 1 contracts to 11 organizations, which both augment existing commercial technologies and pursue entirely new capabilities. Hallmark has released a Broad Agency Announcement seeking additional technologies for potential inclusion.

 DARPA’s  Space Situational Awareness goals

DARPA’s “OrbitalOutlook” (O2) program was launched in 2014 to improve the United States Space Surveillance Network (SSN) by adding more data more often from more diverse sources to increase space situational awareness to determine when satellites are at risk from colliding with space junk. SSN is a worldwide network of 29 space surveillance sensors (radar and optical telescopes) that observes and catalogs space objects, including 1,200 operational satellites and over 500,000 pieces of man-made space debris orbiting Earth at 17,000 miles per hour.

DARPA recently reported its O2 network now comprises more than 100 sensors around the world, making it the largest space situational network ever assembled. O2 can also completely change how the U.S. military and the global space-debris-monitoring community collect and use space situational awareness data.

O2 consists of three elements: the inclusion of new telescopes and radar from diverse locations providing diverse data types; a central database for this newly extended network of telescopes and radar and a validation process to ensure the data is accurate. O2 also seeks to demonstrate the ability to rapidly include new instruments to alert for indications and warnings of space events.


DARPA to develop space command and control testbed

DARPA launched the Hallmark project in 2016 to support military efforts to hone space war-fighting skills.

“Military commanders responsible for situational awareness and command and control of assets in space know all too well the challenge that comes from the vast size of the space domain,” DARPA said in a statement. “The volume of Earth’s operational space domain is hundreds of thousands times larger than the Earth’s oceans. It contains thousands of objects hurtling at tens of thousands of miles per hour. The scales and speeds in this extreme environment are difficult enough to grasp conceptually, let alone operationally.”

Current space awareness tools and technologies were developed when there were fewer objects in space. Only a few nations could even place satellites in orbit, and those orbits were easily predictable. “That situation has changed dramatically in the past decade with a developing space industry flooding once lonely orbits with volleys of satellite constellations,” noted DARPA. Against this backdrop, “commanders with responsibility for space domain awareness often rely on outdated tools and processes — and incomplete information — as they plan, assess, and execute operations in space.”

The goal of Hallmark Software Testbed is to develop comprehensive and effective set of space command and control (C2) capability technologies that can be spiraled into the Joint Space Operations Center and/or the Joint Inter-Agency Combined Space Operations Center.

While existing technology can provide elements of situational awareness, indications and warnings, command, control and communications, there is currently no satisfactory capability to evaluate new technologies for their impact on space command and control capabilities. Using a testbed approach (including playback and simulation capabilities), research and development activities, experiments, explorations, and exercises can occur without detrimental impact to operational space domain systems.”

“We envision a system that would fuse information from diverse sources and vastly reduce the overall time required to make and execute decisions and observe results,” said Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, which oversees Hallmark.

Further, Hallmark-ST personnel will be integral to the actual integration of external space C2 tools, capabilities, and data as well as execution of a number of anticipated tests and scenario-based exercises.

“For example, an intuitive user interface incorporating 3-D visualization technology would present complex information in novel ways and provide commanders with unprecedented awareness and comprehension,” Tousley said. Such a testbed “would significantly facilitate research and development activities, experiments and exercises to evaluate new technologies for their impact on space command and control capabilities,” he added.

 Hallmark Software Testbed Architecture

The objective of the Software Testbed portion of the Hallmark program (Hallmark-ST) is to design, develop, and maintain a state-of-the-art enterprise software architecture for the integration of multiple tools and capabilities for supporting space enterprise command and control. The architecture shall be based on scalable and flexible service- oriented enterprise architecture. It is anticipated that tools and capabilities to be integrated will include those in the areas of space situational awareness, indications and warning, modeling and simulation, course of action generation, decision/action determination, and damage assessment.

It is anticipated that the architecture will need to support modeling and simulation of current and future SSA, space C2 tools, capabilities, subsystems and systems, as well as external capabilities and interfaces to support air, cyber, land, and maritime environments.


DARPA TTO office is also interested in:

  1. Technologies and concepts of operations that enable twenty-four hours/seven days a week (24/7) space situational awareness, from search/detect/track to initial/in-depth object characterization, in all orbital regimes using multiple or new/novel phenomenologies.
  2. Development of advanced space situational awareness data fusion algorithms, enhancing the nation’s ability to effectively respond to threats to our space capabilities.
  3. Development and validation of real-time space domain awareness architectures and technologies.


BAE Systems wins DARPA contract to develop 3D space warfare lab

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded BAE Systems a contract worth up to $12.8 million to develop a digital lab to help U.S. military commanders prepare for combat in outer space, the company announced Nov. 14, 2017. The task is to create a virtual space-battle zone so U.S. military leaders can better understand the space environment and the potential threats.

“Military commanders must have superior space domain awareness in order to quickly assess, plan and execute operations in this increasingly complex environment,” said Mike Penzo, director of ground resiliency and analytics at BAE Systems, in Reston, Virginia.

The technology will help the military “quickly evaluate and integrate technologies for space command and control,” Penzo said in a news release. In a virtual space war setting, commanders would learn how to gain “situational awareness” — a tough challenge when the action is happening hundreds or thousands of miles above Earth. Awareness in the space domain means tracking and managing many thousands of objects that are moving at extreme velocities.

The first phase of the Hallmark project focuses on space situational awareness and command-and-control technologies. Later DARPA wants to add new features to the system for “realistic, scenario-based exercises for testing space command-and-control technologies against sophisticated emerging threats.”

BAE will host exercises to collect metrics for Hallmark’s cognitive evaluation team, and to identify technologies for future use by the Defense Department’s Joint Space Operations Center and the National Space Defense Center.

DARPA expects this technology will give commanders “unprecedented awareness” so they can shorten the timeline required to make decisions and take action.

The next phase of the project is a “Hallmark space evaluation and analysis capability” to be located in Northern Virginia. The analysis center would be used for development, integration, modeling, simulation and realistic testing of space command-and-control software and processes.

Hallmark is also developing the Hallmark Space Ontology. This ontology will be an evolving, comprehensive, formal description of the space domain and its relationship to the other military domains of air, land, maritime, and cyber. It will serve to guide the integration of the Hallmark tools with the testbed and facilitate access and integration of both static and real-time “streaming” data sources with Hallmark.

The testbed also would allow leaders to practice “multi-domain” operations so data collected in space, on land, in the air, at sea or in cyberspace can be combined and analyzed to support simultaneous space and terrestrial missions. DARPA describes it as a “flexible, scalable, and secure enterprise software architecture that would become the backbone of technology development and experimentation.”


Hallmark Tools and Capabilities 2

Hallmark-TC2 will develop new tools, technologies, and processes for enabling the full spectrum of military space enterprise C2 capabilities. These new capabilities will enhance the entire domain of space situational awareness and provide an active course-of-action generation and selection capability so that combined forces can dominate the space domain.

The focus of the Hallmark-TC2 BAA is to identify and develop modular software tools that assist military space planners to build plans and exercise C2 of strategically sound space operations. These tools will be integrated into Hallmark to complement and augment existing Hallmark tools.

Anticipated research opportunities in tool development could include, but are not limited to, the following categories:

Indications and Warnings (I&W) Functions

 Integration and fusion of multi-domain information.

Effective I&W requires that multiple sources of space situational awareness information be combined with historical analysis to determine potential anomalies. It is highly advantageous that I&W incorporate data from domains other than space.

 I&W Modeling and Simulation Tools.

I&W is inherently a predictive function that serves to identify and alert the command structure of a potential threat. Modeling and simulation (M&S) tools need to integrate and fuse multiple sources of information and project (or model) the situational state into the future. M&S tools may also predict the effectiveness
of I&W measures in a simulated situation.

Course of Action (COA) Generation, Selection, Customization, and Evaluation

 Course of Action generation.

When faced with unexpected events, space operators and decision makers would greatly benefit from the presentation of “boundary case” COAs that frame the space of possible responses. Using artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to create new COAs, present COA rationale (the “why is this appropriate to the situation?”) and generate recommendations would further benefit space operators and decision makers.

Course of Action representation.

In order to integrate multiple COA functions into a comprehensive C2 system, flexible representations need to be developed that are both human- and machine-readable. Multiple steps, triggers, dependencies, confidences and uncertainty, decision points, authorization chains and thresholds, and risks and mitigation steps may all need to be part of a comprehensive COA representation. Proposers are encouraged to build on lessons learned from COA representations and processing in other domains to inform rapid development.

 COA M&S tools.

Modeling and simulation tools should support the generation of courses of action of sufficient detail for commanders to decide which COA to pursue, and should include explicit confidences and human-understandable  explanations of their output for commanders. Extensions could include “hypothesis-based tasking,” where commanders could interactively explore new COAs and get feedback on their potential impacts on the space situation.

 COA combination, customization, and evaluation techniques.

Starting from a “catalog” of pre-computed COAs, it is advantageous to be able to combine and customize COAs (e.g., amount of data, potential classification of data, format of data, required metadata, delivery schedule, and any other details needed by the Government team (or its proxies) to deliver the appropriate data at the appropriate time.


The JSpOC Mission System upgrade

The Air Force has made an initial investment in building the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center (JICSpOC) which is designed to ensure the national security space enterprise meets and outpaces advances in space threats. To act on information provided by SSA architecture, JICSpOC will provide resilient, responsive, and interoperable C2 capabilities to provide the ability to respond once a threat is known.

Additionally, the Air Force is investing in C2 tools such as Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) Mission System (JMS), which will provide modernized hardware and software solutions to better synthesize the increased volume of SSA data. Improved SSA data coupled with a mission-ready JICSpOC ensures future implementation of Space Enterprise Vision (SEV)  principles to their greatest degree of survivability in a war that extends into space, ultimately supporting joint warfighters across land, air and sea to maintain the operational advantage.

The Joint Space Operations Center (JSPOC), which is responsible for space surveillance, collision avoidance and launch support, is undergoing a three-phased hardware and software upgrade, under a program known as the JSpOC Mission System with an eye toward providing more precise and timely orbital information, among other goals. Strategic Command’s Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), receives data from the Space Surveillance Network, a combination of terrestrial and space-based sensors, both optical and radar. The Air Force has been undergoing a broad modernization of the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), the processing center of U.S. military space operations headquartered at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

JMS Program is a Space Command and Control (C2) capability for the Commander, Joint Functional Component Commander for Space (JFCC SPACE). The JMS program is predominately a software effort that will produce an integrated, net-centric Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and the necessary software applications to accomplish required missions. Analysis workloads increasing with added JMS capabilities and are expected to continue increasing as more objects are cataloged and tracked.

The program will provide a collaborative environment that will enhance and modernize space situational awareness (SSA) capabilities; create decision-relevant views of the space environment; rapidly detect, track and characterize objects of interest; identify / exploit traditional and non-traditional sources; perform space threat analysis; and enable efficient distribution of data across the Space Surveillance Network (SSN).


References and resources also include:


China is second most powerful Global Military Space power with destructive ‘counter-space’ capabilities

“China possesses the most rapidly maturing space program in the world and is using its on-orbit and ground-based assets to support its national civil, economic, political, and military goals and objectives. China has invested in advanced space capabilities, with particular emphasis on satellite communication (SATCOM), intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), satellite navigation (SATNAV), and meteorology, as well as manned, unmanned, and interplanetary space exploration, says Annual Report to Congress: “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2015”. In addition to its on-orbit assets, China’s space program has built a vast ground infrastructure supporting spacecraft and space launch vehicle (SLV) manufacture, launch, C2, and data downlink.

Out of total 86 space launches in 2015, China Aerospace Science and Technology Co. has launched a total of 43 satellites, followed by 29 in Russia and 17 in the U.S. As of August 31, 2017, China launched 204 operating satellites in orbit, compared to 803 by US. The total number of operating satellites came to 1,738.

China now has over 140 satellites in orbit with stable operation, second only to the U.S. in terms of satellite ownership, said a Chinese engineer from the national defense field at a satellite exhibition. China has also launched 19 rockets. On September 20, carrier rocket, Long March-6 on its maiden flight carried 20 micro-satellites and set a new record for the number of satellites that carried by one rocket.

China’s space program is generally shrouded in secrecy, yet Xi’s government is now reviewing a proposal by top researchers to triple investments into scientific missions, according to Wu Ji, director-general of the National Space Science Center. Wu and dozens of researchers asked the central government to boost investment into space science from the 4.7 billion yuan ($695 million) spent in 2011-2015 to at least 15.6 billion yuan in 2026-2030. The hope is that advancements made while building new telescopes, monitoring Earth’s water cycles and improving satellite navigation will revive state-owned enterprises and inspire the startup of private ones.

China’s stated goals to build its own space station, land on the dark side of the moon and put a rover on Mars—all by 2022—prompted U.S. congressmen to ask: “Are We Losing the Space Race to China?” The nation started manned missions in 2003 and launched two more taikonauts in Shenzhou 11. “China’s more deliberate and comprehensive approach will open up opportunities for Beijing to derive important economic, political and diplomatic benefits from its space program,” Dennis
Shea, chairman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, told the committee.

China has become a military space power within a global context and is developing a full range of space capabilities to match the US militarily in space, while continue to invest in asymmetric technologies that pose a greater risk to the US. Since China’s first experimental communications satellite was launched in the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in 1984, it has sent more than 100 spacecraft into space in recent decades, including over 20 BeiDou navigation satellites and the country’s first lunar probe, Chang’e-1.

“China is in the midst of an extensive space-based C4ISR modernization program that is improving the PLA’s ability to command and control its forces; monitor global events and track regional military activities; and strike U.S. ships, aircraft, and bases operating as far away as Guam. As China continues to field additional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) satellites, its space-based ISR coverage almost certainly will become more accurate, responsive, and timely and could ultimately extend beyond the second island chain into the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean”, says 2015 report to congress.

