From the time that space exploration began, astronauts have enjoyed a rather peaceful experience as they ventured out to ‘go where no man has gone before;’ however, in the very near future, as adversaries of the U.S. deploy weapons beyond our atmosphere, that peaceful journey into space may become something of the past.
Although war in space is a frightening prospect, this possibility has led the U.S. military to begin preparing for a potential war in space. General John Hyten is the head of the U.S. Strategic Command. Gen. Hyten told CNN that every time humans physically move into any area, there is conflict: He references the Wild West and the world wars in Europe. And the possibility of conflict in space requires that we prepare for it.
China and Russia are venturing out into space:
- Russia has been deploying satellites into space: It is believed that these are ‘kamikaze’ satellites. One such kamikaze satellite is the ’Kosmos 2499.’ Should this satellite be activated, it can disable and/or destroy American satellites.
- China launched a satellite referred to as ‘Shiyan,’ which has an arm equipped to grab a U.S. satellite and pull it out of orbit.
A Massive Cyber-Attack Could Throw U.S. Capabilities Back into the Early 1900s
The U.S. is more dependent on space than any other nation. Should our adversaries launch a cyber-attack to disable or destroy our key infrastructure and satellites in space, we will lose much of the technology that we have come to rely on every day. Following an attack, televisions will go black; the Internet will come to a halt and mobile networks will fall silent.
Hackers cause the power lines and transformers in a metro area to overheat, which leads to widespread power outages. As the city darkens and mass transportation systems come to a standstill, cell phone service is crippled. Emergency services, including fire and police, are thrust back into using single-frequency channels, which is a much slower method for obtaining information; thus, substantially increasing their response time. Credit cards, debit cards and ATM machines would all be worthless at this point in time and only cash could be used.
The Department of Homeland Security states that if this scenario occurs, it could take a substantial amount of time (30+ days) to find and disable the malicious devices that are causing the problems. Needless to say, as the DHS continues its search for these devices, more systems will be compromised.
The Loss of Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) Could Lead to Catastrophic Events
Although Global Positioning Satellites were initially created as navigation devices, these satellites are now used as a means to globally synchronize time for key infrastructure. Therefore, today, GPS systems play a much more significant role in our daily lives than was first intended. However, most of us take all the technology around us that relies on GPS time stamps for granted.
Samples of infrastructure that are reliant on Global Positioning Satellite systems:
- The financial sector uses timing systems derived from Global Positioning Satellites to timestamp credit card, automated teller machine (ATM) and high-speed market transactions.
- Many of the electrical power grids in the U.S. rely on the GPS to fine-tune the amount of current that flows within overloaded networks.
- Telecom networks use Global Positioning Satellite systems to ensure their cell towers remain synchronized. If these networks are not properly synchronized, calls cannot be passed between them.
- GPS clocks are also used for synchronizing computer networks, seismic monitoring, and Doppler radar (to track weather systems).
- Entertainment also depends on Global Positioning Satellite systems. For example, these systems are necessary to use digital televisions, digital radios as well as to allow for the sequencing of the multiple cameras used while creating a motion picture.
In the event, Global Positioning Satellites become damaged or are totally disabled, some of the problems we can expect are:
- malfunctioning traffic lights and train route switches;
- the inability to perform bank transactions;
- airplanes crashing (because the pilots are unable to maintain contact with ground control);
- communication issues, especially as they relate to communicating with individuals on other continents (this inability to communicate extends to American and foreign leaders);
- U.S. military personnel losing contact with their armed drones;
- smart bombs malfunctioning; and
- our missiles to be virtually unusable, just sitting immobile within their silos.
Unintentional Damage or Disabling of America’s GPS Systems is Just as Frightening…
The DHS states that there are unintentional threats in space that could damage or disable our GPS systems. Furthermore, old-fashioned human mistakes can lead to problems.
Risks listed by the DHS include:
- Space weather
- Solar flares
- Space debris
- Defective software
- Human error
Predicting unintentional acts that could damage or disable America’s Global Positioning Satellite systems is nearly impossible; however, America can defend itself from intentional attacks by adversaries. Gen. Hyten states that America has good intelligence and surveillance capabilities, which allows us to see what our adversaries are building. This ability allows us to develop new ways to defend ourselves.
A Final Thought
I am saddened by the fact that there is so much turmoil in the world today. There are too many people out there who are trying to force others to live as they do: Whether it is the way they dress, their religion, sexual orientation, race or gender identity, if only mankind could learn to ‘live and let live,’ life would be better for everyone.
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