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U.S. To Roll Out New Strategy For Space Based Missile Defense

The release of the strategy was postponed last year for unexplained reasons, though it came as Trump was trying to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

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This photo shows the launch of the U.S. military's land-based Aegis missile defense testing system, that later intercepted an intermediate range ballistic missile, from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai in Hawaii, Dec. 10, 2018. VOA

The Trump administration will roll out a new strategy for a more aggressive space-based missile defense system to protect against existing threats from North Korea and Iran and counter advanced weapon systems being developed by Russia and China.

Details about the administration’s Missile Defense Review — the first compiled since 2010 — are expected to be released during President Donald Trump’s visit to the Pentagon with top members of his administration.

The new review concludes that in order to adequately protect America, the Pentagon must expand defense technologies in space and use those systems to more quickly detect, track and ultimately defeat incoming missiles.

Recognizing the potential concerns surrounding any perceived weaponization of space, the strategy pushes for studies. No testing is mandated, and no final decisions have been made.

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Photo made from footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official web site on March 11, 2018 shows the Kinzhal hypersonic missile flying during a test in southern Russia. VOA

Missile sensors in space

Specifically, the U.S. is looking at putting a layer of sensors in space to more quickly detect enemy missiles when they are launched, according to a senior administration official, who briefed reporters Wednesday. The U.S. sees space as a critical area for advanced, next-generation capabilities to stay ahead of the threats, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose details of the review before it was released.

The administration also plans to study the idea of basing interceptors in space, so the U.S. can strike incoming enemy missiles during the first minutes of flight when the booster engines are still burning.

Congress, which ordered this review, has directed the Pentagon to push harder on this “boost-phase” approach, but officials want to study the feasibility of the idea and explore ways it could be done.

The new strategy is aimed at better defending the U.S. against potential adversaries, such as Russia and China, who have been developing and fielding a much more expansive range of advanced offensive missiles that could threaten America and its allies. The threat is not only coming from traditional cruise and ballistic missiles, but also from hypersonic weapons.

For example, Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled new strategic weapons he claims can’t be intercepted. One is a hypersonic glide vehicle, which could fly 20 times faster than the speed of sound and make sharp maneuvers to avoid being detected by missile defense systems.

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This image made from video of a news bulletin aired by North Korea’s KRT on May 15, 2017, shows what was said to be the launch of the Hwasong-12 missile at an undisclosed location in North Korea VOA

“Developments in hypersonic propulsion will revolutionize warfare by providing the ability to strike targets more quickly, at greater distances, and with greater firepower,” Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress last year. “China is also developing increasingly sophisticated ballistic missile warheads and hypersonic glide vehicles in an attempt to counter ballistic missile defense systems.”

Command

Current U.S. missile defense weapons are based on land and aboard ships. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have both emphasized space-based capabilities as the next step of missile defense.

Senior administration officials earlier signaled their interest in developing and deploying more effective means of detecting and tracking missiles with a constellation of satellites in space that can, for example, use advanced sensors to follow the full path of a hostile missile so that an anti-missile weapon can be directed into its flight path.

Implications for diplomacy

Any expansion of the scope and cost of missile defenses would compete with other defense priorities, including the billions of extra dollars the Trump administration has committed to spending on a new generation of nuclear weapons. An expansion also would have important implications for American diplomacy, given long-standing Russian hostility to even the most rudimentary U.S. missile defenses and China’s worry that longer-range U.S. missile defenses in Asia could undermine Chinese national security.

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President Donald Trump talks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before departing for the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 100th Annual Convention in New Orleans, Jan. 14, 2019, in Washington. VOA

Asked about the implications for Trump’s efforts to improve relations with Russia and strike better trade relations with China, the administration official said that the U.S. defense capabilities are purely defensive and that the U.S. has been very upfront with Moscow and Beijing about its missile defense posture.

Also Read: SpaceX Drops Plan To Make its Falcon 9 Even More Reusable

The release of the strategy was postponed last year for unexplained reasons, though it came as Trump was trying to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

While the U.S. continues to pursue peace with North Korea, Pyongyang has made threats of nuclear missile attacks against the U.S. and its allies in the past and has worked to improve its ballistic missile technology. It is still considered a serious threat to America. Iran, meanwhile, has continued to develop more sophisticated ballistic missiles, increasing their numbers and their capabilities. (VOA)

Next Story

NASA Preparing to Launch Twin Sisters to Study Signal Disruption from Space

The plasma of the ionosphere is mixed in with neutral gases, like the air we breathe, so the Earth’s upper atmosphere — and the bubbles that form there — respond to a complicated mix of factors

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NASA, which has dubbed its current lunar programme Artemis (after Apollo's twin sister, the Greek goddess of the hunt, the wilderness and the moon), plans to send one male and one female astronaut to the moon in 2024. VOA

NASA is preparing to launch twin satellites this month that focus on how radio signals that pass through the Earth’s upper atmosphere can be distorted by structured bubbles in this region called the ionosphere.

The twin E-TBEx CubeSats — short for Enhanced Tandem Beacon Experiment – will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the US space agency said on Monday.

Especially problematic over the equator, the radio signal distortions can interfere with military and airline communications as well as GPS signals.

Right now, scientists cannot predict when these bubbles will form or how they will change over time.

“These bubbles are difficult to study from the ground,” said Rick Doe, payload programme manager for the E-TBEx mission at SRI International, a non-profit research institute in Menlo Park, California.

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NASA has also decided to ask the private sector to design and build a new generation of spacecrafts. Pixabay

“If you see the bubbles start to form, they then move. We’re studying the evolution of these features before they begin to distort the radio waves going through the ionosphere to better understand the underlying physics,” Doe said.

The ionosphere is that part of the Earth’s upper atmosphere where particles are ionized — meaning they are separated out into a sea of positive and negative particles called plasma.

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The plasma of the ionosphere is mixed in with neutral gases, like the air we breathe, so the Earth’s upper atmosphere — and the bubbles that form there — respond to a complicated mix of factors.

What scientists learn from E-TBEx could help develop strategies to avoid signal distortion — for instance, allowing airlines to choose a frequency less susceptible to disruption, or letting the military delay a key operation until a potentially disruptive ionospheric bubble has passed, NASA said. (IANS)