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Sun Feb 17, 2013, 04:21 AM

Rods from God: Space launched darts that strike like meteors

This article was published in 2004 in Popular Science

http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2004-06/rods-god

This technology is very far out—in miles and years. A pair of satellites orbiting several hundred miles above the Earth would serve as a weapons system. One functions as the targeting and communications platform while the other carries numerous tungsten rods—up to 20 feet in length and a foot in diameter—that it can drop on targets with less than 15 minutes’ notice. When instructed from the ground, the targeting satellite commands its partner to drop one of its darts. The guided rods enter the atmosphere, protected by a thermal coating, traveling at 36,000 feet per second—comparable to the speed of a meteor. The result: complete devastation of the target, even if it’s buried deep underground. (The two-platform configuration permits the weapon to be “reloaded” by just launching a new set of rods, rather than replacing the entire system.)

...

Though the Pentagon won’t say how far along the research is, or even confirm that any efforts are underway, the concept persists. The “U.S. Air Force Transformation Flight Plan,” published by the Air Force in November 2003, references “hypervelocity rod bundles” in its outline of future space-based weapons, and in 2002, another report from RAND, “Space Weapons, Earth Wars,” dedicated entire sections to the technology’s usefulness.

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Arrow 25 replies Author Time Post
Reply Rods from God: Space launched darts that strike like meteors (Original post)
AntiFascist Feb 2013 OP
In_The_Wind Feb 2013 #1
Katashi_itto Feb 2013 #20
In_The_Wind Feb 2013 #21
Katashi_itto Feb 2013 #22
In_The_Wind Feb 2013 #23
Katashi_itto Feb 2013 #24
In_The_Wind Feb 2013 #25
newfie11 Feb 2013 #2
Matariki Feb 2013 #3
AntiFascist Feb 2013 #4
Posteritatis Feb 2013 #9
DetlefK Feb 2013 #5
unhappycamper Feb 2013 #6
DetlefK Feb 2013 #8
OceanEcosystem Feb 2013 #15
JHB Feb 2013 #7
Posteritatis Feb 2013 #10
AntiFascist Feb 2013 #11
Posteritatis Feb 2013 #13
AntiFascist Feb 2013 #14
Posteritatis Feb 2013 #16
AntiFascist Feb 2013 #17
Posteritatis Feb 2013 #18
AntiFascist Feb 2013 #19
OldDem2012 Feb 2013 #12

Response to AntiFascist (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 05:30 AM

1. kickin' it

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Response to In_The_Wind (Reply #1)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 09:04 PM

20. This was originally conceived as "Project Thor"


A kinetic bombardment is the act of attacking a planetary surface with an inert projectile, where the destructive force comes from the kinetic energy of the projectile impacting at very high velocities. The concept is encountered in science fiction and is thought to have originated during the Cold War.

Non-orbital bombardments with kinetic projectiles, such as lobbing stones with siege engines such as catapults or trebuchets are considered siege warfare, not kinetic bombardment.

Project Thor

Project Thor is an idea for a weapons system that launches kinetic projectiles from Earth orbit to damage targets on the ground. Jerry Pournelle originated the concept while working in operations research at Boeing in the 1950s before becoming a science-fiction writer.

The most described system is "an orbiting tungsten telephone pole with small fins and a computer in the back for guidance". The weapon can be down-scaled, an orbiting "crowbar" rather than a pole. The system described in the 2003 United States Air Force (USAF) report was that of 20-foot-long (6.1 m), 1-foot-diameter (0.30 m) tungsten rods, that are satellite controlled, and have global strike capability, with impact speeds of Mach 10.

The time between deorbiting and impact would only be a few minutes, and depending on the orbits and positions in the orbits, the system would have a world-wide range. There is no requirement to deploy missiles, aircraft or other vehicles. Although the SALT II (1979) prohibited the deployment of orbital weapons of mass destruction, it did not prohibit the deployment of conventional weapons. The system is prohibited by neither the Outer Space Treaty nor the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

The idea is that the weapon would inflict damage because it moves at orbital velocities, at least 9 kilometers per second. Smaller weapons can deliver measured amounts of energy as small as a 225 kg conventional bomb. Some systems are quoted as having the yield of a small tactical nuclear bomb. These designs are envisioned as a bunker buster.

Also, it was considered to be a formidable way to stop an oncoming Soviet tank formation. Say, at some geographic choke point. Fulda Gap in Germany, which was considered to be the starting point of a conventional World War Three to occur for example.

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Response to Katashi_itto (Reply #20)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 09:23 PM

21. The magnitude of the exploded target will be horrible.

I doubt the accuracy of this weapon. Many innocent lives, animals, vegetation destroyed. Obliterated from the face of this earth. Is that what we have become. Warmongers, heedless to the pain and suffering this type of weapon can cause.

in the wind

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Response to In_The_Wind (Reply #21)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 09:38 PM

22. Actually, according to the studies it would be accurate up to 3 meters, but your right, the

devastation would be pretty extreme. Think of a small tactical nuke. The appeal back then was, it would have that kind of impact without the radiation.

