Monday, March 25, 2019

A Short History of Canada's Military Space Policy and How it Fits into the Current US Space Force Discussions

Part 6: Future War, Micro-Sats Controlled by AI "BattleStars" Supported by Fast Launching, Hypersonic Transports and Space Based Solar Power

         By Chuck Black
This series of posts is attempting to answer some of the questions surrounding the appropriate Canadian response to the recently announced US plan to create an expanded United States Space Force. 
Part one ("The Axworthy Doctrine") focused on how the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's led to a new Canadian focus on aggressive, international peacekeeping missions requiring space focused communication and surveillance capabilities of a type which Canada didn't then possess.
Part two ("The Changing Political Landscape") discussed why Canada never had a military space policy prior to 1998 by going back to the 1960's and the federal liberal party under Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. 
Part three ("Towards Northern Sovereignty") dealt with the changing focus of Canadian foreign policy from international peacekeeping towards northern sovereignty, a policy developed in the 1990's under then Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien which also required a substantial space-focused component, and what happened when the Canadian government realized that it still didn't possess those capabilities.
Part four ("Funding an Appropriate Force") and part five ("The Current Liberal Government") outlined the attempts of former Conservative Prime Prime  Minister Stephen Harper and current Canadian Prime Mister Justin Trudeau to address the situation.
Here is the conclusion of this series. 

Now that we know a little more about Canadian military capabilities and policy requirements, it's worth taking a look at the essence of the fast developing US "space force" and discussing where Canada could legitimately fit in. Hopefully, we'll fit somewhere.

For an overview of the future US space force, it's worthwhile revisiting a book first discussed in the April 2nd, 2018 post, "What George Friedman's 2009 Book "The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the Next Century" Said About Space."

George Friedman, who wrote the 2009 book "The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the Next Century" is the founder and chairman of Austin TX based Geopolitical Futures, an "online publication focused around analyzing and forecasting global events."

Prior to founding Geopolitical Futures in 2015, Friedman was chairman of Austin TX based Stratfor, a private intelligence publishing and consulting firm he founded with Meredith Friedman and Matthew Baker in 1996.

He is a well regarded researcher of political issues, new technologies and future possibilities with some seriously close connections to the US government, intelligence and military communities.

In his book, Friedman postulated a near future beginning in the 2040's where many nations have secretly placed weapons, surveillance and communications satellites in orbit to support various national defence activities, often in violation of signed treaties specifically forbidding such actions.

Popular movies and books have already explored this possibility. It's naive to expect the military not to have done the same.

Friedman also suggested that the next generation of huge, low Earth orbiting micro-satellite constellations will create a new era where the US can inspect and communicate with every square foot of the Earth, on land and sea at anytime.

Which makes it pretty easy to remove most of the fog of war from any future battlefield. Several hundred smaller, low-cost Earth imaging satellites parked in low-Earth orbit more effectively and at a lower cost than three or four larger satellites located in higher orbits.

The new constellations are expected to give a tremendous advantage to US combat forces in much the same way as an earlier generation of global positioning satellites (GPS) gave the advantage to US troops during the 1990 Gulf war.

The constellations will be supported and controlled by larger installations Friedman called "BattleStars" which will be both human crewed and unmanned and located on the Earth, the Moon and in orbit.

But the individual satellites in the constellations will be vulnerable to first strikes and will therefore need to be defended using both Earth and space based weaponry. Destroyed components of the constellation will be quickly replaced using the new generation of fast launching rockets currently being developed.

An example of launch on demand capabilities being developed today would be the February 12th, 2019 Geekwire post, "DARPA is zeroing in on Launch Challenge," which discussed the  Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Launch Challenge, a competition with a $10Mln US ($13.4Mln CDN) grand prize "aimed at boosting America’s rapid-response launch capabilities."

As noted most recently in the March 23rd, 2019 SpaceFlightNow post, "Rocket Lab readies for launch with U.S. military satellite," the US military is also experimenting with smaller satellites able to be prepared quickly for launch on the smaller rockets.

But perhaps the most unique component of Friedman's book is the use of space solar power satellites to support the power requirements of terrestrial forces during combat operations..

