Monday, July 09, 2018

Why Star Wars Doesn't Work

The United States is resurrecting one of Ronald Reagan's most crazy ideas. Back in the early 1980's Reagan proposed a space based missile system to protect the United States from intercontinental missile strikes by its enemies. The initiative was dubbed Star Wars by the media and was criticized for potentially igniting another arms race. The initiative was eventually dropped by Bill Clinton.

Now the empire wants to strike back. The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act includes plans to develop two new space missile defense programs. One of these would effectively utilize a network of satellites in low Earth orbit to monitor for missile launches. The second (and more controversial) program would place thousands of missiles in low Earth orbit in order to intercept any intercontinental missiles launched on Earth.

In Why a Space-Based Missile Interceptor System Is Not Viable Aerospace Security demonstrates why a space based interceptor network would be very difficult for the United States to implement. The program would require thousands of missile firing satellites to be places in low Earth orbit. Even if the network was very large and advanced enough to track and shoot down enemy missiles it would still only provide a partial patchy defense from intercontinental missiles.

The Aerospace Security article includes an interactive Leaflet map which visualizes the effectiveness of different sized constellations of space-based missile interceptors. The map allows you to select from a number of different network sizes of satellites to provide a space-based missile intercept layer. You can then view the area of the Earth that the selected network size would cover and the number of intercept missiles that would cover each area of the planet. All to protect the United States from a phantom menace.

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