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Response to Katashi_itto (Reply #22)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 09:43 PM

23. my generation believed



in the wind

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Response to In_The_Wind (Reply #23)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 09:46 PM

24. I always thought your generation had the right idea

The Peace or Hippie movement was a very positive thing

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Response to Katashi_itto (Reply #24)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 11:15 PM

25. thank you. In my time I did volunteer work at the Merton Bubber House

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Grogan_(Canadian_politician)

I believe that John Grogan was there the same time I was.

http://www.downhomeradioshow.com/2010/04/radio-unnamable-with-bob-fass/

At the bottom of this page, you'll see post from other volunteers.

I was into politics more then than now, helping COs stay home.

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Response to AntiFascist (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 05:44 AM

2. We already can destroy every living thing on this planet

The money put into developing this crap could be used to help humanity.

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Response to AntiFascist (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 06:19 AM

3. Um, this doesn't have anything to do with meteors in Russia, Cuba, and the Bay Area

in a single week?

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Response to Matariki (Reply #3)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 06:42 AM

4. The meteor in the Bay Area was way overblown...

there are sightings like that at least once a week across the country.

The incident in Cuba was very isolated and not widely reported, so more info is probably needed.

As for Russia, I have one simple question:

Once the "rods from God" weapon is developed, how would we know whether or not it is a real meteor? Couldn't astrophysicists even be fooled by it?

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Response to Matariki (Reply #3)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 12:23 PM

9. Nope. (nt)

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Response to AntiFascist (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 06:56 AM

5. What's the accuracy and what's the damage radius?

If the rod hits a bunker, I guess it will significantly damage a fortified structure in a diameter of 100m. (And of course the shockwave will fling cars and people around in much wider radius, but its main goal is bunker-bustin'.)

Could it hit a 100m-wide bunker?
Let's say, the weapon carrier flies 100km high (which is the official edge between earth's atmosphere and space and pretty low for a satellite), that means, the rod has to be fired with an accuracy of 1:1000. That's far less than 1° in angle.
Will wind shove the rod sideways?
What if it hits the atmosphere slightly tilted? This will create a dynamic pressure on one side, pushing it sideways as well.

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Response to DetlefK (Reply #5)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 09:55 AM

6. I'd expect GPS would get the Rod to the desired place.

The boom is a function of speed and mass.

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Response to unhappycamper (Reply #6)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 12:13 PM

8. Knowing coordinates is futile if you have no steering wheel.

The rod has no thrusters to steer it into a particular direction. You fire it, and that's it.

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Response to DetlefK (Reply #8)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 07:16 PM

15. Maybe vanes attached to the rods that function as control surfaces?

 

Think the fins that are on a missile, except that this is just a missile with no rocket or engine motor.

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Response to AntiFascist (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 10:14 AM

7. This has been kicking around since the late 1950s...

...as a way to get a nuke-sized blast from a conventional weapon.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinetic_bombardment

I think one of the impediments to development, ironically, has been the nuclear weapons industry, who don't want an alternative that could become a reason for shutting them down.

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Response to JHB (Reply #7)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 01:35 PM

10. That and there's no reason to believe a payload coming from orbit isn't nuclear

And, of course, if you're getting that size blast it might as well be, so it's time to respond with your own.

Project Thor was mostly based around using them on (or near) armored vehicles, but as time went by modern militaries got vastly more effective methods of doing that anyway.

That said, what happened at Chelyabinsk absolutely was not manmade anyway, as nothing that can stay in Earth orbit moves anywhere near that fast, and nothing that we could accellerate to that speed could possibly be hidden anyway since it'd have to blast around other celestial bodies for awhile first.

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Response to Posteritatis (Reply #10)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 06:39 PM

11. The meteor that hit Chelyabinsk...

was said to be travelling at 33,000 mph. The ISS orbits at about 17,500 mph (not that such a weapon could have been fired from the ISS). Would it not be possible to fire something in a descending orbit that could accelerate to that speed until it hit the atmosphere?

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Response to AntiFascist (Reply #11)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 06:54 PM

13. It would, in fact, not be possible

Accelerating downward isn't really doable the way orbital mechanics work - speeding up boosts things into a higher orbit, and changing vectors in space is quite difficult in general, since an object still "wants" to go the way it's headed unless a significant amount of force acts on it - an incredibly significant amount, at those velocities. Spacecraft come out of orbit by slowing down, which lowers their orbit until they're hitting enough air resistance that they begin slowing down that way instead. Speeding something up significantly would shoot it out of orbit or skip it off the atmosphere unless you put an amazing amount of acceleration onto it.