China is preparing for a series of experimental communications satellite launches in 2017, starting with Shijian-13 (Zhongxing-16) in April and the Long March 5 launch of Shijian-18 in June. Shijian denotes a diverse series of experimental satellites, and Shijian-13 will test advanced ion propulsion that will cut the need for propellant, saving liftoff mass and mission lifetime. The 4.6 tonne Shijian-13 is based on the DFH-4 satellite platform and will also conduct space-to-ground laser communications experiments. Wang Min, deputy chief designer at China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), says SJ-13 will be the country’s first high-throughput satellite (HTS), with a capacity of 20gb per second, making it by far the country’s fastest.

Shijian-18 meanwhile will be the first test of a new satellite bus, DFH-5, with a mass of up to 7 tonnes that requires the heavy-lift Long March 5 to take it to nearly 36,000 km above the Earth. Zhongxing-9A is another planned summer comms sat launch, which will see the DFH-4 bus based ku-band satellite sent to 92° E in geostationary orbit on a Long March 3B/E from Xichang. China aims to use DFH-4 and -5 satellite platforms to make the internet available in aircraft cabins, high speed trains and even remote mountainous areas by 2025.

The country is now preparing for the launch of Gaofen 5, 6 and 7, which will be optical remote sensing satellites, the administration said.

China has exported 11 satellites to nine countries, including Bolivia, Nigeria and Laos, statistics from Great Wall Industry show. China Great Wall Industry Corp, the nation’s only authorized firm for international space collaboration, will launch Venezuela’s second remote sensing satellite next year and Pakistan’s first remote sensing satellite in 2018, said Fu Zhiheng, vice-president of Great Wall Industry.  The two satellites are being developed by the China Academy of Space Technology,” Fu said on the sidelines of an international forum in Beijing on Friday.  Fu said that Chinese satellites have become popular among developing countries for two reasons: First, they are as reliable as Western models; and second, Great Wall Industry is able to provide solution packages to developing countries covering design, launch, operation and training

Reconnaissance Satellites

China launched a pair of 0.5-meter high-resolution remote sensing satellites from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Shanxi Province in Dec 2016. The satellites, SuperView-1 01/02, blasted off  on the back of a Long March 2D rocket, according to the center. They are able to provide commercial images at 0.5-meter resolution.

China in Dec 2015 launched its most sophisticated observation satellite, Gaofen-4, as part of the country’s high-definition (HD) earth observation project. Gaofen-4 is China’s first geosynchronous orbit HD optical imaging satellite and the world’s most sophisticated HD geosynchronous orbit remote sensing satellite, according to Xu Dazhe, head of SASTIND and China National Space Administration. Using geostationary satellite platforms allows for the continuous, long-term surveillance of target areas, obtaining intelligence in real-time.

The Gaofen project aims to launch seven high-definition observation satellites before 2020. Gaofen-1, the first satellite of the project, was launched in April 2013. Different from Gaofen-1 and Gaofen-2 in low orbits (600-700 km) around the earth, Gaofen-4 is located at the orbit 36,000 kilometers away from the earth and moves synchronously with the earth.

It can “see” an oil tanker on the sea with a huge CMOS camera, reaching the best imaging level among global high-orbit remote sensing satellites, according to Li Guo, chief designer of Gaofen-4.

Gaofen-2 launched in 2014, became China’s first satellite capable of sub-meter resolution imaging. High resolution is important for intelligence analysis— One-meter imagery is sufficient to identify ships, aircraft, and armored vehicles.

In addition, China’s commercial Jilin satellite system also indicates the emergence of China’s Precision Global Strike capabilities. The Jilin-1 group of satellites consists of 4 satellites: one 450-kg major satellite with a resolution ratio of 0.72 metres, two dexterous image taking satellites with a resolution ratio of 1.3 metres and one checking satellite with dexterous image taking.

China launched three remote sensing satellites In Nov 2017,  designed to improve observation capability to promote commercial use for the remote sensing industry, authorities said. The three satellites — Jilin-1 04, Jilin-1 05 and Jilin-1 06 — were launched from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre in Shanxi province, reports Xinhua news agency

Chinese sources say that by 2030 there will be 138 satellites in the Jilin satellite system with a return visit speed of 10 minutes. It is expected that the satellites will become smaller with higher resolution. The PLA will use that satellite system to help its intercontinental PGS system update its targets.


Hyperspectral satellites

The Electro-optical devices like cameras and infrared sensors that  generally observe only one band in the electromagnetic spectrum, i.e. cameras observe the band visible to human eyesight and infrared cameras view the infrared band. However, Hyperspectral remote sensing sensors have the ability to a view hundreds of electromagnetic bands for a single image,  in many narrow spectral bands  from visible, near infrared, medium infrared to thermal infrared. Hyperspectral sensors capture energy in 200 bands or more which means that they continuously cover the reflecting spectrum for each pixel in the scene. Bands characteristic for these types of sensors are continuous and narrow, allowing an indepth examination of features and details on Earth.

Hyperspectral imaging technology could theoretically be applied in a number of sectors including vegetation identification (agriculture), mineral detection and the assessment of polluted waters in oceans, coastal zones and inland waterways. The technology could also be used for space exploration missions. China has deployed a hyperspectral camera for use on previous lunar missions, during which it produced one of the largest and most detailed maps of mineral distribution on the surface of the moon to date.

Hyperspectral imaging have ability to observe objects which conceal their emissions in one part of the spectrum like stealth aircraft and thermally suppressed engines or are hidden (such as underground bunkers).  Therefore Hyperspectral  satellites are capable to locate and track military targets that are usually camouflaged or hidden underground, such as missile launch sites and testing facilities for nuclear weapons.

They can be a valuable tool for finding submarines and underwater mines in shallow waters. On land, they can determine the actual composition of objects to distinguish decoys (hyperspectral imaging can capture the differences in EM signature of a wooden decoy versus an actual missile launcher). In the air, hyperspectral sensors can passively detect even thermally shielded stealth aircraft. For counter-WMD missions, hyperspectral imaging can be used to detect nuclear and chemical weapons production, as well as locating the underground tunnels and bunkers that would house those strategic assets.

A key in this program is the China Commercial Remote-sensing Satellite System (CCRSS), to be launched later this year. It can collect data on 328 electromagnetic bands, offering very high resolution of up to 15 meters, according to the researchers from the Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth in Beijing. This means each pixel in the image measures 15 metres squared.

In comparison, the U.S. TacSat 3, launched in 2010, collect data on 300 electromagnetic bands, though at a higher resolution of 4 meters. The Artemis sensors first tested on the TacSat-3 satellite can collect data on 300 electromagnetic bands, thus allowing its user, the US Strategic Command, to operate it for tactical purposes ranging from the detection of roadside bombs to the identification of nuclear weapon facilities.


SAR satellites

China launched Gaofen 3 Earth observation satellite on August 9 from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on Wednesday (10 August 16) that will help the country protect its maritime interests, especially amid rising tensions in the South China Sea. The satellite carries a synthetic aperture radar payload that can produce images with a resolution of one meter.

Meanwhile, Liu Jie, Gaofen 3’s chief designer at the China Academy of Space Technology, reportedly said that the satellite is “the best of its kind in the world in terms of technological level and imaging mode”. The satellite has 12 imaging modes that enable it to take wide pictures of Earth as well as specific areas in detail.

“The satellite will play an important role in monitoring the marine environment, islands and reefs, and ships and oil rigs,” Xu Fuxiang, head of the Gaofen 3 project at the academy, was quoted as saying by the China Daily. He added that considering China’s total coastline of 32,000km – 380,000 sq km of territorial seas and more than 6,500 islands that have an area of at least 500 sq mt – the Gaofen 3 will prove to be a boon in “safeguarding the country’s maritime rights and interests”. China will now also rely heavily on the Gaofen 3 for forecasting natural disasters, assessment and relief, Xu added.

The Chinese have launched the Yaogan-30 remote sensing satellite via a Long March (Chang Zheng) 2D (Y27) rocket in May 2016. Yaogan-30 is probably an electro-optical observation satellite based on the military Jianbing-6 series.

High-resolution radar imagery satellites shall provide all-weather as well as day and night imaging capabilities over the regions of interest. They would also provide the capability to able to see through clouds and unmask decoys.

Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites are very useful in maritime surveillance, thanks to their wide swath, which can reach several hundred kilometers. This enables them to find ships, given a very rough idea of where they might be, in any weather. However, the wide swaths modes of such a system generally have a low resolution, measured in the tens of meters. This makes ship identification difficult. Consequently, a higher-resolution system, or another pass of the same satellite but in high-resolution mode, are needed. Ship motion can severely limit the image quality in high-resolution modes. They could have capability for ship detection using special algorithms for detecting the ships themselves as well as their wakes.


ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) satellite

ELINT satellites  provide the detection and identification of radar signals emitted by ships and thus provide the cues to the EO and SAR satellites to track ships in the oceans that could threaten China’s core interests. They are backbone space component of China’s Anti Access and Area Denial strategy. China’s ELINT programme has evolved considerably since the launch of its first satellite in 1970.

China launched a trio of Yaogan-30 reconnaissance satellites on Christmas Day, joining two previous sets of three remote sensing satellites placed in orbit in recent months. A Long March 2C carrying the three Yaogan-30 (03) satellites lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre at 19:44 UTC on December 25 (03:44 Beijing time, December 26). State media reported the satellites will be used for electromagnetic observations and other experiments

In March 2010 China placed its first triplet of ELINT satellites into an 1100 Km, 63.4 degree inclination orbit. Its orbit characteristics make it very similar to the early US Ocean Surveillance System. China appears to have at least three operational Yaogan ELINT clusters (they have launched five triplet clusters since 2010) at any given point in time.

China appears to  now replace its three-satellite Yaogan ELINT cluster with a two satellite cluster like the US. Shijian-16-01 is the first of a new series that will succeed the Shijian-6 series that consists of four pairs with two satellites each. The Shijian-6 satellites were launched between 2004 and 2010.

The second in the first pair of Shijian-16 signals intelligence (SIGINT) and electronics intelligence (ELINT) spy satellites designed to spy mainly on the United States military in Asia has now reached its inclined orbit 600 kilometers above the Equator.

Shijian-16-02 joins its sister satellite, Shijian-16-01, launched in October 2015 in the same orbit. The orbit of both spysats inclined 75 degrees to the Equator is an unusual orbit that makes it easier for both spysats to intercept encrypted signals from the US military. These intercepted electronic signals will then be analyzed and decoded by Chinese.


Yaogan Satellites part of Chinese  system to guide their antiship ballistic missiles

Yaogan series satellites are often described by Chinese state media as providing remote sensing for land resources and electromagnetic environment detection, but are perceived by Western observers to be designed for reconnaissance purposes for China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

According to western specialists  Chinese Yaogan satellites  belong to ELINT constellation which covers both SAR and imaging satellites. SAR spacecrafts belonging to ELINT constellation are able to cover with range of their radars up to 3500 km and are designated for tracking groups of aircraft carriers.

Earlier, China had  successfully deployed its latest military spy satellites  Yaogan-31 in Dec 2017, Yaogan 30 in May 2016 , Yaogan 28, Yaogan 29  in polar orbit in Nov 2015, and identified only as a remote sensing satellite by Chinese state media.

Yaogan 23, Yaogan 29, Yaogan 10, Yaogan 18, Yaogan 14 and Yaogan 21 also are the current operational satellites carrying a SAR sensor. Synthetic Aperture Radar carrying satellites that are cued by the ELINT satellites or by other satellites in the constellation that have located the object of interest.

Yaogan 30, Yaogan 26,  Yaogan 24, Yaogan 28, Yaogan 7 and Yaogan 21 constitute the high resolution optical satellites in current  configuration with resolutions reported to be between 1-3 meters. Electro-optical satellites that are cued by the ELINT satellites or by other satellites in the constellation that had located the aircraft carrier earlier.

Yaogan 9 (Yaogan 9A, 9B, 9C), Yaogan 16 (16A, 16B, 16C), Yaogan 17 (17A, 17B, 17C), Yaogan 20 (20A, 20B, 20C) and Yaogan25 (25A, 25B, 25C) are the five triplet cluster equipped with ELINT sensors. A three satellite TDOA [system] for geo-location has the advantages of high precision, broad-area coverage, and long-surveillance times. It is very suitable for ocean surveillance, for example in [conducting] continuous surveillance against aircraft carrier groups, and submarines. It enables real time understanding of the threats coming from the sea.

Reports have suggested that Yaoan series along with their Over the horizon radars form a operational system that can identify, locate, track and destroy an Aircraft carrier by guiding their Anti Ship ballistic Missiles.


 Communication Satellites

China is scheduled to launch its first high-capacity broadband satellite by the end of 2018, and to begin satellite communications services by 2019, according to the satellite system’s blueprint. A new company, APT Mobile SatCom Limited (APSTAR),  was also unveiled. Cheng Guangren, president of APSTAR and also an expert on communications satellites, said the company will launch two more high-capacity broadband satellites to serve in the Americas, Europe and Africa, creating a global broadband satellite communications system by 2020.

“With the help of high-capacity broadband satellites, we can now offer better service in remote areas, in the air and on the sea where there used to be no communications services,” Cheng was quoted as saying. High-capacity broadband military satellites are required to satisfy the high bandwidth requirements of future PLA’s network-centric operations.

When it is complete, China’s global communications system will offer a continuous, reliable and autonomous service that supports the Belt and Road Initiative as well as other overseas development projects, the CASC post explained. (People’s Daily Online)

In 2015, five new communications satellites including the APSTAR-9, ChinaSat 1C, Zhongxing-2C, Zhongxing-1C and LaoSat-1 were put into orbits successfully. Zhongxing-1C, the second of a new series of military communications satellites, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre. Little is known about the satellite applications due its military nature. Previous satellites in the class are believed to have been designed for military communications, providing secure voice and data communication for the People’s Liberation Army.

