Will Missiles End The Space Age?

Seriously. D. Trump has announced the Space Force. He’s recognized the high frontier as critical to survival in the Nuclear Age and recognized that we are no longer in a binary d├ętente, but entering a ‘Brave New World’ of multipolar instability.

He, for the moment, he has N. Korea realizing it is a Very Bad Idea to lob rockets over Japan at the USA. “Glow in the dark, or rich beyond the dreams of avarice?” seems to have reached Kim Jong Cupcake… Then with Iran he’s realized the end game of the “treaty” was just a win for the “long game” and nukes in Iran. But one man can’t stop it all with getting in the grill of Stupids.

We’re also realizing that having treaties that bind the USA and USSR don’t do much when the USSR is history, Russia is a pale replacement, and the real problem will be China and Radical Islam. So Trump has been dumping stupid treaties right and left.


Here I’m going to cause some palpitations among those who think me All Trump All The Time:

Russia is not a spectator on the modern stage. It is still the largest nuclear arsenal after the USA. Russian science and engineering is every bit as good as ours (once free of “political oversight”) and the Russian people are very competent. They also have a very long history of fighting off invasions of various sorts from all sides. “You are not paranoid if they ARE out to get you!” and for most of the history of Russia they have had to fight off all sorts of folks “out to get them”. (In particular, Germany twice rather recently, but also China a time or two, and further back Rome and The Empire…)

So it is vitally important to understand the Russian point of view. In short: ~’The West is crazy town full of unpredictable idiots and the East is evil full of ambition and guile’ as my summary of their situation. I also ought to add: ‘And to the south are mobs of zealots desiring nothing more than our subjugation’ as Russia has had to deal with the Muslim Hoard longer than we have.

I admire Russia and the Russians. Just to get that out of the way. I just wish I could master their language. I can decode bits of it, but highly inflected languages continue to elude me. I’m still trying though. The language is “highly conservative” (that is a linguistics term NOT connected to politics – it means the language changes very slowly compared to non-inflected languages like English) and reflects an older time than English. Further, Russian has one past tense. To say “Germany invaded Russia” is the same be it in W.W.II or yesterday. About the only complexity it includes is “aspect”. Is the action ongoing or only a one off? See:
for more detail on that aspect of how Russians think… Let’s just say that “do something twice it becomes ongoing”…

We forget what was done a decade ago (how many millennial snowflakes know what the ABM treaty was, or even that it existed? I “won” a debate about it in High School a good 48 years ago…) while to a Russian, being invaded by Germany in W.W.II is as recent as yesterday, linguistically and culturally.

Sidebar on French:

French has more past tenses than you can figure out how to use. IIRC, it was something like 7 of them There is one used only in literature “the simple past”. If you want to talk about the past and put things in fine grain order, with some actions ongoing and others static, with “over and done” and “started in the past and still happening” and more marked; use French. If, however, you wish to just say “It happened (and is over)” or “It happened and continued” use Russian… Keep that in mind if you ‘cross’ a Russian. Do it twice, you are forever marked as “and it continued”… (continues…)

Russia knows its history.

Along with that being surrounded comes a strong sense of Deep History and strong sense of betrayal (as they have been betrayed so often). That betrayal is of the “and continues” sort.

With that as background, consider these statements (has embedded ads so don’t think it is over when it goes to a commercial):

11 minutes. A Russian points out America only does what benefits itself.

He makes some excellent points. No “agreement” with the USA is stable for longer than the term of the current President. This is both a good thing, in that we can exit mistakes rapidly, and a bad thing, in that nobody can really trust us. I have no answer as to which is better or how to “fix” it. I’d not want, for example, Obama to be able to obligate us to a “Paris Agreement” for eternity. At the same time, having Russia know our “agreement” to not make anti-missile defense systems lasts only as long as we are “winning” it also not beneficial. (More on that below).

Then there is the whole point about hyper-sonic missiles (in which, IMHO, Russia leads) making everyone much much closer, seconds to single digit minutes where before we had many minutes to low hours of warning; that’s not making us safer. “We” have a treaty forbidding missiles and bombs in space… but that is good for what, 2 more years, or maybe gone tomorrow? The Russian POV matters here. Of what use is that agreement if, in a few months, our President can just announce “We are out of that treaty, our nuclear space force is now on orbit. Don’t worry, we are the good guys. Sleep peacefully knowing USA Nuclear Forces are only 60 miles over your head and can nuke your ‘oppressors’ with no more than a 1 minute warning”… “BTW I leave office in 2 years, good luck with the next guy”…

3 Minutes:

Now I understand that POV. I also understand that with the world changing from bi-polar to multi-polar and with China as the big future threat and Iran / Islam right behind it: Having a good missile defense system AND intermediate and short range weapons available to use against those NON-SIGNATORIES will matter ever more. Still, someone needs to slap Tump up side the head about how to make nice with Russia.