Leaving that aside, the amount of power needed to add 15,500 mph to anything's velocity in space is staggeringly enormous. Interplanetary velocities like the Chelyabinsk meteor involve either a lot of rocket or a number of "slingshots" around the Earth, the moon or other planets to provide speed boosts. Those require, again, a lot of rocket in the first place just to get enough speed to leave Earth orbit.

That kind of maneuver would be utterly, utterly impossible to conceal. If that sort of thing happened any country with a decent set of radar equipment would have been tracking the thing for awhile to begin with, since the whole setup would be far larger than the meteor itself was. Heck, backyard astronomers with eBay-purchased equipment would be able to track it and, with a few thousand dollars of equipment, even get decent photographs of the assembly in orbit.

It very, very, very isn't like the science fiction depictions of orbital maneuvering, where it can be done quickly, easily and without hundreds of tons of propellant. This was absolutely a piece of rock or iron, that had been flitting through the solar system probably for billions of years, which intersected with Earth's orbit at vastly beyond orbital velocity and boosted the glazier section of the Russian economy as a result. There's really nothing whatsoever nefarious about it, nor could there be.

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Response to Posteritatis (Reply #13)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 07:10 PM

14. The main thing I question...

and that the media has failed to mention, is that Chelyabinsk happens to be the location of secret nuclear warhead development programs and nuclear stockpiles. Searching the web, you'll find that there was a huge relief to discover that nuclear sites had been missed by the meteorites that fell when the object broke up in the atmosphere.

According to this 2005 Asia Times article, Rods from God is one of the primary space weapons contemplated by the Pentagon since the 1980's SDI program, estimated to be operational by 2015:

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/GH18Aa01.html

Rods from God
On the technological level, the Pentagon's planning is in the advanced stage: some projects - aimed at space weaponization - have already been in place for some time. Among the (partially known) Pentagon's new plans, the two most interesting projects are the "Global Strike" program and the "Rods from God" program.
...
However, serious problems would arise if the Pentagon began the operational phase - especially from a financial perspective. Some studies maintain that Rods from God could be fully operational in 10 years.<from 2005> The targets of the rods would be much more restricted than those of Global Strike. Their main targets remains ballistic missiles stockpiled in hardened sites

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Response to AntiFascist (Reply #14)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 07:30 PM

16. That's pretty much coincidence with a dose of anxiety-mongering

The meteor broke up a good sixty kilometers from the town, none of this "right on top of it" stuff that the tinfoil hat brigade keeps insisting on. A half dozen of those come into the atmosphere every year, with thousands that are much smaller - if one comes down someplace that will actually cause damage people are still going to insist that there's some deeper significance to it.

That said, it is genuinely physically Not Possible to park something in orbit that could change its velocity by that much without it being noticed, and it is also genuinely physically Not Possible for such an object, were it up there, to change its velocity that much without a few hundred backyard skywatchers recording the event, either by sheer chance or because they were tracking the thing in the first place.

Also, a good chunk of the mainstream press I've seen has mentioned the region's history as a nuclear weapons development site. That hasn't been a secret for a few decades. Nobody's covering up anything.

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Response to Posteritatis (Reply #16)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 08:17 PM

17. It was only a matter of time before you brought up the "tinfoil hat brigade"...

in fact, the media should be all over the nature of the nuclear storage in this area, but of course they choose not to be. As NASA has indicated, the blast area includes a wide area around the city of Chelyabinsk, easily covering the nuclear sites. As I pointed out elsewhere, the following story on an obscure energy news website demonstrates how closely they dodged a bullet:

http://enenews.com/tv-russian-nuclear-facility-meteor-fragments-landed-really-fortunate-be-talking-about-nuclear-disaster-about-radiation-levels-video

...

Top secret facilities are all over the place there. There is one nuclear storage facility called Mayak*.

A lot of people are saying this is really in the best graces that none of the asteroid, and there were at least 5 fragments of the asteroid, that it’s really fortunate that none of the asteroid had landed into that facility. Because that obviously, we would be talking about nuclear disaster there.


Impact area cited by NASA:

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Response to AntiFascist (Reply #17)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 08:22 PM

18. Ah, so this is one of those "ignore any conflicting reality" discussions then. Oh well. (nt)

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Response to Posteritatis (Reply #18)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 08:30 PM

19. The reality is simply this...

a meteor strikes close to nuclear development and storage facilities in Russia. The media chooses to ignore the nuclear aspect of the story, instead falsely linking the story with the asteroid flyby which, everyone agrees, is not even related at all to the event.

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Response to AntiFascist (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 06:45 PM

12. Well, that'll certainly make drones obsolete...shouldn't that make everyone happy?....

....might be a little overkill, though.

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