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New US swarmsats will scatter to avoid space-war strikes

F6 Bomb-burst manoeuvre will avoid actual bomb bursts

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The USA's new "fractionated" swarm satellites - in which groups of small wirelessly-linked modules in orbit will replace today's large spacecraft - will be able to scatter to avoid enemy attacks and then reform into operational clusters.

Concept graphic illustrating the 'fractionated' satellite concept. Credit: DARPA

Trying to knock this down will be like punching clouds.

Federal documents released yesterday regarding the "System F6" project (Future, Fast, Flexible, Fractionated, Free-Flying Spacecraft) announcing a conference for interested contractors specify the requirement:

Defensive cluster scatter and regather maneuver. Demonstrate the ability of every module in the cluster to egress from a 20 km diameter “threat sphere” within 5 minutes. The modules must subsequently regather into a cluster configuration following the defensive scatter.

It has previously been specified that the F6 swarmsat cluster must be contactable even when out of line-of sight from US ground stations or other military comms platforms. British satcomms firm Inmarsat was recently awarded a contract to supply the trial F6 swarm with constant broadband access via commercial satellites.

The ability to contact an F6 swarmsat at any time would allow its controllers to order a "defensive scatter" on detection of a threat such as an antisatellite weapons launch or an approaching unidentified spacecraft. Such detections might be made by the various new space-warning systems being set up by the US, or by existing methods.

Much though active space warfare - including attack on another nation's spacecraft - is strictly forbidden by international law and treaty, it would seem that the USA intends to be ready for it anyway. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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