Zhongxing-1C, or ChinaSat-1C, will have been equipped with a range of C, Ku, Ka and L band transponders. The satellite is based on a DFH-4 satellite platform developed by the China Academy of Space Technology. It is expected to orbit at an altitude of around 35,800 kilometres for 15 years.


Data relay satellites

China has successfully launched its fourth data satellite to achieve global network operation that will provide data relay, measurement and control services for its manned spacecraft. The satellite, Tianlian I-04, was launched on a Long March-3C carrier rocket in Nov 2016 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southwest Sichuan province Wednesday night, state-run Xinhua quoted officials of the centre as saying. Developed by the China Academy of Space Technology under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the satellite will join its three predecessors to achieve global network operation.

The network is expected to provide data relay, measurement and control services for China’s manned spacecraft, space labs and space stations, according to the centre. The network will also offer data relay services for the country’s medium- and low-Earth orbiting resources satellites, as well as measurement and control support for spacecraft launches. China launched its first data relay satellite, the Tianlian I-01, in April 2008

Data relay satellites are essential for military space architecture. Data relay satellites are special satellites that support reconnaissance by receiving signals from a reconnaissance satellite when it was out of range of a ground station and then relaying them back to China. Some sources say China plans to orbit two geo-stationary data relay satellites to support its other space sensor and military communications programs.

These satellites reportedly form part of a larger command, control and intelligence effort being undertaken by the PLA


Beidou Navigation Satellites Launched Successfully

On Sept. 29, 2017 China launched two Beidou 3 satellites from a Long March 3C rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province. Another two Beidou 3 satellites will launch before the end of 2017, part of a network of 20 Beidou 3 and 10 older Beidou 2 satellites set to go up by 2020. BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) , is being developed as an alternative to U.S. GPS.

China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) has taken a solid step towards the goal of global coverage. China plans to expand the Beidou services to most of the countries covered in its “Belt and Road” initiative by 2018 and offer global coverage with 35 Beidou navigation satellites by 2020.

The services cover the area between 55 degrees north latitude and 55 degrees south latitude and between 55 and 180 degrees east longitude, with a positioning accuracy of less than 10 meters, a velocity measurement accuracy of less than 0.2 meters per second and a timing accuracy of less than 50 nanoseconds.

Beidou Satellites similar to GPS spacecraft shall allow PLA troops to navigate trackless desert, guide munitions with pinpoint accuracy, and allowing for the bombing of enemy targets with minimal collateral damage.

The network will be dual use: a free service for civilians, and a licensed service for the Chinese government and military.
The civilian service will provide an accuracy of about 33 feet (10 meters) in the user position, 0.45 mph (0.2 m/s) on the user velocity, and 50 nanoseconds in time accuracy. The restricted military and authorized users’ service will provide higher tracking accuracies of 0.33 feet (0.1 meters).


Weather satellites

China has launched a total of 14 satellites for monitoring the weather. Seven of these satellites are polar orbiting satellites and seven of them are GSO based satellites. Though necessary for military operations these serve primarily a civilian public good function. They are therefore excluded from being accounted under the military head.

The country  launched the first of China’s second-generation weather satellites Fengyun-4 aboard a Long March 3B rocket on Dec. 10 from the Xichang satellite launch center. The Fengyun-4 satellite, in geostationary orbit is also the country’s first quantitative remote-sensing satellite in high orbit.

The satellite will make high time, spatial and spectral resolution observations of the atmosphere, clouds and space environment of China and surrounding regions, significantly improving capabilities of weather and climate forecasts, according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense. The China Meteorological Administration is the primary user of the satellite.

According to the media outlet, Fengyun-4 is capable of monitoring atmosphere continuously, helping to improve the quality of weather forecasts and prevent catastrophic consequences of natural disasters. China has sent 14 meteorological satellites into space, of which seven are still active.

The US Air Force also plans to launch its Weather Satellite Follow-on program beginning in 2022 and with a replacement satellite launching about every five years thereafter.  The Defense Department’s needs include information on cloud characterization, snow depth, soil moisture, and sea ice characterization among others. A Pentagon acquisition review board shall  decide the best path forward for two of the highest priority gap: cloud characterization and theater weather imagery. That decision will also shape the Defense Department’s long-term strategy.


Counterspace capabilities

China continues to develop a variety of capabilities designed to limit or prevent the use of spacebased assets by adversaries during a crisis or conflict, including the development of directed-energy weapons and satellite jammers. “As China’s developmental counterspace capabilities become operational, China will be able to hold at risk U.S. national security satellites in every orbital regime,” says 2015 Report to Congress.

China has conducted a flight test of a new anti-satellite missile, the The Washington Free Beacon reports. The test of a so-called Dong Neng-3 missile occurred on October 30 2015 at the Korla Missile Test Complex in western China. According to the Hong Kong-based newspaper Ming Pao the “final-phase missile interception test had been conducted in the upper atmosphere.” However, in the past, China has repeatedly tried to disguise anti-satellite tests as missile defense interceptor tests. Since 2005, China has conducted eight anti-satellite tests. Tests conducted in 2010, 2013, and 2014 were labelled “land-based missile interception tests.”

“On July 23, 2014, China conducted a space launch that had a similar profile to the January 2007 test that resulted in the deliberate destruction of a defunct weather satellite, and the creation of hundreds of pieces of long lived space debris. Much of that debris continues to orbit the Earth where it poses a risk to the safe operation of many nations’ satellites. China’s 2014 launch did not result in the destruction of a satellite or space debris.”

On May 13, 2013, China launched ballistic missile (DN-2) on a ballistic trajectory with a peak altitude above 30,000 km. This trajectory took it near geosynchronous orbit, where many nations maintain communications and earth sensing satellites. Analysis of the launch determined that the booster was not on the appropriate trajectory to place objects in orbit and that no new satellites were released.

The launch profile was not consistent with traditional space-launch vehicles, ballistic missiles or sounding rocket launches used for scientific research. It could, however, have been a test of technologies with a counterspace mission in geosynchronous orbit. The United States and several public organizations expressed concern to Chinese representatives and asked for more information about the purpose and nature of the launch. China thus far has refrained from providing additional information

In August 2013 China launched the Shijian 15 satellite along with three other satellites. The main Shijian satellite also released a smaller sub satellite followed by maneuvers. The Shiyan 7 that was co-launched has a Remote Manipulator Arm whose use was also demonstrated. Once again these operations signify Chinese capabilities for ASAT operations.

PLA writings emphasize the necessity of “destroying, damaging, and interfering with the enemy’s reconnaissance … and communications satellites,” suggesting that such systems, as well as navigation and early warning satellites, could be among the targets of attacks designed to “blind and deafen the enemy.” PLA analysis of U.S. and coalition military operations also states that “destroying or capturing satellites and other sensors … will deprive an opponent of initiative on the battlefield and [make it difficult] for them to bring their precision guided weapons into full play.”

China’s continued development of destructive space technologies represented a threat to all peaceful space-faring nations,” according to the report.


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China leading the Global Space race to build Moon bases, harness it’s mineral resources and helium-3, fuel for future nuclear fusion power plants

China will send lunar probe Chang’e 5 to land on the moon and return with samples in the second half of 2017, in first such attempt, officials said. It will be the first time a Chinese probe would land on the moon, collect samples and return to Earth, and the third stage of China’s lunar exploration endeavour, according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND). Exotic materials including helium-3 and the potential for solar power could prove invaluable for humankind, said Prof Ouyang Ziyuan of the department of lunar and deep space exploration.


President Trump signed a presidential order  directing NASA to prepare a return to the moon. “It marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972 for long-term exploration and use,” the president said during a White House signing ceremony in the Roosevelt Room. “We’re dreaming big.”


NASA’s Catalyst program is urging companies to make “soft landings” on the surface with probes and ships. NASA calls for bids to mine in space. NASA recently announced that for human astronauts, the path to Mars will include a stop at the moon, where the agency may build a facility currently being called the Deep Space Gateway. That structure could serve as a kind of way station between the Earth and the Red Planet. (The concept for this particular lunar way station has been around for at least five years.)


Space agencies in China, Japan, Europe, Russia, Iran and a few private companies all hope to send people to the moon by as early as 2025. They’re talking about building bases, mining for natural resources, and studying the moon in unprecedented detail. A key figure at the European Space Agency says we must look at how we exploit the moon’s resources before it is too late, as missions begin surface mapping.

 Moon has abundance of invaluable materials

The moon has abundant of invaluable materials; an acronym KREEP signifies the richness of geochemical components potassium (K), rare-earth elements (REE) and phosphorus (P) in lunar rocks. The lunar orbiters from Europe, China, Japan, India and US have also pointed to the presence of minerals and related geologic processes.


The moon is also rich in helium-3, gold, cobalt, iron, palladium and tungsten. The soil samples collected by Appolo 17 mission had confirmed the presence of helium-3. Helium-3 can fuel non-radioactive nuclear fusion reactors in the future to produce safe, efficient and clean energy, vital to our energy security. Scientists estimate that the moon could contain approximately 1 million tons of helium-3, enough to power the entire earth for 10,000 years.


NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper, known as M3, carried on India’s Chandrayaan-I, found many mineral concentrations and even presence of water on the surface of the moon. Water on the moon is strategically important for life support, energy storage and as propellant.


Rare earth elements, called rare because of their low abundance on earth, are essential ingredients of many modern consumer and defense products including wind turbines, glass for solar panels and guided missiles.

International Initiatives


China is taking another step in its space exploration programme, starting a trial scenario for a permanent Moon station.Four postgraduate students from the astronautics university of Beihang moved into the cabin, ambitiously called the Yuegong-1, or Lunar Palace in English. They will stay in the cabin for 60 days, followed by another group who will stay for 200 days. The first four will then return for yet another 105 days.


According to state news agency Xinhua, one of the main elements of the experiment is to explore is how a space mission could be entirely self-contained over a long period of time. Human waste will undergo a bio-fermentation process, and crops and vegetables are to be grown with the help of food and waste by-products. The model Moon station has two plant cultivation modules and a living cabin housing four bed cubicles, one common room, a bathroom, a waste treatment room and a room for raising animals.


China successfully landed a spacecraft — the Chang’e 3 — on the moon in December 2013, becoming only the third nation after the United States and Russia to land on the moon’s surface. The Chang’e 3 mission, included lander and China’s first lunar rove called Yutu (“Jade Rabbit”), which successfully soft-landed on the Moon.


The country will also unveil a new generation of carrier rockets including Long March 5 and 7 in 2016, along with other new satellites and spacelabs.


China’s growing space ambitions are targeted towards future economic development and strategic advantage. Ouyang Ziyuan, a prominent Chinese geologist and chemical cosmologist, was among the first to advocate the exploitation not only of known lunar reserves of metals such as titanium, but also of helium-3, an ideal fuel for future nuclear fusion power plants.


China’s official news agency Xinhua reported that China will start its third phase in 2017 by launching the Chang’e-5 spacecraft. Its mission includes orbiting, landing on the moon and then returning to earth. After making a soft landing on the moon, the lander will dig and collect rock samples from up to two meters below the surface.


China first to explore ‘dark side’ of the moon

China has confirmed it plans to send a spacecraft to land on the moon’s “dark side” before 2020, state media reports — a mission, which, if successful, would make it the first country to do so.


The mission will be carried out by the lunar probe Chang’e-4, Zou Yongliao, a scientist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences said at a deep space exploration forum on Tuesday. In May, Wu Weiren, the chief engineer for China’s Lunar Exploration Program told state-run broadcaster CCTV that China would send the Chang’e-4 spacecraft to orbit the moon before sending a rover to the surface.


“We probably will choose a site on which it is more difficult to land and more technically challenging… Our next move will probably see some spacecraft land on the far side of the moon,” Wu said.


When the Apollo astronauts visited the moon in the late 60s and early 70s, “they covered two parts in one million of the lunar surface,” David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary Institute said. The far side of the moon and its polar regions remain untouched.


Johann-Dietrich Wörner director general of European Space Agency asserted that a far-side outpost on the moon offers a number of “drivers,” including cosmological research. For instance, the lunar far side is shielded from radiation-chatter broadcasts from Earth, allowing radio telescopes built there to survey the universe with very little background noise, he said.

Chinese Ambitions

Prof Ouyang Ziyuan of the department of lunar and deep space exploration explained that there were three motivations behind the drive to investigate the Moon. “First, to develop our technology because lunar exploration requires many types of technology, including communications, computers, all kinds of IT skills and the use of different kinds of materials. This is the key reason,” he told BBC News.


“Second, in terms of the science, besides Earth we also need to know our brothers and sisters like the Moon, its origin and evolution and then from that we can know about our Earth. “Third, in terms of the talents, China needs its own intellectual team who can explore the whole lunar and solar system – that is also our main purpose.”


A rationale for this long-term programme is that “there are many ways humans can use the Moon”. With no air on the Moon, solar panels would operate far more efficiently, he believes, and a “belt” of them could “support the whole world”. The Moon is also “so rich” in helium-3, which is a possible fuel for nuclear fusion, that this could “solve human beings’ energy demand for around 10,000 years at least.


Prof Ouyang highlighted the combination of an extremely thin atmosphere and massive temperature extremes offering a unique possibility for manufacturing that does not exist on Earth. “The Moon is full of resources – mainly rare earth elements, titanium, and uranium, which the Earth is really short of, and these resources can be used without limitation.


Moon Express look toward Lunar Mining

California-based company Moon Express, which aims to fly commercial missions to the moon and help unlock its resources, has signed a five-launch deal with Rocket Lab, with the first two robotic liftoffs scheduled to take place in 2017.


The 3.9-foot-wide (1.2 m) Electron rocket is designed to deliver a 330-lb. (150 kilograms) payload to a sun-synchronous orbit 310 miles (500 kilometers) above Earth, according to Rocket Lab’s website.