As outlined in the March 16th, 2009 Power and Energy Solutions post, "Solar: the military’s secret weapon," a report released in 2008 by the (US) National Security Space Office recommended that "the US government sponsor projects to demonstrate solar-power-generating satellites and provide financial incentives for further private development of the technology."

Graphic c/o PES.
The ability to beam power through the atmosphere whenever needed would also bolster the case for a hyper-sonic delivery systems or transport (perhaps based around the Virgin Galactic Space Ship Two, which is well designed for the purpose), which can travel lighter if they don't need to carry large power generators.

A hypersonic transport could move both weapons and soldiers around the world quickly enough to take advantage of the data provided by the next generation of low Earth orbiting micro-satellites mentioned earlier in this post.

Taken together, the new technologies would revolutionize the battlefield of the future in much the same way as the US global positioning system (GPS) revolutionized combat in the early 2000's and the aircraft carrier revolutionized combat in World War 2.

The new tools are also expected to cost far less than conventional technologies while almost totally superseding the current generation of combat aircraft, missiles , shipping and armored vehicles by 2040.

The older technology ("boots on the ground" and ships at sea) would still be required to hold and control territory, but the proposed newer tools would serve an an effective deterrent, able to break up enemy attacks once begun and allowing almost total control over the battlefield environment.

So where does that leave Canada? Right now we're committed to spending $60Bln plus CDN to replace an older generation of technology with only slightly better versions of the same aircraft, ships and combat vehicles currently in service.

Both the existing forces and their expected upgrades are the sort of equipment the new space focused technology advocated by Friedman was explicitly designed to overwhelm in combat.

Certainly nothing in the current list of procurement priorities will defend against a "BattleStar" or protect against raids by hypersonic transports fully aware of every square metre of a future battlefield.

Except for some work with satellite constellations and AI, the Canadian government hasn't committed much of the new funding allocated in 2017 to the new technologies.

The pride of Canada's space assets, the upcoming $1Bln CDN Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM) is based on 1990's era technology, contains only three satellites (which makes it difficult to provide real-time intelligence over the entire Earth) and would takes years of effort and another billion dollars to replace if some or all of the three satellites were lost or destroyed.

Besides, as outlined in the March 13th, 2019 Forbes post, "Delayed Satellite Radar Mission Bucks The Smallsat Trend," RCM is perceived of as being too technologically complex to distribute over a larger amount of smaller satellites, an assessment obviously not shared by the US.

Lloyd Axworthy in the 1990's. Graphic c/o Graeme Mackay.
While Canada dithers, the US is investing in new weaponry focused around Earth imaging and communications focused micro-satellites controlled by armed AI "BattleStars" supported by fast launching, hypersonic transports and orbiting space based solar power installations.

It's a far more complex mission than RCM, but the US doesn't consider the mission to be too complex.

It's a good thing we're not expected to ever go to war against the US. They'd whup us. They'd whup us good.

Thank god we can at least plug into their systems and borrow their equipment.

As noted in the August 10th, 2009 Space Review post, "The age of the great battlestars," the US Air Force Academy’s Class of 2013 began Basic Cadet Training in 2009.
Why is this significant to the readers of The Space Review? 
Because according to George Friedman in his book The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century, in 2045, one of them may well be a major general of US space forces—and will be killed in orbit.
As for Canada, we won't even be in the fight. Perhaps we need to return to where we started this discussion.

As outlined originally in the January 21th, 2019 post on "Part 1, The Axworthy Doctrine" which began this series, we need to begin with something called the "1994 Canadian White Paper on Defence," which suggested that Canada needed an alternative to the existing policy of simply buying more of the same stuff that it had always purchased.

Twenty-five years later, that's still the situation we find ourselves in today. Some things never change. 
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

Last episode: "The Current Liberal Government," as part five of "A Short History of Canada's Military Space Policy and How it Fits into the Current US Space Force Discussions," continues.

To Start at the Beginning,  check out part one, "The Axworthy Doctrine," in "A Short History of Canada's Military Space Policy and How it Fits into the Current US Space Force Discussions."

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