Personally, I’d love to see Trump make Putin his “best buddy” and both of us agree it is other folks that are the problem, not either of us. Given current events (not the least of which is the “show trial” of Mueller and the ‘Russia Probe’) that isn’t going to happen.

So we must deal with what is in front of us. How’s that going to work out, eh?
5 Minutes;

My admiration for Putin rises with each video I see of him. He is on top of the international changes, he knows about all the treaties and their changes, heck, he knows what is in the USA Budget (something I would bet hard money not 1/4 of our congress critters who voted for it know…).

He “gets it” that there are other parties ( Iran, Israel, China, North Korea, …) who have now changed global dynamics about nuclear missiles. He also remembers where the most historical threats to Russia have come from – Europe (Germany).

Then he quite rationally states what would be the most reasonable reactions by Russia.

OMG I wish we had even ONE politician on the national stage who had that grasp of issues. He must really have despised Bill Clinton, Obama, and OMG Hillary would be seen as a horror show joke… (For those who have not read “A Clockwork Orange” the phrase “horror show” is a close analog of the Russian word for “very good”… it’s an interesting bi-lingual pun to call Hillary a “horror show joke”…)

Seven minutes. Note the point at the 4 minute mark where the USA is installing anti-ballistic missiles in Romania… At 5 1/4 minutes is the point that let me ‘win’ the debate on ABM systems – swamping with volume and MIRVs. I agree with Putin on the risks (the 6.5 or so point) and on the point that China is the new big risk:

What to do, what to do. It would be best, in my opinion, for Trump to become ‘besties’ with Putin. They are both leaders who are Nationalists who want the best for their own peoples and they both realize the threat of Soros and the Globalists. I’m not expecting it to happen. The EU is playing them both against the middle (or at least against their idea of the midddle…)

What is very clear is that there’s a new “thing” happening in space:


Hit the link to see an Aegis ship shoot down “something” on orbit.

So we have destroyer scale ability to blow up things in space, and that’s OK…

Which brings me to the point of the title. Look at the video in the link. We blow up an object in space. That will put millions of of bits of crap into every possible orbit.

The stuff sent “backwards” will lose enough velocity to de-orbit. The stuff sent “up” and “down” will have eccentric orbits that dip into the atmosphere and eventually drag will bring them down. A problem for “a while”, then ending. Then there is the 1/4 that got more velocity and are now in higher but more or less circular orbits. That “stuff” will last for generations.

One or two such “tests” and we can live with losing an occasional satellite or two as “crap” hits it and causes “unknown failure”. What happens when 20 or 200 of such explosions happen in LEO and all of the important orbits are filled with shrapnel?

We become a surface bound species for a generation or 10 as the “crap” slowly, oh so slowly, loses enough velocity to de-orbit.

Until such time as we have some ability to remove that kind of small crap from orbit, the use of explosive and impact devices on orbit is incredibly dumb. Yes, I appreciate the value of preventing missiles from destroying a “City near me”; but we are dancing with the devil here. We could very easily lock ourselves out of space for 1000 years in the name of ‘protection’.

I wish someone would ponder that, just a bit…

Subscribe to feed

About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in History, Nukes and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Will Missiles End The Space Age?

  1. jim2 says:

    I also think it would be a good thing if Russia were an ally. They aren’t afraid to call Mohammad a pedophile. OTOH, they have an economy that is about the same size as Texas’.

  2. p.g.sharrow says:

    Russia and America have never been Enemies. They are often competitors. Big difference !.
    America and Russia are both Christian nations, In fact the most christian nations.
    At some point America and Russia must ally and prevent the use of war by others for our own safety. It is just too dangerous for us to allow others to experiment with war as a way to gain wealth and power…pg

  3. E.M.Smith says:


    Rarely am I without words to say something, but you are just so right…

  4. Larry Ledwick says:

    Russia engages in fierce Co-opetition as the NASCAR folks would say. They cooperate with the US when it is in their best interest (but like Angel on the old Rockford show always have an angle that benefits them) like a fierce business competitor they are more than willing to try and steal our intellectual property or stir up enough trouble to hold us back while they try to gain market share in the world influence market. They are at a serious man power advantage against all their major competitors (US, EU, and China) and try to compensate for that where they can.

