One strange effect of the seven Oscar wins yesterday for Alfonso Cuarón’s film Gravity is that many more people will be conversant about something that was mostly the kind of thing specialists talked about—just how damaging space debris from anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons can be. In Gravity, astronauts played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney struggle for their lives after debris from a satellite destroyed on-orbit by Russia threatens the space shuttle and space station. Read More
February 20th, 2014
Recently, the Pentagon announced that four of five sites that had been identified as candidates for a possible new missile defense site would be moving on to the next step and getting Environmental Impact Statements (EIS)– Camp Ravenna, Ohio; Fort Custer, Michigan; Fort Drum, New York; and Portsmouth SERE Training Area, near Rangeley, Maine. Read More
December 20th, 2013
The final defense authorization bill that passed the Senate late last night includes none of $140 million sought by the House to begin deployment of a new missile defense site that its supporters claim will better defend the eastern United States. The House demanded the Pentagon build a new site by 2018 and authorized $140 million to get started, though the Pentagon hasn’t even made a decision that a new site is desirable. This final outcome is very good news; if you’re just tuning in now, a new site on the East Coast is a poor use of resources and would improve neither the effectiveness nor the reliability of the Ground Based Midcourse (GMD) missile defense system. Read More
December 6th, 2013
While the world is focusing on negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program, where do things stand on the other piece of the puzzle, the Iranian space-launch and missile program? Read More
November 22nd, 2013
For a host of reasons, building a new “East Coast” missile defense site is a poor use of resources, with even the Missile Defense Agency saying it would use any additional funds for something else. The price tag for building and operating a new site for five years would be about $3.6 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Read More
November 7th, 2013
For the second year, missile defense supporters in the House of Representatives are seeking funding to build a new site for the U.S. Ground Based Midcourse (GMD) missile defense system. The aim is to place interceptors at a site near the east coast, in addition to the current sites in Alaska and California, to engage a potential future missile attack from Iran.
We just posted a short background paper that explains the problems with this plan. These include:
- the Pentagon has not asked for this money, nor has it made a decision that a new deployment site is desirable
- the Pentagon continues to struggle to get the basic GMD technology to work reliably, so it makes little sense to deploy it at another site
- even if these technical problems are surmounted, the system available now and in foreseeable future can at best only counter a rudimentary missile threat, one that is not accompanied by decoys and other countermeasures. Interceptors from Alaska could engage these missiles so an east coast site would not be needed.
- against this rudimentary threat, an east coast site would not improve effectiveness, but at most would improve efficiency, allowing the United States to potentially fire fewer interceptors at an incoming missile
- a new site would cost an estimated $3.6 billion to build and operate over the first five years, which makes little sense in the current budget-constrained environment.
September 27th, 2013
September 17th, 2013
In 2012, Congress demanded the Pentagon come up with recommendations for the location of a third site to base interceptors for the U.S. Ground Based Midcourse (GMD) missile defense system. So far no money has been appropriated for building a site (nor even for the next step in the study, an Environmental Impact Assessment of the top three candidates), nor has the Pentagon asked for any.
June 28th, 2013
June 5th, 2013