This week saw a briefing in Congress, which would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Congressmen and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, issued the CSIS report "Preserving America’s Strength in Satellite Technology".

Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, has called the War in Afghanistan, "The First Space-based War" for the reliance on satellite technology for communications, navigation, reconnaissance and command and control. But
suddenly after twenty years of watching the US Space industry slide into bankruptcy, one company after another, the military have realized that they don’t have the global bandwidth to play with their new found toys, such as the Predator. The lure of being able to fly reconnaissance missions half way around the world, then go home to watch the Redskins is a Pentagon dream come true. With the CIA tested ability to fly search and destroy missions
with remotely piloted drones, pilots no longer need to risk being shot down, and can sit in military video arcades in Arlington, safe and secure.

Communications Satellites

The US military has also realized that countries other than Russia and the US can build communications satellites. Tired of being given the run-around securing export licenses from the USA, for satellite components, many countries have developed production, and testing capabilities. The problem now is that some countries even prohibit use of US built technology, "It’s not worth the trouble" pointed out a South East Asian manufacturer. China now has the production capabilities for small efficient handsets, built under sub contract for US and European Cellphone markets, rocket launchers, and satellite technology thanks to the Clinton Administration. It is now possible for China to consider matching, even jamming US military communication satellites, with the technology, and capabilities they posses. Russia is again building up it‚s space industry, realizing that what a US President promises, the US Congress may not deliver. There are over a dozen countries capable of creating a space-based communication network. Space communications are no longer the sole domain of the USA.

Imaging Satellites

The quality of the images from the recently launched Quickbird satellite has dismayed military planners, who demand the US military has "Shutter Control" over all satellites, regardless of who owns, or controls them. The 61cm resolution images were classified Top Secret not many years ago, now they are available on the open market. John Hamre, former Deputy Secretary of Defense, told us that the US military must be protected, by all satellites shutting off in areas where, and when the US military is conducting operations! The US demands sole control on intelligence interpretation. The Japanese are still smarting over the insistence that only US Intelligence images of Afghanistan only be used for coalition forces, and refused to allow Japan to buy images directly from Space Imaging, as the US had bought all images exclusively for its own use. The huge loss of revenue for the commercial operator will no be repeated.

The report accepted that the US is dependent on space, and is facing a threat it does not like, and cannot stop. The hawks demand the US use its Star Wars technology to blast Chinese, and Russian satellites out of orbit.
Even the French SPOT, seen as undermining US control of images. The report warns "A country cannot go blowing satellites out of the sky when they displease it, and in any case the United States, which is more dependent on space than other nations, could regret a course of action that legitimized attacks on satellites." This gung-ho approach to bombing everything in space, as well as on the Earth, at which the US is displeased has brought an unexpected issue to light.

Star Wars Liability

If the US seeks to dominate Space with its new, and developing Missile Defense Shield, and tests rockets, lasers etc. by destroying spent rockets, and old US satellites, then the uncontrollable debris field from these explosions will be a serious threat to constellations such as GPS, Iridium, Teledesic and the proposed Gallileo, not to mention SPOT, QuickBird, and the weather satellites. George Bush may be Macho Man in Space, but firing his Space Guns, even to test them, may destroy his navigation, reconnaissance, weather forecasting and really upset the rest of the world.

Alan Simpson
SatIntel, Washington, D.C.



These striking images show the former secret Bor-5, an eighth-scale model of the Soviet Space Shuttle, awaiting sale in the USA.

The Bor-5 unmanned spacecraft was actually flown five times in the 1980s and is remarkably similar in design to the American Space Shuttle.

Sadly the sale of this fascinating piece of hardware reflects the gloomy downturn in Russia’s economy and its once flourishing space programme.

Robert Simpson, from Florida, acts as a sales agent for the Russian space programme and also works at the Kennedy Space Center. He takes up the story of how this fantastic historical spacecraft ended up at the auctions.

“I was in Russia presenting a video on the US Space Shuttle programme at around the time of our first flight to the Russian Mir Space Station.

“I made friends with the engineers out there and noticed some incredible hardware that was just lying around their warehouses. I offered to sell the stuff on their behalf and its been a whirlwind ever since.”

Besides Bor-5, Simpson found Soviet satellites, scale models of famous probes such as Vostok and Phobos. And this went for just £3,000 ($4,300). There was even a back-up satellite of Sputnik on offer at £5,000.
Bor-5 was certainly based on intelligence gleaned on the US Space Shuttle. This tiny device shows the damage caused by re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Simpson says: “It’s the only unmanned spacecraft, Russian or American, to be repeatedly flown this way. That’s the one item that we’ve shipped over here and I’ve actually shown it to an astronaut. He was amazed how much it resembled the US Shuttle.”

The Bor-5 goes on sale in Spring 2002 in the US via Kruse International of Indiana.

Eye Spy would like to thank Patrick E. Gurrola, Operations Manager of Mannheim Containers for his help in producing this feature.


More striking images in Eye Spy 8