Space Products & Innovation
Homeland Security, Defense, and Intelligence
China stirred controversy when it tested an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon on January 11, 2007. Using a ground-launched missile, the Chinese military destroyed an old Chinese weather satellite. The test followed two unsuccessful attempts.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also is working on a satellite wireless communications system which will allow mobile e-mail and voice communications to operate if the cellular infrastructure is compromised.
Space systems are an ideal technology for many military applications and will continue to play key roles in homeland security, defense, and intelligence arenas. For communications, satellites provide an “over-the-horizon” capability that is not matched by terrestrial communication systems.
The U.S. Military’s Global Positioning System (GPS) was completed in 1993. Initially, the system was developed to create a single navigation system used by all forces and for precision weapon delivery. The system is still used for munitions guidance and has become an integral part of logistics tracking and navigation and control of UAVs.
Remote sensing weather satellites also are an important element of military activities. Weather satellites provide a continuous view of weather patterns over the battlefield through a suite of sophisticated instruments. These include high-resolution spatial and temporal images and full-time operational soundings that measure vertical temperature and moisture profiles of the atmosphere.
Defense and intelligence agencies also rely on remote sensing satellites to provide images to increase awareness of a battlefield, target, or national border. The military uses both UAVs and satellites as platforms for these sensors, and these systems may include aerial cameras, Earth-orbiting multi-spectral sensors, and imaging radar systems.
Greater biotechnology research and manufacturing is among the far-term prospects (20-30 years) for space enterprise, given more affordable access and orbital platforms. However, there are several current applications of biotechnology to space science and exploration, including research efforts in food production, microbial ecology in closed space habitats, and sensors for monitoring astronauts’ health.