The contract puts Moon Express in position to possibly win the Google Lunar X Prize, a $30 million competition to land a privately funded robotic spacecraft on the moon by the end of 2017. The first team to do this — and have the craft move 1,640 feet (500 m) and beam high-definition video and images back to Earth as well — will win the $20 million grand prize. (The second team to accomplish these goals gets $5 million; another $5 million is available for meeting certain other milestones.)


Mining the moon for rare minerals is considered an exciting prospect because the supply of resources here on Earth is limited. Given the finite amount of these Earth-based minerals and metals, the cost is astronomically high. Palladium, for instance, which is used for electronics, sells for $784 per ounce.


Moon Express plans to send its robotic lander, dubbed “MX-1,” to the moon by 2016, aiming to demonstrate safety and reliability of the moon landing. It has already put into test a prototype at the Kennedy Space Center.


Naveen Jain, the co-founder of Moon Express said, that while the first mission of the company’s lander is a one-way trip — which means that MX-1 won’t be traveling back to Earth — the second and third missions could already involve bringing precious minerals, metals and moon rocks back to Earth.

Russia plan to place astronauts on the moon by 2029

“A manned flight to the Moon and lunar landing is planned for 2029,” Vladimir Solntsev, head of Roscosmos Energia (RSC Energia), said in an announcement, reported Russia Today. Also, in the far eastern part of their country, the Russians are building a huge, $3 billion cosmodrome. Reports indicate that this be a new spaceport specifically designed to send and receive spacecraft from lunar orbit.


After a series of failures, the Russian space industry stands on the brink of new technological breakthroughs in the field of space technology, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. According to Rogozin, one of the goals of the Russian space industry today is to build a super-heavy rocket that would ensure the creation of a manned lunar station.


As for the rocket and the spaceship, there are two big issues about it. If it goes about unmanned exploration of the moon, Luna-25 and Luna-26 stations and so on, then these activities are part of the federal space program before 2025 that should be implemented soon, in 2017 and 2018.


“As for a manned flight to the moon, a breakthrough effort is required indeed, because existing launch vehicles and even launch vehicles of the near future are, unfortunately, unable to deliver Russian cosmonauts to the Moon. We need to develop new launch vehicles for the purpose. “There is Angara-A5V launcher, for example. This is a heavy carrier rocket with increased lifting capacity. This rocket could make a lunar mission possible, but this work is outside the federal space program, but we have the potential.”


“This is part of a larger Putin strategy to reestablish Russia as a significant political player and a major state in international affairs that needs to be taken into account,” Charles Hermann, professor of international affairs at the Bush School said. Hermann said politically and economically, Russia might experience problems in a moon mission. “It’s a long way until 2029, and there is not only the technological challenges of doing this but perhaps even greater is the financial one,” Hermann said.


However, experts point out that some of their rockets are dating back to 1960’s and in historical terms, Russia has not had a successful interplanetary mission since 1984. The Vega 2 to Venus remains their biggest accomplishment since then.


“Russian economy is incredibly dependent on petroleum at this point in time and if they don’t have a stronger economic base than they do now it may be difficult to sustain, to allocate, the kinds of resources to this project that it will require.” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev intends to cut funding for the space program by 30%. Russia is now looking for collaboration with Europe for joint moon missions.

Russian and European Space Agency Plan Permanent Moon Bases

Roscosmos, the Russian federal space agency, in partnership with the European Space Agency have planned to cooperate in a sequence of missions to the moon that could lead to a possible permanent human settlement there.


The first mission, dubbed Luna 27 and intended to put a robotic lander on an unexplored area of the moon’s south pole, will launch in 5 years’ time. The South Pole has been chosen as a landing site because scientists believe many areas of the region which are in constant darkness might harbor ice, which could be a resource usable by future manned missions. ESA will also provide a mini-laboratory, named ProSPA, which will be used by astronauts to evaluate their findings.


“First of all, it goes about the exploration of the Moon itself. The lunar exploration of the past – the flights of US astronauts and Soviet spacecraft to the Moon could give us just a glimpse of the Earth’s satellite. Not that long ago, scientists discovered large reserves of water in the lunar soil. This is very important, because, if a lunar station is ever built, it will be possible to extract water and produce oxygen and hydrogen from it. Hydrogen would be used as fuel, so this is a direct way to the development of lunar resources.


“The 21st century will be the century when it will be the permanent outpost of human civilization, and our country has to participate in this process,” said mission leader scientist Professor Igor Mitrofanov, of the Space Research Institute in Moscow. “We have to go to the moon.”


Building a settlement for a permanent human presence on the moon’s surface can provide both scientific and commercial benefits, Mitrofanov says. “It will be for astronomical observation, for the utilization of minerals and other lunar resources and to create an outpost that can be visited by cosmonauts working together as a test bed for their future flight to Mars.”


“The Moon can also be used for various astrophysical experiments, because there is no atmosphere there, and one can install different radio telescopes directly on the surface of the satellite. Cosmonauts would play the role of both scientists and technical operators in this case.”


USA Reorients towards Moon mission

In 2010, President Obama announced the administration’s decision to cancel NASA’s plans to return to the moon based on financially unsustainability, in favor of ambitious Asteroid Redirect Mission. Obama said that the U.S. would first send astronauts to an asteroid, then to orbit Mars by the 2030s, and finally to land on Mars after that.


NASA is developing the first ever mission to identify, capture and relocate an asteroid to a stable orbit around the moon, and send astronauts to return samples of it to Earth. This Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) will greatly advance NASA’s human path to Mars, testing the capabilities needed for future crewed missions to the Red Planet.


An overwhelming majority of the scientific community seems to disapproved of Obama’s change in plans. David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary Institute said he, like many others, believes that a moon mission would serve as a much better precursor for a trip to Mars than a mission to an asteroid. He explained that the moon would allow NASA to develop the skills and technology needed to go to Mars while staying in relatively close proximity to Earth, meaning a quicker recovery time if problems arise, and the ability to do more missions and speed up the learning process.


Now President Trump signed a presidential order directing NASA to prepare a return to the moon. NASA recently announced that for human astronauts, the path to Mars will include a stop at the moon, where the agency may build a facility currently being called the Deep Space Gateway. That structure could serve as a kind of way station between the Earth and the Red Planet. (The concept for this particular lunar way station has been around for at least five years.)


Both the president and the vice president said today that NASA’s focus on its human spaceflight program will help create jobs for the country, and both men briefly mentioned the defense and military applications of the space program. “As everyone here knows, establishing a renewed American presence on the moon is vital to achieve our strategic objectives and the objectives outlined by our National Space Council,” Pence said. “In pursuing these objectives, Mr. President, we will, as you said, enhance our national security and our capacity to provide for the common defense of the people of the United States of America.”


Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator, said he thinks the new directive could provide “a sense of urgency” to NASA’s spaceflight pursuits. He noted that there are “a lot of people that want to help [NASA]” reach those goals, including international space partners and commercial space partners in the U.S. “And if we can all stay focused on the same goal, we’ll be okay,” Lightfoot said.


NASA and Russia  to work collaboratively for space station

NASA and Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, signed a joint statement expressing their intent to work collaboratively toward the development of a space station further out from Earth, orbiting the Moon, as a staging point for both lunar surface exploration and deeper space science.

This is part of NASA’s expressed desire to explore and develop its so-called “deep space gateway” concept, which it intends to be a strategic base from which to expand the range and capabilities of human space exploration. NASA wants to get humans out into space beyond the Moon, in other words, and the gateway concept would establish an orbital space station in the vicinity of the Moon to help make this a more practical possibility.

“While the deep space gateway is still in concept formulation, NASA is pleased to see growing international interest in moving into cislunar space as the next step for advancing human space exploration,” Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator at NASA Headquarters in Washington said in a NASA press release announcing the news. “Statements such as this one signed with Roscosmos show the gateway concept as an enabler to the kind of exploration architecture that is affordable and sustainable.”


Technology Challenges

However, commercial moon mining is so technologically daunting that it may take decades before it can become economically viable. Enough robotic exploration moon missions are required to map the quality, quantity and distribution of these minerals. The potential mining methods, their economic viability and methods to separate the almost similar minerals from the ore need to be studied.


The cost of lunar access and bringing the mined ores back to earth shall need to be reduced drastically through advances in propulsion, avionics, mining robots, launchers and spacecraft design. The technologies like 3D printing could help build infrastructure on the moon, as well as missions which are beginning to map its surface ahead of bids to drill for its resources.


John Junkins, distinguished professor of aerospace engineering, said getting astronauts to the moon and back is no easy feat. “There are many many technical challenges, but the biggest one is attention to detail with a very, very large and complicated effort and to do that over a sustained period of time so that they can get there and back safely,” Junkins said.


Junkins said a moon landing involves a mixture of various disciplines. “Everything from life support, to designing the rockets themselves, all of the navigation aspects and control functions, the tremendous attention to detail, to integration of a massive human effort and many technologies, and then the discipline that is required to do this safely,” Junkins said.


Worner also proposed a permanent moon station as the successor of ISS, this station should be international, “meaning that the different actors can contribute with their respective competencies and interests.” Wörner said that “the moon station can be an important stepping stone for any further exploration in deep space,” adding that a lunar outpost could help humanity learn how to use resources on-site instead of transporting them.

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US, Russia and China in Hypersonic Weapons Race for prompt global strike capability, Strategic bombing from outer space and defeating all missile defenses

US, Russia and China are in race for Hypersonic Weapons that shall revolutionize warfare by providing prompt global strike capability and defeat all missile defences. Hypersonic missiles travel at least five times the speed of sound (Mach 5 or 6,125 kilometers per hour) or more. Flying along the edge of space while gliding and maneuvering these missiles would strike targets with unprecedented speed and precision.


Brad Leland, Lockheed’s program manager for Hypersonics makes the case for the jet on the company’s website, stating: “Hypersonic aircraft, coupled with hypersonic missiles, could penetrate denied airspace and strike at nearly any location across a continent in less than an hour… Speed is the next aviation advancement to counter emerging threats in the next several decades. The technology would be a game-changer in theater, similar to how stealth is changing the battlespace today.” Once operational, these missiles would make current strategic missile defenses systems obsolete, they will be able to avoid triggering early-warning systems or detection by radar as well their speed shall complicate interception.


The United States and Australia have concluded a series of hypersonic test flights at the Woomera test range in South Australia. The tests were conducted under the auspices of the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HiFIRE) programme, says Australia’s Department of Defence in a statement. In the statement, defence minister Marise Payne said that the tests have achieved “significant milestones, including design assembly, and pre-flight testing of the hypersonic vehicles and design of complex avionics and control systems.”  US intends to develop a sea-launched hypersonic cruise missile by 2018-2020, and a hypersonic aircraft by 2030. Australia and other countries are also developing hypersonic weapons.


Recently China tested  DF-17  its first hypersonic glide vehicle-equipped missile intended for operational deployment. Chinese DF-ZF (previously designated as the WU-14) is a hypersonic missile delivery vehicle that has been flight-tested by the Chinese seven times, on 9 January, 7 August and 2 December 2014; 7 June and 27 November 2015; and again in April 2016. The strategic strike weapon is extremely advanced and can travel at 10 times the speed of sound, or 12,231.01kph. Also, American defense officials said the vehicle, which speeds along the edge of the earth’s atmosphere, demonstrated a new capability during the latest test: that it was able to take evasive actions.


DF-ZF could be used for nuclear weapons delivery but could also be used to perform precision-strike conventional missions (for example, next-generation anti-ship ballistic missiles), which could penetrate “the layered air defenses of a U.S. carrier strike group. Once operational, these missiles would make current strategic missile defenses systems obsolete, they will be able to avoid triggering early-warning systems or detection by radar as well their speed shall complicate interception.


The congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated in its latest annual report that the China’s hypersonic glide vehicle program is “progressing rapidly” and the weapon could be deployed by 2020. China also is building a powered version of the high-speed vehicle that could be fielded by 2025.


Russia already successfully tested the Yu-71 hypersonic glider several times and will deploy a regiment of them armed with nuclear warheads by 2020, according to US sources. According to multiple reports, Russia is expected to begin production soon of its 3M22 Zircon, a hypersonic missile that will travel 4,600 miles per hour — five times the speed of sound — and will have a range of 250 miles. That’s just three minutes and 15 seconds from launch to impact. Guided hypersonic missiles will be more accurate than traditional ballistic missiles and could conceivably be armed with nuclear warheads, according to the geopolitical analysis firm Stratfor.

Hypersonic Weapons

Systems that operate at hypersonic speeds—five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) and beyond—offer the potential for military operations from longer ranges with shorter response times and enhanced effectiveness compared to current military systems. Such systems could provide significant payoff for future U.S. offensive strike operations, particularly as adversaries’ capabilities advance. While US wants to develop strike targets at any location  on earth within one hour using conventional warheads, China and Russia are aiming to defeat US missile defence system.


Hypersonic weapons can be Tactical Boost-Glide type, the approach already tested by both Russia and China: a rocket motor boosts the missile up to hypersonic speed, after which it glides to the target. The goal is to “skip” off the atmosphere like a skipping stone over water, allowing it to go vast distances at extreme speeds. Getting this to work requires progress in aerodynamics, stability, and controls, as well as materials, Bussing said. 3D printing can help in all these areas.


An “air-breathing” hypersonic vehicle, by contrast, flies under its own jet power the whole way. This approach allows less range than boost-glide but greater maneuverability. Air-breathers can also be significantly smaller. A rocket has to carry large amounts of oxidizer to burn its fuel. A jet just sucks in oxygen from the atmosphere. But normal jets don’t have to suck in air moving at Mach 5-plus. A jet that works at hypersonic speeds will require some breakthroughs — and, again, 3D printing can help grow the exotic components.



