The American Way
Posted by aogThursday, 03 July 2003 at 22:19 TrackBack Ping URL
The RAND Corporation is raising concerns about using nuclear weapons to attack satellites [source]. This wouldn't be a direct military threat but more in the way of a blackmail weapon, like the North Korean army.

It seems to me that there are other forms of anti-satellite attack that would be roughly as effective and not have the stigma of using a nuclear weapon. While attempting to achieve space supremacy and prevent the advent of nuclear weapons in other countries is a laudable goal, by itself it's unlikely to be successful. The technology for anti-satellite attacks will continue to be come cheaper and easier which will makes the costs of having enough supremacy to prevent such attacks rise every more steeply.

While we shouldn't just give up on prevention, one doesn't have to go very far along that road before the ability to recover from such an attack is a more profitable endeavor. The very basis of a broad anti-satellite attack as described in the original article is the presumed difficulty of replacing the satellites. The nuclear attack mentioned would take weeks or even months to kill most of its targets. If we could simply replace the satellites while punishing the perpetrator that would greatly the reduce the incentive to conduct such an attack. And all we really need to for that is cheap launch capability.

The primary impediment today to cheap launch services is NASA, which is effectively a government monopoly on space flight, not a research organization. It's a socialist organization, which like all such simply doesn't deliver effective results. NASA needs to be prohibited from launching anything and required to purchase all of its launch needs on the open market. This is the model that will deliver the best and cheapest launch services, which in turn will improve our national security. Our military is powerful not only because of the sums we spend on it but also because it can draw from a vibrant and technologically sophisticated economy. It's time to put space flight in to that economy and out of the Soviet model run by NASA.