    They are a nation with great capabilities but many liabilities, rampant alcoholism mixed with the fatalism that grows out of a couple centuries of abuse by totalitarian leadership and a system that crushed the work ethic. They are also cursed with limited good warm water sea ports, and a western boarder that has no natural defensive obstacles so they are obsessively compelled to seek overt military dominance of all military threats and build buffer states that can be sacrificed in defense if necessary to repel any invader. In that sense they are cursed with a 19th and 20th century ground war view of defense and do not sleep well at night without lots of tanks, barbed wire and barriers on their western boarder.

    We could and probably will be natural allies in the confrontation with militant Islam but it will take a century of relative peace for them to let go of their military paranoia and need to seek not only parity but dominance in military affairs. They won’t trust the EU for another 50-100 years and even then it will be to them just an unusual quiet interlude in the parade of invasions dating back past Napoleon.

    I think like us they realize that they are no match for China once it get technological parity with them. The only country that has the manpower to seriously confront China is India and they have a natural geological fence between them.

    Like us the Russians have factions some easier to satisfy than others but Putin still carries a grudge against the US for breaking up the Soviet Union, and like mentioned above the Russian character is not likely to let go of such a grudge until they think the debt is paid.

    That does not mean that they can’t work with us but they are also the sort of enemy you don’t turn your back on too often, as there are elements in both their government and military that will use the knife if given a good opportunity.

  5. Larry Ledwick says:

    Doing a bit of searching on stable orbital altitudes you come up with the following approximate values

    An object at 80 miles (129 km) altitude can only complete one orbit without station keeping thruster action to counter atmospheric drag, so any satellite debris that falls below this altitude will quickly self clean.

    At 120 mile (194 km) altitude orbit without station keeping is one day.
    At 370 miles (600 km) altitude 136 years
    At 434 miles (700 km) altitude 1000 years

    Hubble space telescope orbits at 353 miles (568 kilometers)
    The ISS Perigee = 250 mi ( 403 km) AMSL, Apogee = 254 mi ( 408 km) AMSL[3]
    weather satellies and other synchronous satellites 22,300 miles ( 35,800 km)

    So it appears the most useful long term low earth orbits are in a band from about 250 miles to 350 miles which also is an area which will sustain orbital debris for 80 -150 years old

    Lower earth orbits would relatively quickly self clean and until you get to synchronous orbit or semi-synchronous orbits near 24000 miles you have lots and lots of empty space not much used except for transit to higher orbit or missions to the moon and beyond.

    That implies that the altitude band most needing cleaning (or to be kept clean) would be above about 150 miles and below 550 miles. The anti-missile tests and anti-satellite tests the US have done have been on the low end of that band so that the debris clears relatively quickly. The Chinese test not so much.

    Operation Burnt Frost – The NROL 21 satellite was destroyed by a modified SM-3 missile, at an altitude of 130 nautical miles (240 km) on 14 February, 2008


    By choosing an altitude just prior to uncontrolled reentry but while the satellite orbit was still relatively stable the minimized the injection of debris into low earth orbit.

    The Chinese how ever conducted a direct assent antisatellite test against one of their own satellites at a much higher altitude of 534 mi (863 km)

    Click to access chinese_asat_fact_sheet_updated_2012.pdf

    There are a lot of discussions on how to clean up such a mess but very few good options. One would be some sort of micro satellites which would track and capture pieces other options include ways to degrade the orbital altitude/velocity by minor impacts or some other method to increase drag or steal energy from the orbiting debris.

    Directed energy beams might be the only practical method except for the larger pieces of debris.

  6. Ian W says:

    Like any treaties the ABM treaty was carefully written but unfortunately restricted what was banned to the capabilities of the time. Instead of saying any mass destruction weapon that can be delivered to each of the signatory countries, they tended to talk about ballistic missiles and bomber aircraft. The lawyers then got involved and precisely defined what was meant. To avoid/get around the restrictions of the treaties the Russians have been developing weapon systems of types not envisaged at the time of the treaties but which circumvent the spirit of the treaties:
    A hypersonic aircraft that can deliver nuclear warheads – but is NOT ‘ballistic’ so not covered.
    An ‘autonomous’ intercontinental nuclear ‘torpedo’
    So these different designs bypass the ABM treaty making it as useful as a musket limitation treaty, it makes sense to redraw the treaties as ballistic missiles are yesterday’s musket as both sides now have ‘star wars’ style Anti-ballistic Missile capability. Autonomous submarine nuclear warheads and hypersonic systems are not only just as capable but the US has no defense against them thanks to 10 years of deliberate under funding of defense. The Russians in this area are now putting the pressure on the US that Star Wars ballistic weapons shield put on Gorbachev. An unmatched technological capability that unbalances the ‘balance of power’. Yes there is still MAD and just like two people in a telephone box threatening each other with hand grenades it is not overly logical, but the position is now unbalanced and Trump really has no option but to withdraw from a treaty that limits the only area that the US has that re-balances the equation and of course the Russians would be upset with that. Spectators need to understand why.

