Eyes – and Weapons in the Sky: Down, Around, and Out

By: April 13, 2023

Looking Down

The easiest way to think about how space is militarized is to think in simple terms about what its goals are. The primary goal is to support Earth-bound operations or tactical advantages.

Just before the turn of the century, military leaders were talking about the networked battlefield. Today, it’s a reality, and all of it depends more and more upon satellites to record, absorb, and relay information around the world so that an incursion in Iran can be watched and reacted to by the Pentagon in DC in real time.

Space is also where the new hypersonic missiles fly with the support of space technology.

Source: NextBigFuture.com

As you notice in the graphic above, the missile it tracked and guided from space on its way to a target. Of course, that also means that other countries have satellites that are monitoring other countries missile launches, and there are countermeasures on all sides floating around in orbit. Some are even armed.

Raytheon (RTX), Lockheed Martin (LMT), and Northrop Grumman (NOC) are the leaders in hypersonics and similar space vehicles.

Space Traffic Cops

Just like traffic cops on Earth, every country with a space program has traffic cops to protect its interests, as well as see what others are doing up there.

There are about 25,860 manmade objects in space around the Earth at this point. Many have outlived their utility and are just space junk, but they’re like broken down cars on the road.

If you’re not careful, your brand new super-secret satellite might just hit one. Or, as its orbit degrades, it might become a bull in a china shop, hitting satellites on its way down as it reenters Earth’s atmosphere.

Source: NASA

Either way, these are the challenges of Space Race 2.0 – avoiding junk, and there’s also the possibility that some countries may “accidentally” navigate an old satellite into the orbit of another country’s new intel satellite. Also, monitoring the activities of other nation’s or companies’ satellites is another aim.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that everyone who is in space wants to make sure that everyone is abiding by the rules of the road, which of course have yet to be developed collectively. So, the big players set the rules for now.

There are a growing number of companies getting into the satellite launch business with some incredible new rocket designs and launch strategies. Players are moving into niches, like small satellite near Earth missions, that need smaller rockets for smaller payloads, but can be launched with more frequency and lower costs than larger rockets.

To the Moon and Beyond

The third aspect of the new space race is moving beyond the Earth. The Artemis program that NASA has launched in recent years is expecting to put a person back on the Moon by 2024.

This time it isn’t just about putting someone on the moon to hit a golf ball or ride around in a buggy. It’s about colonization.

Source: Wikimedia

The graph above shows a partial picture of the ultimate goal, and here’s what it looks like from the Moon.

Source: TechCrunch

This effort is built to sustain a colony on the Moon to build a staging site to head to Mars and other places in the solar system.

You see, since there’s 0 gravity in space and limited gravity on the Moon, it’s much easier to launch a spacecraft. Much of the energy needed from Earth is to reach “escape velocity” – the gravitational forces that hold our feet on the ground. Escape velocity is much lower in space.

Companies like Caterpillar (CAT) are already working with NASA on automated construction equipment. LMT and NOC, as well as Boeing (BA), are involved in shuttling people and material to and from the lunar surface.

Get Ready

This kind of science fiction is now science fact, and the companies involved have not only their built-in military growth, but also a whole new massive growth sector that will unfold for years to come.

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