China developing hypersonic, precision-guidance, and boost-glide technologies

Prompt Global Strike (PGS) is a U.S. military program to develop weapons—mainly missiles—that can strike targets at any location on earth within one hour using conventional warheads.  Some analysts have argued that, if the United States were to launch these missiles during a conflict, nations with minimal satellite capabilities and launch notification systems (such as China) or degraded launch notification systems (such as Russia) could conclude that they were under attack with nuclear missiles.


China fears the system will be used to knock out its nuclear missiles on the ground in the early stages of a conflict. According to Saalman, “Chinese analysts view PGS as part of a larger U.S. effort to achieve ‘absolute security,’ with BMD as the shield and PGS as the sword.


China is conducting substantial research into both countering and developing hypersonic, precision-guidance, and boost-glide technologies, with the DF-21D and WU-14 weapon systems as just two recent examples, according Dr. Lora Saalman, Associate Professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.


DF-17: China’s Newly Tested Ballistic Missile Armed With a Hypersonic Glide Vehicle

According to a U.S. government source who described recent intelligence assessments on the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) on the condition of anonymity, China recently conducted two tests of a new missile known as the DF-17 that is equipped with a “hypersonic glide vehicle” (HGV). The first test took place on November 1 and the second test took place on November 15.


HGVs are capsules on the top of a missile that hold the payload. They break apart from the main body of the projectile after it has reached its highest altitude, and glide to the target until impact.


The source said that the DF-17 was a medium-range missile system that had a range between 1,800 and 2,500 kilometers. It is capable of carrying nuclear and conventional payloads, and may be able to be configured to have a maneuverable reentry vehicle instead of an HGV.


Hypersonic gliders, by virtue of their low-altitude flight,  are difficult to detect with existing  missile defence radars, hence gives less time for interception . However  HGVs  are considerably slower in the final stages of their flight than most reentry vehicles on a ballistic trajectory to take place before the payload can reach its target. This may leave them vulnerable to interception by advanced terminal point defense systems.


DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle, which the US calls Wu-14

Beijing for the seventh time successfully flight-tested its DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle, which the US calls Wu-14, at the Wuzhai missile test range in the central portion of China. The strategic strike weapon is extremely advanced and can travel at 10 times the speed of sound, or 12,231.01kph. The six previous tests conducted in 2014 and 2015 also having been successful. Glide vehicles are lifted to the high upper atmosphere by ballistic missiles and then glide at speeds five times faster than the speed of sound


Also, American defense officials said the vehicle, which speeds along the edge of the earth’s atmosphere, demonstrated a new capability during the latest test: that it was able to take evasive actions. “At a minimum this latest test indicates China is likely succeeding in achieving a key design objective: building a warhead capable of withstanding the very high stress of hypersonic maneuvering,” Rick Fisher, a China military expert, told the WFB. “It is likely that the test vehicle will form the basis for a missile launched weapon.”


“The Wu-14 is designed to penetrate US missile defense systems, meaning the PLA is capable of defending China’s territorial sovereignty. But such a test is only a nuclear deterrent. Neither China nor the US wants to declare war over the South China Sea issues,” said Professor He Qisong, a defense policy specialist at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.


Analysts suspect that the WU-14 will first be used in shorter-range roles as an anti-ship missile. China has already believed to have developed advanced capabilities for precision ASBM strike against U.S. aircraft carriers and other naval forces operating in the western Pacific, at ranges between 1,500 and 2,000km, under its sea-denial strategy.


China is also believed to be developing capability on an Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) variant that adopts a boost-glide for long range precision strikes – at least out to 8,000km – against a broad range of targets, including ships at sea.


The National Air and Space Intelligence Center has testified to Congress that China’s hypersonic glide vehicle will be used to deliver nuclear weapons. A variant also could be used as part of China’s conventionally-armed anti-ship ballistic missile system, which is aimed at sinking U.S. aircraft carriers far from Chinese shores.

China’s commercial Jilin satellite system also indicates the emergence of China’s Prompt Global Strike (PGS) capabilities.

The Jilin-1 group of satellites consists of 4 satellites: one 450-kg major satellite with a resolution ratio of 0.72 metres, two dexterous image taking satellites with a resolution ratio of 1.3 metres and one checking satellite with dexterous image taking. Chinese sources say that by 2030 there will be 138 satellites in the Jilin satellite system with a return visit speed of 10 minutes.


It is expected that the satellites will become smaller with higher resolution. The PLA will use that satellite system to help its intercontinental PGS system update its targets.


“China’s hypersonic weapons development program is probably less developed than the American program, but China might be able to develop its program more quickly,” said James Acton of the Nuclear Policy Program and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


US hypersonic technology programs

US government agencies are developing hypersonic technology for short-term and long-term goals. The near-term goals are hypersonic weapons that are expected to mature in the early 2020s and unmanned surveillance aircraft in the late 2020s or early 2030s, with hypersonic vehicles to follow in the longer term. Air-breathing access to space is a much longer-term goal. The general development strategy is to start small with weapons and to then scale up to aircraft and space vehicles as the technology and materials mature, reports Janes.


Raytheon has been awarded a USD 174 million contract for work on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA’s) Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) programme, according to a 28 October Pentagon announcement. USD3.4 million of the cost-plus-fixed-fee deal was awarded, according to the announcement. HAWC is a joint project with the US Air Force (USAF) to “develop and demonstrate critical technologies to enable an effective and affordable air-launched hypersonic cruise missile”, according to DARPA.


Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are both working on HAWC projects. The latter is also working on DARPA’s Tactical Boost-Glide (TBG) programme. Both HAWC and TBG are feeding into the USAF’s High Speed Strike Weapon (HSSW) effort, which the service intends to demonstrate around 2020.


Once operational, these missiles would make current strategic missile defenses systems obsolete, as they will be able to avoid detection by radar as well their speed shall complicate interception. “The very high speeds of these weapons, combined with their maneuverability and ability to travel at lower, radar-evading altitudes, would make them far less vulnerable than existing missiles to current missile defenses,” the commission stated.


These developments threaten the U.S.’s strategic missile defense technology to be obsolete before its fully deployed, on which US has spent more than $100 billion, according to 2011 Arms Control Association report. Some nonproliferation scientists, have expressed the doubts that they may carry Nuclear weapons as well.

US Prompt Global Strike (PGS)

Prompt Global Strike (PGS) is a U.S. military program to develop weapons—mainly missiles—that can strike targets at any location on earth within one hour using conventional warheads. This capability may bolster U.S. efforts to deter and defeat adversaries by allowing the United States to attack high-value targets or “fleeting targets” at the start of or during a conflict.


The 2006 QDR noted the need for prompt global strike capabilities to provide the United States with the ability “to attack fixed, hard and deeply buried, mobile and re-locatable targets with improved accuracy anywhere in the world promptly upon the President’s order. The 2010 QDR also noted that “enhanced long-range strike capabilities are one means of countering growing threats to forward deployed forces and bases and ensuring U.S. power projection capabilities.”


In 2003, the Air Force and DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) initiated a program, known as FALCON (force application and launch from continental United States) that was designed to develop both a launch vehicle similar to a ballistic missile and a hypersonic reentry vehicle, known as the common aero vehicle (CAV) that, together, would provide the United States with the ability to meet the requirements of the prompt global strike mission.


US is funding several hypersonic programs: Lockheed Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2, Air Force’s Force Application and Launch from Continental United States, known as FALCON, Raytheon Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), and the Raytheon/Lockheed Tactical Boost Glide. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency gave Raytheon $20 million and Lockheed $24 million for the latter.


DARPA indicated that the goal for the HTV-2 program is to develop a vehicle that can launch into the Earth’s upper atmosphere and descend across the Pacific Ocean with speeds of more than 13,000 miles per hour. It should be able to travel from Vandenberg Air Force Base to a target near Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean in 30 minutes.


The Army is also developing a hypersonic glide vehicle, known as the advanced hypersonic weapon (AHW). Like the HTV-2, the AHW would use a hypersonic glider to deliver a conventional payload, but could be deployed on a booster with a shorter range than HTV-2 and, therefore, may need to be deployed forward, on land or at sea.


The Army conducted a successful flight test of the AHW on November 17, 2011.  The system launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii, and used the strategic targets system (STARS) booster stack, which is derived from the Navy’s Polaris ballistic missile. According to press reports, the vehicle traveled 2,400 miles, from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii to Kwajalein Atoll. The test collected data on hypersonic boost-glide technologies and test range performance. The mission also tested the thermal protection technologies for the vehicle, an area where concerns exist because of the high temperatures generated during flight.

DARPA’s Tactical Boost Glide (TBG)

The Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) program is a joint DARPA/U.S. Air Force (USAF) effort that aims to develop and demonstrate technologies to enable future air-launched, tactical-range hypersonic boost glide systems. In a boost glide system, a rocket accelerates its payload to high speeds. The payload then separates from the rocket and glides unpowered to its destination.

The boost-glide hypersonic weapons would offer certain unique attributes to military planners. Compared to ballistic missiles, boost-glide weapons have potentially 5 to 10 times the speed of sound, nearly double the range, can generally transport a heavier payload over a given range, are capable of midcourse maneuvering, and fly at lower altitudes.

The TBG program plans to focus on three primary objectives:

  • Vehicle Feasibility—Vehicle concepts possessing the required aerodynamic and aerothermal performance, controllability and robustness for a wide operational envelope
  • Effectiveness—System attributes and subsystems required to be effective in relevant operational environments
  • Affordability—Approaches to reducing cost and increasing value for both the demonstration system and future operational systems

DARPA’s Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) programme

Systems that operate at hypersonic speeds—five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) and beyond—offer the potential for military operations from longer ranges with shorter response times and enhanced effectiveness compared to current military systems. Such systems could provide significant payoff for future U.S. offensive strike operations, particularly as adversaries’ capabilities advance.


The Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) program is a joint DARPA/U.S. Air Force (USAF) effort that seeks to develop and demonstrate critical technologies to enable an effective and affordable air-launched hypersonic cruise missile. These demonstrations seek to open the door to new, responsive long-range strike capabilities against time-critical or heavily defended targets. The program intends to emphasize efficient, rapid and affordable flight tests to validate key technologies.

HAWC plans to pursue flight demonstrations to address three critical technology challenge areas or program pillars—air vehicle feasibility, effectiveness, and affordability. Technologies of interest include:

  • Advanced air vehicle configurations capable of efficient hypersonic flight
  • Hydrocarbon scramjet-powered propulsion to enable sustained hypersonic cruise
  • Approaches to managing the thermal stresses of high-temperature cruise
  • Affordable system designs and manufacturing approaches
  • HAWC technologies could also extend to future reusable hypersonic air platforms for applications such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and space access.

Russia developing several air- and sea-launched hypersonic missiles

Russia is reportedly developing several hypersonic weapons systems, including air- and sea-launched missiles.

According to analytical website, this year Russia successfully tested its experimental Yu-74 hypersonic glide vehicle. The Yu-74 was carried by the intercontinental-range RS-18A (NATO codename: SS-19 Stiletto) ballistic missile system. The glider was launched from the Dombarovsky missile base in the Orenburg region and hit a target located at Kura Missile Test Range in northern Kamchatka region, the Russian Far East. Russia’s new Yu-74 ultra-maneuverable hypersonic glide vehicles may become yet another response to the deployment of NATO’s missile installations in Eastern Europe, according to analytical website Ostkraft, says Sputnik.

Last year Russia conducted a series of tests of the Yu-71 hypersonic attack aircraft. The Yu-71 is part of secret missile program codenamed “Project 4202.” The glider was said to reach speeds of up to 7,000 miles per hour. Due to its outstanding maneuverability and high speed the system can overcome any defense shield, Ostkraft noted.

Russia tested a hypersonic missile in February 2015, WFB reported. According to military experts in the United States, Russia is testing a new hypersonic attack aircraft, the Yu-71 that reportedly has the capability to carry nuclear warheads that can penetrate missile defence systems. It has also been suggested that Russia is particularly working on devloping episodic weapons systems that can be launched by both land and sea-based means.

Russia has also  testing its hypersonic cruise missile “Zircon”, which is expected to be put into mass production in 2018, as reported by Tass source in the Russian military-industrial complex.  Settings “zircon” remain secret. Open sources report that the range of the new missile can reach up to 400 kilometers, and its flying speed will exceed the speed of sound in five or six times.

The hypersonic missile—which is a component of the 3K22 Zircon system—will be incorporated into the nuclear-powered Project 11442 Orlan-class battlecruiser (NATO: Kirov-class) Pyotr Veliky when it completes its overhaul in late 2022, as reported by Dave Majumdar. “The Admiral Nakhimov heavy missile cruiser’s deep modernization envisages the replacement of the warship’s missile strike system. As a result, the vessel will get the Zircon hypersonic missiles,” a source told TASS.

The Russian Strategic Missile Forces Academy is developing a hypersonic strategic bomber capable of striking with nuclear warheads from outer space, Lt. Col. Aleksei Solodovnikov told RIA Novosti. A trial model of Russia’s nuclear-capable outer space strategic bomber will be developed by 2020, according to its developer. The jet will be very capable and will need only one-two hours to reach any place on Earth through outer space.

Russian commander of the Strategic Missile Forces (SMF), Colonel General Sergei Karakayev, had earlier reported that the Russian Strategic Missile Forces Academy has already developed and tested an engine for the experimental aircraft.

“The idea is that the bomber will take off from a normal home airfield to patrol Russian airspace. Upon command it will ascend into outer space, strike a target with nuclear warheads and then return to its home base,” Solodovnikov told RIA Novosti.

Called the PAK-DA strategic bomber, the hypersonic aircraft – which will be invisible to radar – will be armed with a special hybrid Turbofan engine, making it capable of low-level space flight. The bomber will burn traditional kerosene fuel when flying inside the earth’s atmosphere. However, once in space, the engine switches to methane and oxygen which allows the PAK-DA to fly without air.

