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How Far Out is This Weapon Idea?
Old 04-10-2015, 04:34 PM   #1
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How Far Out is This Weapon Idea?

An upcoming book may feature this scenario:

A weapon has been developed which can kill satellites from the ground. Terrorists start knocking off satellites, and will destroy the ISS unless their demands are met.

The device is like a pulsed laser (think photon torpedo).

Remember, this is fiction, but the two problems I see

1. Energy consumption
2. Hitting the target (the beam spreads out a bit)

Thoughts?
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Old 04-10-2015, 04:43 PM   #2
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A ground-launched missile can hit a satellite.
It's been done at least twice so far.

For a laser weapon to do the same, it would require enormous power to counter the atmospheric scattering as well as the beam spread. Not impossible, but definitely beyond the reach of the average terrorist.
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Old 04-10-2015, 05:18 PM   #3
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Heck, it is science fiction.... you can make it up...

People will believe that a laser can knock out a satellite... not as far fetched as other things out there...
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Old 04-10-2015, 05:25 PM   #4
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On a nice clear day, with load shedding of everything in the LA area from Nuke plants, plenty of power. Maybe even get a twofer with beam spreading.
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Old 04-10-2015, 05:31 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post

1. Energy consumption
Tap into or take over a power plant?
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Old 04-10-2015, 05:44 PM   #6
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I was told that Sandia National Labs has a large flash x-ray machine that is in a shielded building because when they fire it, it could bring down an airliner if happened to be flying above the facility. Flash x-ray machines work by discharging a high voltage capacitor bank to generate a narrow pulse of very high level radiation. Maybe your weapon could be some form of this.
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How Far Out is This Weapon Idea?
Old 04-10-2015, 06:22 PM   #7
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How Far Out is This Weapon Idea?

I would think hijacking a commercial space plane would be more their speed. Admittedly more pedestrian as far as sci-fi plots go though


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Old 04-10-2015, 07:20 PM   #8
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Consider a pulsed laser of some sort. You can store energy in a capacitor or flywheel, then discharge in a concentrated sub second (science fiction, sub-millisecond or whatever makes the story work) pulse. The extra energy in the pulse will help with penetrating atmosphere and you only need a short burst to fry your satellite target.
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Old 04-10-2015, 07:27 PM   #9
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Perhaps a rail gun accelerated scram jet? Would not require a great leap in technology and would get a several pound object on a collision course with a satellite if launched correctly. Orbital speed of the satellite would do the rest.
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Old 04-10-2015, 07:37 PM   #10
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Something like this? It's been cancelled, but if they could steal this 747, they'd still have to figure out how to use it.

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Old 04-10-2015, 07:39 PM   #11
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oops, my mistake; I thought it was to take out missiles, not satellites (never mind!)
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Old 04-10-2015, 07:52 PM   #12
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In your book, please don't target the TV service providers satellites, especially during baseball, football or NASCAR seasons.
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Old 04-10-2015, 08:46 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IBWino View Post
I was told that Sandia National Labs has a large flash x-ray machine that is in a shielded building because when they fire it, it could bring down an airliner if happened to be flying above the facility. Flash x-ray machines work by discharging a high voltage capacitor bank to generate a narrow pulse of very high level radiation. Maybe your weapon could be some form of this.
That works for the little lab model. The proposed satellite killer X-ray laser used a somewhat higher energy power source, an enhanced fission pit [1]. Alas, this means the weapon is rated for 1 (one) shot, and the firing location will not be accessible for some time after that shot.




1. Translation: It used a freaking atom bomb to kickstart the laser.
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Old 04-11-2015, 06:35 AM   #14
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Where's the love/sex interest?
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Old 04-11-2015, 06:45 AM   #15
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Not far fetched at all, see this link for a few examples of space weapons:
Top 10 Space Weapons
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Old 04-11-2015, 11:04 AM   #16
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Great ideas. The capacitor/flywheel thing is perfect. They have to recharge between shots, giving the good guys time to catch them.

>In your book, please don't target the TV service providers satellites, especially during baseball, football or NASCAR seasons.

Actually, that's a great idea. Joe sixpack doesn't care about people dying in Yemen, but cut out his TV during March Madness ...

This will probably be a mad scientist who has been radicalized.

The book will be a short-fiction prequel to Contact Us. It will tell Jake Corby's backstory. I will provide this book to people who sign up for my readers' newsletter.

Apparently getting people to sign up for your readers' newsletter is the most important part of being a writer.
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Old 04-11-2015, 06:08 PM   #17
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I suppose it would be fine for a novel but a large fixed location installation which this would seem to require is kind of easy to eliminate...It might get one or 2 satellites before the smart bombs eliminate it I would think

Mobile missiles would be a more effective and harder to detect/eliminate
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Old 04-12-2015, 10:23 AM   #18
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ISS is nowhere near geostationary. I think it circles the earth every 90 minutes. (Googling...yup every 92 minutes.) Tracking it with a camera is not simple; tracking it with a line-of-sight weapon sounds unfeasible to me. If they could track and hurt the ISS then they could target airliners much more easily.

I think most satellites civilians care about--aside from GPS and Sirius radio--are more or less geostationary. I don't think it is real-world feasible, but I suppose it could be a reasonable fiction device for terrorists to figure out a way to deploy, target and disable weather sats and comm sats. Weather and comm sats don't sound too terror-y, but actually losing them could lead to much larger loss of life in weather events, and combine comm sat destruction with sea-cable attacks and suddenly the world is thrust backwards a few decades in communication ability.

Spy sats--and I'm basing this mostly off of Tom Clancy novels and movies-I think move much more slowly than ISS but aren't geostationary. I'm not sure how fast they move; maybe a fictional device could track and disable, but I'm not sure it's a good plot device as the public wouldn't know about it. Also, if the fictional device could track an orbiting object with angular velocity then it would be a more effective terror device to use it against airliners.
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Old 04-12-2015, 10:30 AM   #19
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How big might the capacitor have to be? I can't find any pictures of capacitors larger than a breadbox. Is it something that could be scaled up with a huge number of smaller caps?

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Old 04-12-2015, 10:33 AM   #20
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> If they could track and hurt the ISS then they could target airliners much more easily.

My plan is that the target can only be damaged if it's in a vacuum.
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