Space War

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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30 Responses

  1. Oscar Gordon says:

    I will never accept that the Air Force has any business past the Karman Line, except maybe to bring the Space Navy their coffee.Report

  2. Oscar Gordon says:

    Hackers could pretty conceivably figure out how to do the same thing from the comfort of any dacha with a sufficiently robust internet connection.

    So about thatReport

    • Troublesome Frog in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      It seems like an international agreement that says, “If you detect somebody messing with satellite navigation systems and trace it to its origins, you’re allowed to bomb that site with no questions asked,” might be a good way to nip this in the bud. People who mess with critical navigation infrastructure are why we can’t have nice things.Report

  3. Joe Sal says:

    Wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper and more innovating if we didn’t invest in the institutions that perpetuate warfare?

    Good work Burt, you navigated a lot of interesting physics pretty accurately.Report

  4. North says:

    Fascinating, well done sir!Report

  5. Jaybird says:

    For me, the thing that I wonder about with regards to this branch would be whether there would be PT requirements.

    This is an Air Force town so here are the Air Force fitness requirements.

    Don’t want to click? Okay, fine.
    Run 1.5 miles
    Males: 12.54
    Females: 15:21

    Males: 44
    Females: 27

    Males: 46
    Females: 42

    Abdominal Circumference:
    Males: 37.5 inches
    Females: 34 Inches

    And those are the *MINIMUM* standards. That’s “passing with a 75%.”

    (I’m sitting here thinking “I don’t meet those. I don’t meet those other ones either.”)

    (And, on top of that, I understand that the Marines laugh at these standards. *LAUGH*.)

    If there’s going to be a Cyber Division… are they going to have PT?

    Because, and I don’t mean to stereotype here, if they’re going to have PT, this is going to be a branch of the military where you walk into any given room and there’s one officer, one enlisted guy, and eight contractors.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

      There will be physical equipment to handle, for sure: launcher aircraft and missiles at least. My experience with aerospace engineers at my ex-wife’s company suggests geeks come in all physiques.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

        My experience with aerospace engineers at my ex-wife’s company suggests geeks come in all physiques.

        The Air Force, however, has a maximum waist circumference of 37.5 inches for males and 34 Inches for females.

        If we are limiting acceptance to the Geeks who are only in that particular corner of “all physiques”, we’re going to find ourselves with a smaller pool of geeks to choose from before we’ve so much as turned a computer on.Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

          Then perhaps we’ve stumbled upon a Very Good Reason why Space Corps needs to be a separate branch of the military: so it can set its own, more realistic-for-its-circumstances, physical fitness requirements.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to Jaybird says:

          More you’re setting the bar at “People whom basic can get into shape.”
          That ain’t everyone, but it’s far from no one either.Report

      • There will be physical equipment to handle, for sure: launcher aircraft and missiles at least.

        Manipulating sizeable masses in free fall is a whole different ball game. Far more likely that it’s done by some form of robotic manipulator than by human muscle.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

          Moving things about in low or zero gravity (or freefall) still requires strength, but size and agility are much more important than raw strength. Think gymnast over body builder. It will be a long time before someone the size of Dwayne Johnson is an ideal Space Corps recruit.Report

          • If your Space Corps vessels depend on individual humans to wrestle around significant loose masses in free fall (say, 50 kg and up), I’m not getting on the vessel. I want that kind of stuff’s freedom of movement seriously restrained at all times.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

              See, this is why it makes sense to have the Navy doing this kind of stuff, sailors are already trained and conditioned to secure loose items, and not just on subs.Report

              • In USAF’s defense, it’s not like there are loose banker’s boxes full of documents hanging around unsecured in the cockpit of your typical C-135 while it’s in flight on a typical mission. And those airmen aren’t out walking down the length of runways every morning for PT. So USAF isn’t ignorant about the damage loose objects can do and preventing that damage from happening.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Burt Likko says:

                The real trouble with the USAF taking on the role of the Space Corps is the fact that they don’t have the cultural mindset that can let them truly operate in space. It’s hard to explain, but it’s the difference between commanding a plane, and commanding a ship. The plane has one or two crew, typically (the pilots). Larger planes might have up to 7 crew (the big AWACS platforms). Ships have hundreds of men & women. Totally different command structure and culture.

                Then there is logistics, lifestyle, and how you fight a plane versus a ship, etc.

                Toss in things like the Navy already has a large corps of people used to operating in incredibly hostile environments (Divers, EOD, SEALs) where the air is canned and suit integrity is important, and ships crew are already training on keeping the hull intact, etc.

                The USAF is just fine for the in-atmo & LEO stuff, anywhere where they can get back to their logistics base safely and before they might miss a nap. You want to get out there, you’ll need the Navy.*

                *This was the one problem I had with the show Stargate, in that during the later seasons, when they started deploying actual star ships, the show pretended the USAF had any kind of clue what the hell it was doing.Report

              • Absolutely no argument — the Navy has the mindset for a (relatively) closed environment that has to be self-sufficient for months.