  7. cdquarles says:

    pg nailed it. In my mind, that’s why the Democrat-Socialist-government-media complex keeps trying to keep Putin and Trump from working together against their common enemies.

    Our host also nailed it, linguistically, about French (the language I studied the most not native to me) and Russian. I love the sound of both of them and, to me, they’re not that much different from old English.

  8. p.g.sharrow says:

    It seems to me that the EMF propulsion system that we are working on may be used solve that problem as well….pg

  9. p.g.sharrow says:

    If you are bored you might watch this on the manipulator :

    there is a great deal on information that is being cleansed over the last few months…pg

  10. E.M.Smith says:


    Nice one (though not really related to missiles & space).

    Here’s one in return. (Has some VERY strong language including F-bombs, but F-it…)

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    Oh, and here’s another one outing Soros as the Lord Of Chaos. IMHO the USA needs to do what Russia did with respect to Soros…

  12. Sole Public says:

    Albeit hard on space stations and satellites, I wonder if the space frass would serve as a protective blanket against ballistic missiles?

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    As I understand it, one anti-missile system basically does just that. Gets in front of the missile and then does a “shotgun blast” of debris into the path. It does take a fairly large number of bits and decent density to take out a hardened missile warhead, though. Easier if IT is hypersonic ;-)

  14. Larry Ledwick says:

    The some anti missile systems use a close approach fragmentation warhead system (Arrow (Israeli missile – directed fragmentation). The Patriot uses a (“hit-to-kill”) direct impact kill. The Isralies designed the Arrow to achieve higher kill reliability than the patriot as during the gulf war the Patriots may have not successfully intercepted as many warheads as originally believed because the scud missiles tended to break up on re-entry and with a hit to kill mechanism you can only take out one object, which might in fact be a booster stage rather than the warhead.

    The newer exo-atmospheric ones are using smart bullet kinetic kill systems where they literally attempt a head on collision kill but you run into the same problem with decoys. They have gotten reasonably reliable against discrete warheads but it is still highly questionable if they will work against advanced MIRVed and maneuverable warhead systems which include decoys.

  15. Larry Ledwick says:

    Doing a little more reading looks like there is mixed info on the patriot warhead, it was also apparently a blast fragmentation style and not a hit to kill design.

    Of course this sort of issue has plagued anti-aircraft systems for decades, driving them to come up with innovative warhead designs like the continuous rod design that creates a giant ring of steel to slice the aircraft in half.


    All you have to do is get something reasonably strong and dense in front of the warhead and its own velocity will create a kill as it runs over the object.

  16. Larry Ledwick says:

    The other side of the satellite race how many constellations of satellites can you have and still be able to launch payloads that have to pass through that constellation orbital sphere to higher orbits.

    Looks like Musk might also be trying to take the digital wind out of Google fiber as well as Comcast. and in the process break the exclusive supplier monopoly agreements and practices of current internet providers.

  17. E.M.Smith says:

    The problem with using satellites is latency and packet loss (airplanes, hailstorms, …) If you can live with those, it can be great…

    10,000 sats from ONE system? OMG. So we could easily end up with 25,000 to 50,000 satellites if a few companies (countries) wanted to do that.

    Earth has a surface area of 196,940,000 sq miles, so that’s one satellite per 19,694 square miles… Not as bad as I’d expected… about 140 miles on a side… I guess there would be long periods where one did not go right overhead…

  18. Larry Ledwick says:

    Then you have the northern European view of Russia and their historical suspicion of their ambitions in the region due to such things as the Russia-Finnish war.


    The recent move by Russia of missiles which violate the IRBM treaty to Belarus and similar activity that seems to be taking lots of small steps which would enhance or support major military operations in that area, tends to feed that suspicion about what Russia’s real intent is.

    Are they slowly preparing the battlefield for future military actions or just improving their defensive posture in the area?



Comments are closed.