The following video was produced by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It shows the capabilities DARPA hopes to achieve through its Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements (SeeMe) program.


Contrary to popular belief, current reconnaissance satellites do not play a large role in tactical engagements on the military battlefield. The KH-series reconnaissance satellites were developed during the Cold War for monitoring the Soviet buildup  and verifying compliance with arms-control treaties. Although the Cold War is long over, they are still optimized for that purpose. The immense cost of a KH satellite (comparable to the cost of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, according to former Senator Kit Bond) means the United States can only afford to have one or two in orbit at any time. The limitations of orbital mechanics mean that they are out of position for most targets at any given time. This is not a problem for long-term studies of stationary or slow-moving mobile targets, but it is completely inadequate for monitoring fast-moving fluid situations on the battlefield. The sort of real-time satellite reconnaissance seen in movies and TV shows is pure fiction.

DARPA’s SeeMe program seeks to turn that fiction into reality. Achieving such capabilities will require responsive, low-cost launch systems such as the air-launch system depicted in this video.

There’s a great deal of commonality between the launch requirements for responsive military space systems like SeeMe and the requirements of commercial space and citizen science.  Much more so than there is with the International Space Station, whose required flight rate is quite limited by comparison.

Written by Astro1 on August 22nd, 2012 , Innovation, Military Space

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