                OTOH, relative to a previous remark, I want no seapersons (apologies as needed in either direction) who have been corrupted by the experience of moving a 25 kg box around in a one-gee field on my spaceship. I want people who know, deep down inside, that the situations where Newton’s first law don’t apply on a straight-line basis are the exceptions. That if you lose your grip on that box, it continues in a straight line down the corridor, taking out the thermostat, then bouncing and taking out the LED light fixture, then cracking the glass port in the hatch at the end. If you want to move it, you bring the robot arm that’s fastened to the track on the floor, and whose grip on the box can’t slip, and runs software that won’t let you accelerate that box at rates or to velocities that it can’t handle. In short, f*ck PT other than what’s needed for general health purposes and whatever Gs are pulled — don’t care about pullups or pushups or how fast you can run 1.5 miles in a one-gee field.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

                I want people who know, deep down inside, that the situations where Newton’s first law don’t apply on a straight-line basis are the exceptions.

                Technically, Newton’s first law applies most consistently in space. It’s deep in the gravity well where ballistics are a governing concern.

                As for crew, the first step to becoming a space sailor is to learn how to move yourself around in freefall. Fastest way to internalize the laws of Mr. Newton is to experience them physically. Once you understand that you will not fall to the ground (because there is no ground), you will be aware that nothing else will, either.Report

              • Jason in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Yeah, thirty foot seas will disturb some stuff.Report

    • Fish in reply to Jaybird says:

      For most Air Force personnel, the Air Force has completely abandoned the conceit that they are a branch of the military at all. Sure, there are some AFSC’s (Air Force Specialty Code–think of it as a number corresponding to a job title) that are combat-centric or combat-adjacent–pilots, tactical air control, ROMADS, combat control, pararescue, security forces–but the rest of us barely got trained on which end of the rifle to point downrange, much less being expected to meet exacting standards of physical fitness. My joke was always that if you ever saw me with a rifle in my hand we were screwed.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Fish says:

        Well, if we’re willing to say that these standards of physical fitness are going to be ignored, I have marginally more hope for this branch (or sub-branch).

        Marginally. If the E-5 with the 44-inch waist will occasionally get called into the boss’s office one day and get released the next for reasons related to physical standards, the physical standards will be seen as a sword of damocles to be used against those who can’t play the political game with the boss.Report

        • Fish in reply to Jaybird says:

          That’s exactly what the physical standards are for all branches. Failure to meet those standards can result in varying degrees of disciplinary action, largely depending on the branch of service and the commander’s discretion, but they can include reduction in rank or separation.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Fish says:

        You remind me of a joke that a friend who served in the Army made (with annoying frequency):

        “I admire the Air Force. They do a lot of things the same way that the military does them.”Report

  6. DensityDuck says:

    The only meaningful thing that a Space Corps might do differently from what the USAF is already doing quite well is ensure continuity of management on the DoD customer side.

    Right now, USAF tends to rotate people through duty stations pretty quickly, which means that between initial proposal and on-orbit you’ll have four or five different USAF Program Managers. Customers don’t like this because they think it lets contractors snow-job the new guys who don’t know anything about the technology and don’t have time to learn. Contractors don’t like this because the new guys either A) don’t know anything about the technology, recognize this, and decide to be hardasses about everything to make sure they aren’t getting snow-jobbed, or B) don’t know anything about the technology, don’t recognize this, and latch on to unfeasible solutions or difficult requirements because they don’t know what they’re asking for.

    So…maybe a Space Corps would help with that? Seems like you could solve that issue by having the USAF declare satellites to be air bases, although that would probably represent a territory claim (which is against the Outer Space Treaty)Report

    • Kimmi in reply to DensityDuck says:

      More you want to declare satellites to be ships, and subject to most maritime laws.
      It makes a better analogy, and when the next StateActor decides to shoot something down, well, you’ll at least have rules of civilized engagement.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Kimmi says:

        We have international conventions on satelites and other space stuff that treats them more or less like vessels in international waters (rather than airplanes over flying a country. Which was the other legal model proposed at the beginning of the space age, but discarded because of lack of practical enforcement and the desire for both the US and USSR to have freedom of navigation in the space domain)Report

  7. Don Zeko says:

    This isn’t exactly on point, but it’s a space link and I guess deliberate Kessler Syndrome may be a weapon of war in the future. Enjoy this video of somebody doing amazing things in Kerbal Space program.

  8. Kolohe says:

    Scientific research satellites would almost certainly be of little interest to any military action.

    It is worth noting though that the scientific research satellites of today were the military satellites of yesterday. We can thank Bill Clinton and Al Gore (for real) for loosening the tech and data restrictions and bringing a lot of formerly secret space squirrel stuff into the open dissemination domain.Report