“We are cooperating with Russia’s Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute on the design of an airframe and the aircraft’s characteristics. I think that its lift-off mass must be 20-25 metric tons for it to be a strike aircraft. It will [be able to accelerate to] hypersonic speed in rocket mode,” he added.

Russia is also developing the P-800 Onyx, which some experts suspect could be a hypersonic missile as well. “It could be a fundamentally new missile, possibly hypersonic”. Russian officials have said their hypersonic arms development is aimed to penetrate U.S. missile defenses.

Army General Dmitry Bulgakov, the deputy minister of defense, told reporters that the ministry has developed a special new fuel to enable missiles to fly at hypersonic speeds.

India and Russia developing hypersonic cruise missiles

Unlike the U.S. and China, both of whom focus their hypersonic development efforts on boost-glide vehicles, Russia and India are seeking to build hypersonic cruise missiles. NPO Mashinostroeyenia, is collaborating with India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to develop BrahMos-II or or BrahMos Mark II, a hypersonic cruise missile expected to have a range of 290 kilometres (180 mi) and a speed of Mach 7, expected to be ready for testing by 2017.

According to the company’s website, the BrahMos-II will be powered by a scramjet engine instead of a ramjet one. “As a variation of the ramjet,” the company explains, “scramjets allow combustion to occur in a supersonic airflow, thereby expanding the operating range above Mach 4.”


Traditional Missile Defense Obsolete

Ballistic missile defense systems based on velocity and trajectory of a ballistic missile path use mathematical algorithms to determine interception points to accurately guide an intercepting missile. The predictable ballistic trajectory of ballistic missiles makes them vulnerable to land and naval-based interceptor missiles,

The Hypersonic glide vehicle defeats this logic by not traveling in a predictable ballistic path. It is launched like a ballistic missile, but it stays within the atmosphere skipping and gliding irregularly across thin air before going downward hypersonically into a highly maneuverable and evasive path before striking its target.

The high maneuverability and the hypersonic speed make it very difficult to be intercepted by exo-atmospheric kill vehicles as well as lessens the time it can be detected, fired at, or reengaged if there is a miss.

This development threatens the U.S.’s strategic missile defense technology to be obsolete before its fully deployed, on which US has spent more than $100 billion, according to 2011 Arms Control Association report.

References and  Resources also include:

NASA Seeks Industry’s Concepts for Solar Electric Propulsion for Deep Space Exploration Mission-2 near the moon

NASA is leading the next steps into deep space near the moon, where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems needed for challenging missions to deep space destinations including Mars. The area of space near the moon offers a true deep space environment to gain experience for human missions that push farther into the solar system, access the lunar surface for robotic missions but with the ability to return to Earth if needed in days rather than weeks or months.

The agency published a Request For Information (RFI) July 17 to capture the U.S. industry’s current capabilities and plans for spacecraft concepts that potentially could be advanced to provide power and advanced solar electric propulsion (SEP) to NASA’s deep space gateway concept. Solar electric propulsion typically refers to the combination of solar cells and ion drive for propelling a spacecraft through outer space. This technology has been studied by NASA and is considered promising. The main concept is a nexus of Solar panels on spacecraft and ion thruster.

NASA is examining a lunar-orbiting, crew-tended spaceport concept that would serve as a gateway to deep space. In addition to the power propulsion element, the gateway would include a habitat to extend Orion crew time, a docking capability, and would be serviceable by logistics modules to enable research and replenishment for deep space transport infrastructure.

NASA is in the early stages of acquisition planning with the goal of developing a flight unit payload to launch on the agency’s second integrated mission of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft.

“Through the RFI, we hope to better understand industry’s current state-of-the-art and potential future capabilities for deep space power and propulsion,” said Michele Gates, director of the Power Propulsion Element at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “With the upcoming BAA, we will fund industry-led studies to identify the most urgent areas for focus over the next several years, for the benefit of human spaceflight, as well as commercial applications.”

One of the Technology Area (TA) of NASA’s Mars roadmaps is In-Space Propulsion Technologies that addresses the development of higher-power electric propulsion, nuclear thermal propulsion, and cryogenic chemical propulsion. Improvements derived from technology candidates within this TA will decrease transit times, increase payload mass, provide safer spacecraft, and decrease costs.


Deep Space Gateway and Deep Space Transport

Under a program dubbed Deep Space Gateway, agency officials said they still plan to use the lunar orbit as a staging platform to build and test the infrastructure and the systems needed to send astronauts to Mars. But instead of breaking off a chunk of asteroid and dragging it to the moon, NASA’s new plan calls for building an orbiting spaceport that could have even more uses.

The second phase of missions will confirm that the agency’s capabilities built for humans can perform long duration missions beyond the moon. For those destinations farther into the solar system, including Mars, NASA envisions a deep space transport spacecraft.

This spacecraft would be a reusable vehicle that uses electric and chemical propulsion and would be specifically designed for crewed missions to destinations such as Mars. The transport would take crew out to their destination, return them back to the gateway, where it can be serviced and sent out again. The transport would take full advantage of the large volumes and mass that can be launched by the SLS rocket, as well as advanced exploration technologies being developed now and demonstrated on the ground and aboard the International Space Station.


NASA to fly ion thruster on Mars orbiter

An ion thruster is a form of electric propulsion used for spacecraft propulsion. It creates thrust by accelerating ions with electricity. As the ionised particles escape from the aircraft, they generate a force moving in the other direction. Power supplies for ion thrusters are usually electric solar panels, but at sufficiently large distances from the sun, nuclear power is used.


Michael Patterson, senior technologist for NASA’s In-Space Propulsion Technologies Program compared ion and chemical propulsion with “Tortoise and the Hare”. “The hare is a chemical propulsion system and a mission where you might fire the main engine for 30 minutes or an hour and then for most of the mission you coast.” “With electric propulsion, it’s like the tortoise, in that you go very slow in the initial spacecraft velocity but you continuously thrust over a very long duration — many thousands of hours — and then the spacecraft ends up picking up a very large delta to velocity.”


The NASA Glenn Research Center has been a leader in ion propulsion technology development since the late 1950s, the NASA Solar Technology Application Readiness (NSTAR) ion propulsion system enabled the Deep Space 1 mission, the first spacecraft propelled primarily by ion propulsion, to travel over 163 million miles and make flybys of the asteroid Braille and the comet Borelly.


NASA Glenn recently awarded a contract to Aerojet Rocketdyne to fabricate two NEXT flight systems (thrusters and power processors) for use on a future NASA science mission. In addition to flying the NEXT system on NASA science missions, NASA plans to take the NEXT technology to higher power and thrust-to-power so that it can be used for a broad range of commercial, NASA, and defense applications.


NASA Works to Improve Solar Electric Propulsion for Deep Space Exploration

NASA has selected Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc. of Redmond, Washington, to design and develop an advanced electric propulsion system that will significantly advance the nation’s commercial space capabilities, and enable deep space exploration missions, including the robotic portion of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and its Journey to Mars.


“Through this contract, NASA will be developing advanced electric propulsion elements for initial spaceflight applications, which will pave the way for an advanced solar electric propulsion demonstration mission by the end of the decade,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) in Washington. “Development of this technology will advance our future in-space transportation capability for a variety of NASA deep space human and robotic exploration missions, as well as private commercial space missions.”


Aerojet Rocketdyne will oversee the development and delivery of an integrated electric propulsion system consisting of a thruster, power processing unit (PPU), low-pressure xenon flow controller, and electrical harness. NASA has developed and tested a prototype thruster and PPU that the company can use as a reference design.


The company will construct, test and deliver an engineering development unit for testing and evaluation in preparation for producing the follow-on flight units. During the option period of the contract, if exercised, the company will develop, verify and deliver four integrated flight units – the electric propulsion units that will fly in space. The work being performed under this contract will be led by a team of NASA Glenn Research Center engineers, with additional technical support by Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) engineers.


The first operational test of an electric propulsion system in space was Glenn’s Space Electric Rocket Test 1, which flew on July 20, 1964. Since then, NASA has increasingly relied on solar electric propulsion for long-duration, deep-space robotic science and exploration missions to multiple destinations, the most recent being NASA’s Dawn mission. The Dawn mission, managed by JPL, surveyed the giant asteroid Vesta and the protoplanet, Ceres, between 2011 and 2015.


The advanced electric propulsion system is the next step in NASA’s Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) project, which is developing critical technologies to extend the range and capabilities of ambitious new science and exploration missions. ARM, NASA’s mission to capture an asteroid boulder and place it in orbit around the moon in the mid-2020s, will test the largest and most advanced SEP system ever utilized for space missions.


NASA’s First Launch of SLS and Orion

NASA is hard at work building the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems needed to send astronauts into deep space. The agency is developing the core capabilities needed to enable the journey to Mars.

Orion’s first flight atop the SLS will not have humans aboard, but it paves the way for future missions with astronauts. During this flight, currently designated Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the spacecraft will travel thousands of miles beyond the moon over the course of about a three-week mission. It will launch on the most powerful rocket in the world and fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown. Orion will stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before.

This first exploration mission will allow NASA to use the lunar vicinity as a proving ground to test technologies farther from Earth, and demonstrate it can get to a stable orbit in the area of space near the moon in order to support sending humans to deep space, including for the Asteroid Redirect Mission. NASA and its partners will use this proving ground to practice deep-space operations with decreasing reliance on the Earth and gaining the experience and systems necessary to make the journey to Mars a reality.


Request for Information (RFI)

The Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) is the first planned element in the Deep Space Gateway (DSG) concept and would launch as a co-manifested payload with the Orion crewed vehicle on the Space Launch System (SLS) on Exploration Mission-2.

This NextSTEP Appendix C, targeted for release in the August 2017 timeframe, will seek proposals for areas necessitating further study for this specific application of advanced solar electric propulsion (SEP). Studies are anticipated to be brief (3-4 month duration) with succinct products to assist in the development of the PPE concept and approach.

Studies intend to address key drivers for PPE development such as but not limited to potential approaches to: meeting the intent of human rating requirements; concept and layout development; attitude control; propulsive maneuverability; power generation; power interface standards; power transfer to other Gateway Elements; hosting multiple International Docking System Standard (IDSS) compatible docking systems; batteries/eclipse duration; 15 year lifetime; communications; avionics, assembly integration and test approaches; extensibility; accommodations of potential (international or domestic partner provided) hardware such as robotic fixtures, science and technology utilization and other possible elements; and options for cost share/cost contributions.


NASA may also request assessment of impact of acquiring high power, high throughput SEP strings as part of the commercial bus, rather than through a Government Furnished Equipment route.


PPE Reference Capability Descriptions

  • The PPE will have a minimum operational lifetime of 15 years in cis-lunar space.
  • The PPE will be capable of transferring up to 24kW of electrical power to the external hardware.
  • The PPE will be capable of providing orbit transfers for a stack of TBD mass with a center of gravity of TBD.
  • The PPE will be capable of providing orbit maintenance for a stack of TBD mass with a center of gravity of TBD.
  • The PPE will have 2,000 kg-class tank Xenon capacity
  • The PPE will be compatible with the SLS vehicle co-manifested launch loads on the Exploration Mission -2 (EM-2) flight.




References and resources also include:

Countries planning unified space-based ballistic missile warning system to counter ICBM threat and for strategic deterrence

The warning bells has ringed in US, as  Kim has finally succeeded in developing an ICBM operational capability through which it can deliver a nuclear weapon anywhere in the United States, according to analysis based on Images released by North Korea. North Korea released dozens of photos and a video after 29 Nov launch of the new Hwasong-15 missile, and leader Kim Jong Un declared the country had “finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force”. North Korea said the missile soared to an altitude of about 4,475 km (2,780 miles), more than 10 times the height of the International Space Station, and flew 950 km (590 miles) during its 53-minute flight before landing in the sea near Japan.

In response, US is  strengthening its  Ballistic Missile Defence capabilities including the  Redesigned Kill Vehicle, the Multi-Object Kill Vehicle, the Configuration-3 booster, a space-based sensor layer, boost phase sensor and kill technologies and additional ground-based interceptors.”

Critical to missile defence is capability of well-organized missile warning system structure that allows commanders to maximize detection and warning of inbound ballistic missiles, thereby ensuring effective passive defense, active defense, and attack operations. Missile warning systems process raw sensor data into missile warning reports and disseminate the information to users globally. Missile warning consists of multiple ground and space-based systems located worldwide.

The American missile warning mission uses a mix of space-based and terrestrial sensors. US’s Space-based Infrared System (SBIRS) is a constellation of integrated satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO) and high elliptical orbit (HEO) and ground-based data processing and command and control centers.This system is designed to provide early missile warning, cue missile defenses, deliver technical intelligence (TECHINT), and support battlespace awareness. These  satellites are  equipped with IR sensors that track the hot plumes of the launches.

The National Defence Authorisation Act, a year-end policy bill also hinted that US will seek to use advanced technology to defeat both small-scale and large-scale nuclear attacks through “research, development, test and evaluation” of space-based systems for missile defence. The US exchanges missile detection and warning information with its multinational partners.

Russia and China are also pursuing space based missile defence solutions.

Space based missile warning

U.S. Missile Defense Agency must have a space-based sensor layer as part of its long-term plans to track ballistic missiles that could threaten the United States using a sensor in medium earth orbit, said Navy Vice Adm. James Syring, the head of the MDA, said the organization. “From a missile defense perspective, we have to develop a future operational space layer,” Syring said. “Given where the threat is going with hypersonics and more ICBMs and so forth this persistent tracking and discrimination capability from space is a must.”

Traditionally Ballistic Missile launches were detected by GSO .  More recent US responses to ballistic missile threats, involve creating capabilities to intercept and deal with the threat during the boost and mid-course phases of the missile trajectory. To perform these functions US is looking at a constellation of satellites in LEO and maybe in MEO to perform the mid-course and boost phase detection as early as possible after the missile is launched.

Space-sensors increase the lethality and effectiveness of  Ground Based Interceptors (GBIs), “but also adds to the lethality and effectiveness of every other element of the BMDS” such as the Patriot missile defense system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system and the Aegis system, Tom Karako, a missile defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said.

In 2013, an Aegis Standard Missile-3 Block IIB fired on the basis of tracking from space, using a satellite, “and as a result dramatically increased its defended area because the defended area is a function of the radars and where we are right now is the radars, the missile basically has longer legs than the radars do,” Karako said. “Our defended area is held back not by the missile but by the sensors.

However space base missile defence face many challenges including discrimination of the warhead from the decoys and their continued tracking is a crucial requirement. Clouds, the sunlight and the moon are other sources of radiation that could corrupt the signal. The US  Mid-Course Space Experiment collected  signatures of various Re-entry Vehicles to build a data bank for the designing of suitable algorithms that help identify the RV from clutter, backgrounds and chaff.

The appropriations measure states that the US Missile Defence Agency would have the job of producing “a highly reliable and cost-effective” sensor architecture capable of “precision tracking of threat missiles,” “discrimination of warheads” and “effective kill assessments”.


Russia and China are also pursuing space based missile defence solutions.

Russia is pursuing unified space-based ballistic missile warning system, as was announced by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. The system will help Russia detect moving targets at medium and high altitudes. Russia is fast tracking the deployment of such ballistic missile systems in response to the U.S.’ aggressive rearmament program of its cruise missile.

The new generation satellites will ensure much quicker identification of ballistic missile launches by detecting their engines’ exhaust plume in infrared light. The EKS-1 – the first such satellite of the unified space-based ballistic missile warning system  was launched late 2015  by the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces.

China’s super-secretive Communications Engineering Test Satellite -1 (TXJSSY-1) that was launched by  from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on 12 September 2015 was speculated  for early warning of ballistic missiles. Rumors initially suggested that this launch involved the first Great Wall (Changcheng) satellite – a new series of Chinese satellites dedicated to early warning similar to the American Space Based Infra-Red Sensor satellites.

China Shijian 11 satellites,  the first of them was launched in 2009 followed by three launches in 2011.  Expert analysis  of the  pattern of coverage suggested  a possible near continuous monitoring of Northern Canada and Alaska. A large field of view sensor (or a combination of smaller field of view overlapping sensors) may provide the desired large area coverage for detecting missile launches.

In December 2015 China also launched the Gaofen 4 satellite into GSO (106 E)  officially  a civilian satellite used for the detection of hot spots in tropical storms. However given its reported stop and stare optical and IR sensors it could be the precursor for China’s GSO based “Early Warning” satellite.

Japan’s Kyodo News reported that China was building a missile defense system to detect a ballistic missile attack. The Kyodo News report was based on Chinese military documents that referred the development of an experimental early warning satellite program. Additionally the report pointed out that China had started the development of an X-band radar system as part of a ground-based interceptor system.


USA space sensor system

American space-based sensors, such as Defense Support Program and space-based infrared system, usually provide the first level of immediate missile detection. Some satellite sensors also accomplish nuclear detonation detection. Ground-based radars provide follow-on information on launches and confirmation of strategic attack. The majority of their day-to- day mission is space surveillance; however, the radars are always scanning the horizon for incoming missiles.

Once it detects significant activity, that information is transmitted to Air Force Space Command in Colorado and subsequently to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and other relevant parts of the military who will decide whether the launch threatens the United States or its interests. Missile warning includes the notification to national leaders of a missile attack against North America, as well as attacks against multinational partners. It also includes notification to multinational partners and forward deployed personnel of missile attack.

The SBIRS architecture includes a resilient mix of satellites in geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO), hosted payloads in HEO orbit, and ground hardware and software. The integrated system supports multiple missions simultaneously, while providing robust performance with global, persistent coverage.

The SBIRS program delivers timely, reliable and accurate missile warning and infrared surveillance information to key decision makers. The system enhances global missile launch detection capability, supports the nation’s ballistic missile defense system, expands the country’s technical intelligence gathering capacity and bolsters situational awareness for warfighters on the battlefield.

The constellation has a continuous view of all of the earth’s surface, which it images every 10 seconds while searching for infrared (IR) activity indicating heat signatures. SBIRS is able to detect missile launches faster than any other system and can identify the missile’s type, burnout velocity, trajectory, and point of impact.

Though the system was designed primarily for missile defense purposes, its short- and mid-wave IR sensors can detect any significant infrared event on the globe, including explosions, fires, and plane crashes.

This system is intended to replace the aging DSP system of satellites.SBIRS satellites are able to scan large swaths of territory to detect missile activity and can also hone in on areas of interest for lower-scale activities, including launches of tactical ballistic missiles. These sensors are independently tasked, meaning the satellite can both scan a wide territory and fixate on a particular area of concern simultaneously.

The first satellite, SBIRS GEO-1, launched in May 2011 and was followed in March 2013 by the SBIRS GEO-2 satellite.2 In July 2015, the Air Force delivered its third satellite, though it plans to store it and launch the fourth satellite first, which is slated for an October 2016 launch.3 In addition to the dedicated satellites in GEO, the system also includes two missile warning sensors hosted on classified satellites in HEO that were launched in November 2006 and June 2008.

Defense Support Program satellites use an infrared sensor to detect heat from missile or booster plumes against the relatively cool background of the Earth’s surface. These geosynchronous satellites that were designed to detect strategic ballistic missiles in the early stage of launch of their flights, have provided uninterrupted warning since the early 1970s.


Spacebased Kill Assessment, which would use sensors hosted onboard nondedicated commercial vehicles

The MDA is requesting $22 million next year for the Spacebased Kill Assessment experiment. The Spacebased Kill Assessment , the experimental network of space-based sensors that will fly into commercially hosted payloads that will verify whether incoming missiles have been destroyed by defensive interceptors and no longer pose a threat.

The Spacebased Kill Assessment consists of “a network of sensors, each mated to a different satellite; and the total number of sensors and where they are placed in the network are specifically tailored for the kill assessment mission,” the MDA budget documents said.

The individual sensors house three infrared detectors used to collect the energy signature of the impact between a threat ballistic missile and an interceptor of the Ballistic Missile Defense System. The SKA experiment is currently in the satellite integration and testing phase and is expected to be on orbit in 2018.

Each sensor would weigh about 10 kilograms. John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab is developing the entire experiment.

Budget documents said the experiment follows a “precedent established by a United States Air Force experiment using a commercial satellite program as the platform host for a Department of Defense payload; thus taking full advantage of a multi-billion dollar space and ground system that already exists.”The budget documents did not identify any host satellites, saying only that integration of the first sensors would begin in fiscal year 2016.

The Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act directed the Missile Defense Agency to address hit and kill assessment for the Ballistic Missile Defense System. An internal study on space highlighted strategies that could provide sensor capabilities at lower price points.

The first experimental missile-warning sensor, known as the Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload, or CHIRP, was launched aboard the SES-2 telecommunications satellite owned by fleet operator SES of Luxembourg. The program is widely viewed among government and industry officials as validation of the hosted payload concept.


Russia planning unified space-based ballistic missile warning system for strategic deterrence by 2020

Russia has started to develop a line of defense systems similar to the United States’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) systems, local media reports announced. It is also planning to put in place an improved early warning system in space for detecting ballistic missile launches by 2020, a chief engineer from the Russian defense corporation Almaz Antey said recently.

Russia had lost its last Oko-1 geostationary satellite of its missile attack warning system (MAWS) last year, which had impacted the capability of the country’s strategic defense system, of which outer space segment was a critical part. To be fully operational, Oko-1 system needs four 73D6 satellites in placed in a highly elliptical orbit, dubbed ‘Molnya’ (lightning) orbit, to provide full-time coverage of the area of interest, and an additional backup satellite in a 71X6 geosynchronous orbit.

“MAWS are still fully operational, despite the fact that the geostationary satellites have been lost, as the Cosmos-2422 and Cosmos-2446 satellites, which operate in high orbits, are still running”, according to Igor Lisov of trade magazine Cosmonautics News. According to Lisov, geostationary satellites and high-orbit satellites can typically compensate for one another.

The current early warning system can detect any launches from any direction from south or north or any other. It is impossible to commit any act of aggression without us finding out,” Chief of Staff of the Main Centre for Missile Warning of the Russian Aerospace Forces, Colonel Viktor Tymoshenko said in an interview with radio RSN. According to him, the early warning system is constructed in such a way that it is ‘multi-channeled’ and can function on mass launches of dozens of ballistic missiles.

The first generation MAWS system was launched in 1982, when the first of four generations of 74D6 (US-K or Oko) satellites for high orbits was placed on alert. Experts believed that Russia’s early warning system, unlike that of the United States, did not provide global coverage. Russian early warning satellites have traditionally monitored only U.S. territory.The second second-generation system, placed in 1991 of the Oko-1 (US-KMO) and 71X6 geostationary satellites was also able to record sea-based missile launches and determine their flight trajectory. According to Soviet officials its early warning satellites could detect missile launches within 20 seconds of lift-off.

The first satellite of it’s new warning system, Known as ‘product 14F142’ is to be launched by a Soyuz-2.1b rocket and a Fregat third stage to a Tundra orbit – a highly elliptical orbit similar to Molnya, but with twice its period.

According to an RBTH source close to the Ministry of Defense, the lack of geostationary satellites is being compensated for by new horizon radar systems known as Voronezh-M and Voronezh-DM. Located in the Kaliningrad, Leningrad, Irkutsk, and Krasnodar regions, these stations operate in two frequency ranges: the meter range (Voronezh-M) and the decimeter range (Voronezh-DM). They create a radar field, which makes it possible to easily detect space objects and effectively prevent missile attacks.

The first early warning ground-based station for the new network has been built in the Altay region and it has passed state trial.The Russian Aerospace Forces are engaged in the centralized management of the air forces, air defense and missile defense, operation and supervision of spacecraft of the Russian orbital grouping. It is also responsible for the space control and early warning of missile attacks.

The Russian Defence Ministry considers the continuous and stable functioning of missile attack warning systems to be a crucial element of strategic deterrence.


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US DOD’s thrust on in-space robotics for automated on orbit robotic satellite servicing for space security

Building and launching Satellites are costly business.  Making a satellite can cost from  $290 million upwards, while a single satellite launch can range in cost from a low of about $50 million to a high of about $400 million.  Any fault could lead to making billion dollar useless  and has to be replaced, which is both difficult and extremely expensive.

The new paradigm  in-space assembly (ISA) is emerging which  shall enable  routine spacecraft assembly, refurbishment, repair and upgrade and cost effective emplacement of space systems that are operationally versatile.  NASA is developing e robotic satellites, known as “service stations in orbit,”  that would not only refuel satellites, they could drastically improve their longevity and lifespan. The robots could fix minor maintenance issues, keeping up with current orbiters as they age and sustain damage.

In-space-assembly is also being advanced by US DOD to enhance space security.  DOD is trying to enhance the space security of their assets  is developing capability to manipulate, service and assemble satellites on orbit by using highly capable robotics and end effectors.

These automated agents shall enhance operational performance as they shall be capable of  integrating new technologies into satellites like improved sensors  or countermeasures against adversaries space weapons. They could also expand or reconfigure capability to meet user or mission needs.  Assets can be refuelled to extend operational life and repairing or refurbishing systems in response to system degradation.

“We are striving to change the paradigm of satellite operations. Our Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program is developing a system to inspect, repair, relocate, and upgrade satellites in geosynchronous orbit to extend their mission lifetimes,” said Dr. Steven Walker, DARPA Deputy Director, at the Transition Ceremony for the Space Surveillance Telescope.

DARPA is having even more ambitious plan to  design , assemble and build satellites in space to replace  satellites due to space weapons. The space is being weaponized through development of  ground based missiles that are able to target LEO satellites as well as space based killer satellites. DARPA  is enhancing space security by  devising new ways to design satellites via cellularization, faster tempo to get the “cells” and/or low mass material to orbit, and assembling using the cell based modules or satlets. DARPA is also looking into means of outfitting launch vehicles with pods that could deliver the satlets, satellites, and robotic repair probes into GEO. The first orbital tests for the satlet and pod technology are expected in the next year or two. This robotic on-orbit servicing technologies, combined with on-orbit assembling technologies shall allow shaping future space system architectures.

Orbital ATK Begins Assembly of Its On-Orbit Servicing System

Orbital ATK announced that its Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV 1) spacecraft successfully completed its critical design review earlier this year and is now in production, with about 75 percent of the platform and payload components already delivered to the company’s satellite manufacturing facility in Virginia. The spacecraft will begin system-level testing in spring 2018 with launch planned late next year. MEV 1 will provide satellite life extension services to its anchor customer, Intelsat, beginning in early 2019.

Orbital ATK will introduce on-orbit commercial satellite servicing with MEV 1, which is based on the company’s GEOStar spacecraft platform. Controlled by the company’s satellite operations team, the MEV 1 uses a docking system that attaches to existing features on a customer’s satellite. The MEV 1 then provides life-extending services by taking over the orbit maintenance and attitude control functions of the client’s spacecraft. The vehicle has a 15‑year design life with the ability to perform numerous dockings and repositionings during its life span.

Orbital ATK’s longer-range plan is to establish a fleet of on-orbit servicing vehicles that can address diverse space logistics needs including repair, assembly, refueling and in-space transportation. In addition to its commercial life extension services, the company is working closely with U.S. government agencies to develop key technologies to support these services, such as advanced robotics and high-power solar-electric propulsion.


NASA’s Restore-L Mission to Refuel Landsat 7, Demonstrate Crosscutting Technologies

Current commercial satellite systems are inflexible assets whose capability is defined during early purchase negotiations and becomes fixed at launch. Launch vehicle constraints on payload launch mass and volume severely limit resulting operational performance. A new deployment paradigm is needed for space operations to separate the operational spacecraft configuration from the constraints of the launch vehicle.

NASA’s Restore-L mission aims to launch a robotic spacecraft in 2020, called Restore-L servicer that shall be able to rendezvous with, grasp, refuel, and relocate a client spacecraft.“Restore-L effectively breaks the paradigm of one-and-done spacecraft” said Frank Cepollina, associate director of Goddard’s Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office, and former leader of the shuttle servicing missions to Hubble. “It introduces new ways to robotically manage, upgrade and prolong the lifespans of our costly orbiting national assets,” Cepollina said in a NASA press release. “By doing so, Restore-L opens up expanded options for more resilient, efficient and cost-effective operations in space.”

NASA announced Dec. 5 2016 that Space Systems/Loral, a U.S.-based satellite manufacturer owned by Canada’s MDA Corp., will build the Restore-L mission’s satellite bus. The contract is worth up to $127 million, NASA said, but that could represent just part of MDA’s contribution to the mission.

The robot arms in development to fly on Restore-L is similar to arms flown on NASA’s Mars rovers — a “combination of in-house NASA expertise and technology, and the best from industry,” said Benjamin Reed, deputy project manager at NASA’s Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office at Goddard.

Space System/Loral’s spacecraft design will provide power, communications and propulsion for the Restore-L mission.

NASA’s Restore-L mission aims to launch a robotic spacecraft in 2020, called Restore-L servicer that shall be able to rendezvous with, grasp, refuel, and relocate a client spacecraft. The current candidate client for this venture is Landsat 7, a government-owned satellite in low-Earth orbit.

Benjamin Reed, deputy project manager for the NASA office, explained: “With robotic servicing on the table, satellite owners can extend the lifespan of satellites that are running low on fuel, reaping additional years of service – and revenue – from their initial investment. If a solar array or a communications antenna fails to deploy, a servicer with inspection cameras and the right repair tools could help recover the asset that otherwise would have been lost. The loss of an anticipated revenue or data stream can be devastating.”

Future candidate applications for individual Restore-L technologies include on-orbit manufacturing and assembly, propellant depots, observatory servicing, and orbital debris management. Besides servicing other spacecraft, NASA is also directly applying several Restore-L technologies to the Asteroid Redirect Mission. NASA is also using Restore-L to test various technologies for future missions to Mars and farther locations.

Restore-L technologies include an autonomous relative navigation system with supporting avionics, and dexterous robotic arms and software. The suite is completed by a tool drive that supports a collection of sophisticated robotic tools for robotic spacecraft refueling, and a propellant transfer system that delivers measured amounts of fuel at the proper temperature, rate, and pressure.


Missouri University’s professor developing Robotic Inspection microsatellite for Air Force

Dr. Hank Pernicka, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Missouri S&T, is developing a microsatellite imager that could be used to check satellites, do small repairs or refuel spacecraft — and keep astronauts from making risky exploratory missions when something goes wrong. Pernicka and his team are working for Delivery to the Air Force is in the spring of 2017.

The spacecraft is composed of two microsatellites, with MRS SAT docked to MR SAT during the launch to the space station. After reaching the orbit the spacecraft is released from the shuttle, which then gets separated into two satellites. MR SAT, then use its 12 micro-thrusters to maintain a 10-meter distance from the MRS SAT and then starts orbiting and taking pictures of “her” with “his” two stereoscopic lenses.

Made of machined aluminum, it weighs less than 100 pounds when fully assembled. Both parts are covered in solar panels to provide power to electrical systems, and MR SAT has a fuel tank filled with R-134a propellant found in car air conditioners or the HVAC system in a home. The tank is about the size of a 2-liter bottle of soda, only slimmer.

“It has applications for many things,” Pernicka says. “It can check for damages, such as those that doomed the space shuttle Columbia.” “It could check on the status of spy satellites, fix components that have gone out of alignment on a spacecraft and check for debris,” he says.

An orbital facility staffed entirely by remotely-operated probes could maintain, upgrade and resupply the satellites, boosting the lifespan of commercial communications and military spy satellites while cutting down on space junk.


DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program

Space Systems Loral (SSL),  announced it has received $20.7 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to design and build robotic arm flight hardware for the agency’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program. The contract is for two complete robotic arm systems, which would be able to carefully capture and berth with satellites that were not previously designed for docking. The robotic arms would each have multiple joints enabling dexterous movement and could carry and use multiple generic and mission-specific tools.

“The ability to safely and cooperatively service satellites in GEO would expand public and private opportunities in space. It could enable entirely new spacecraft designs and operations, including on-orbit assembly and maintenance, which could lower construction and deployment costs while extending satellite utility, resilience and reliability,” said Al Tadros, vice president, Civil and DOD Business at SSL.

DARPA had issued a Request for Information (RFI) Last year, calling on commercial and private space groups to partner with them to accomplish a robotic servicing mission anywhere in Geostationary Earth Orbit, within the next five years. According to DARPA, GEO orbit contains the largest concentration of unserviced high-value satellites, 1,300 satellites worth over $300B and many of them perform critical economic and defense roles. Even fully functional satellites sometimes find their working lives cut short simply because they carry obsolete payloads—a frustrating situation for owners of assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The goal of the RSGS program is to cooperatively inspect, capture, reposition, repair, and upgrade GEO spacecraft.

Under the RSGS vision, a DARPA-developed modular toolkit, including hardware and software, would be joined to a privately developed spacecraft to create a commercially owned and operated robotic servicing vehicle (RSV) that could make house calls in space. DARPA would contribute the robotics technology, expertise, and a Government-provided launch. The commercial partner would contribute the satellite to carry the robotic payload, integration of the payload onto it, and the mission operations center and staff. If successful, the joint effort could radically lower the risk and cost of operating in GEO.

The RFI addressed the critical technologies for assembling in orbit, including the development of space robotics, to be able to inspect spacecraft that had operational problems, fix mechanical problems like antenna issues, or even might be able to move satellites into other orbits.

A key element will a dexterous robotic arm DARPA has developed called FREND, which has multiple joints and is designed to connect with vessels that aren’t built for docking. DARPA said it plans to add advanced machine-vision algorithms that will allow for supervised robotic operations.”(DARPA’s arm has) interesting characteristics, like robot reflexes and compliance control to greatly minimize the risk of debris from inadvertent collisions,” said Melroy, now deputy director of the agency’s Tactical Technology Office.

The robotic payload consists of a pair of 2 meter, 7-Degree of Freedom (DoF) robotic arms with tool changers, a suite of tools, control systems (including electronics, software, machine vision and control algorithms), cameras and lights, a payload power distribution system, high resolution imaging sensors, rendezvous and proximity operations sensors, and a single 3-4 meter robotic inspection arm with up to 9-DoF. A third FREND arm might replace the robotic inspection arm.

After a successful on-orbit demonstration of the robotic servicing vehicle, U.S. Government and commercial satellite operators would have ready access to diverse capabilities including high-resolution inspection; correction of some mission-ending mechanical anomalies, such as solar array and antenna deployment malfunctions; assistance with relocation and other orbital maneuvers; and installation of attachable payloads, enabling upgrades to existing assets.

“The ability to safely and cooperatively service satellites in GEO would vastly expand public and private opportunities in space. It could enable entirely new spacecraft designs and operations, including on-orbit assembly and maintenance, which could dramatically lower construction and deployment costs while extending satellite utility, resilience and reliability,” said RSGS program manager Gordon Roesler

“Right now, we don’t build satellites to be serviced, but once we have that capability, then you can start seeing things like modular, serviceable satellites that become routine,” said Melroy, deputy director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. The robotic platform is one of three concepts that comprise the DARPA Phoenix program.

But these efforts all face a major roadblock: the lack of clear, widely accepted technical and safety standards for responsible performance of on-orbit activities involving commercial satellites, including rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) that don’t involve physical contact with satellites and robotic servicing operations that would. Without these standards, the long-term sustainability of outer space operations is potentially at risk, says DARPA.

DARPA’s Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations (CONFERS) program aims to help overcome these challenges and provide the foundation for a new commercial repertoire of robust space-based capabilities. CONFERS envisions a permanent, self-sustaining, and independent forum where industry could collaborate and engage with the U.S. Government about on-orbit servicing. This industry/government forum would be composed of experts from throughout the space community. DARPA, primarily in partnership with NASA, will bring decades of operational experience from government missions to the consortium.


DARPA Phoenix program

DARPA through its Phoenix program has set out to develop and demonstrate the technologies that make it possible to inspect and robotically service cooperative space systems in GEO and to validate new satellite assembly architectures, according to DARPA’s website. It had endeavored to develop a new architecture of space systems where full satellite functionality is achieved by aggregating multiple satlets or ‘miniature satellites’ to enhance modularity and enable high volume low cost manufacturing.

The primary objective was to demonstrate the ability to upgrade or create new space systems at greatly reduced cost, and support DoD mission needs in a new way that increases tempo, allowing a much faster response to new challenges.

The three pillars of developing this capability are devising a new way to design satellites via cellularization, faster tempo to get the “cells” and/or low mass material to orbit, and ways to manipulate and assemble satellites on orbit by using highly capable robotics and end effectors handling and assembling using the cell based modules or satlets.

“Satlets idea in which production-line-possible satellite components weighing about 15 pounds (7 kilograms) each could be assembled in space. Looking much like Legos, the components encapsulate such satellite aspects as power, sensors and thermal management capacity. They could be assembled in different ways to accommodate different missions,” said Melroy, who as a NASA astronaut.


NovaWurks Prepares Self Assembling Spacecraft for LEO Demonstration

NovaWurks, a U.S. company that provides high-tech space products and services, is embarking on the demonstration phase of its new modular satellite design set to aid the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Phoenix program, which aims to scavenge and reuse parts from obsolete spacecraft already in orbit. NovaWurks technology seeks to enable key on-orbit capabilities, including assembly, repair, asset life extension, refueling and more.

NovaWurks’ spacecraft, known as Hyper-Integrated Satlets (HISats), draw on areas of biology and engineering in order to create a new low-cost, modular satellite architecture that can scale almost infinitely. The HISats are small independent modules that weigh roughly 15 pounds each and incorporate essential satellite functionality, such as power supplies, movement controls and sensors, among others. The operating system software would be able to aggregate all the modules together on the orbit.

“The HISat is a single unit, cellular in nature — like an embryonic human cell — that works to differentiate itself on demand. In this differentiation it can become whatever tool it needs to become in [the on-orbit] junkyard. In this way you can put them into use and then assign each HISat specific tasks or functions once they are in place,” said Jaeger.

The company is using the HISats to demonstrate the ability to rapidly design, build and support payloads of any size and weight. The scalability of the HISat design means that when building a satellite, operators no longer have to adapt to the needs of a spacecraft, cutting back on non-recurring aspects of getting payloads on board and making it more cost-effective to launch a satellite, according to Jaeger.

“If you have an unknown payload that you need to fly, we can wrap it, conform to it and launch it rapidly,” Jaeger explained. “So, instead of a single-commodity bus, you have a variable commodity bus that can scale to the needs of the users on both the launch side and the payload side. That changes the game. It means you don’t always have to modify something or create it from scratch,” said Jaeger.

“We can do that because these cells can be attached to rocket launch interfaces and payloads and then, when they are released, can support entire missions because they understand space, how to work together, and how to support payloads at a very low cost and ease of design and capability.”

The company is now in Phase 3 of the program and launched an independent demonstration of the HISat systems onboard the International Space Station (ISS) in December. Next, the company is preparing to take the HISats to flight in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) this summer. NovaWurks is scheduled to demonstrate the technology in GEO in mid-2017.

“This is going to open the door for people to not only do the missions they are doing today, but also do the missions they couldn’t even conceive of before,” said Jaeger. “We believe a cellular design allows you to be robust, resilient and survive all sorts of unique challenges that are presented to people as we expand into space, and this design, architecture and hardware allows us to begin getting down that path.”


DARPA Phoenix Program Releases Payload Orbital Delivery (POD) Interface Requirements

Another Phoenix approach is a Payload Orbital Delivery (POD) system that would standardize satellites and/or their components to take advantage of hosted payload opportunities offered by commercial satellites. The payloads would be about 1.3 feet by 1.6 feet by 2.2 feet and weigh between approximately 150 and 220 pounds, and would use a standard interface to attach the POD to the host satellite and release it at the proper orbit.

Launches of satellites for the Department of Defense (DoD) or other government agencies often cost hundreds of millions of dollars each and require scheduling years in advance for one of the handful of available slots at the nation’s limited number of launch locations. This slow, expensive process is causing a bottleneck in placing essential space assets in orbit, especially in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) approximately 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above the Earth.

Launches of commercial communications satellites, on the other hand, are relatively frequent and inexpensive. Commercial launch vehicles also often have unused carrying capacity that their operators can offer to other satellite owners through “hosted payload” services. Unfortunately, no technology currently exists to enable government and military satellites to share rides and separate themselves from commercial communications satellites headed to GEO.

PODs are designed to help take advantage of the frequency of commercial satellite launches and associated hosted payload service opportunities to enable faster and lower-cost delivery of payloads to GEO.

Launch on Demand

DARPA soon will begin testing of its Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA), new satellite launch vehicle concept designed by Phantom Works Advanced Space Exploration that would lead to more affordable and responsive space access compared to current military and U.S. commercial launch operations.

The 24-foot (7.3-meter) ALASA vehicle is designed to attach under an F-15E aircraft. Once the airplane reaches approximately 40,000 feet, it would release the ALASA vehicle. The vehicle would then fire its engines and launch into low-Earth orbit to deploy one or more microsatellites weighing up to a total of 100 pounds (45 kilograms). Because the vehicle can avoid the dense air near earth, smaller rocket can deploy satellites into space.

It is aimed to provide launch at demand at 24 hours’ notice and reducing the costs to US$1 million per launch.



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