Donley Pushes Major Space Changes

Donley Pushes Major Space Changes

With the stroke of a pen Air Force Secretary Mike Donley engaged one of the most complex bureaucratic challenges faced by the service: how to buy, build and manage satellites and the rockets that move them into space. Donley, seeking to clarify what experts say was a confusing and sometimes ineffective system, ordered several important changes to how the Air Force’s space community is organized and to who makes what decisions.

In perhaps the biggest change declared in his memo, Donley vested the service’s undersecretary, Erin Conaton, with the responsibility for guiding all space policy activities overseen by the Air Force. The assistant secretary for acquisition will now lead all space acquisition, combining traditional fighter, bomber and other service acquisition with space.

In a separate report, the man who recommended the changes to Donley (one of the country’s most respected military and intelligence space experts) Richard McKinney, said the goal of the changes is to leave the Air Force with a “very visible and effective” focal point for space management.

Conaton knows relatively little about space but is a tireless worker. Given the unique nature of most space acquisition, she will need all the best advice she can get.

Donley also created a new space board, run by the undersecretary and the vice chief of staff, to manage interservice issues and the intricate and long-troubled relations between the military space community and its intelligence counterparts at the DNI, CIA and NRO. The National Security Space Office originally created to provide expert skills for both the NRO and the Air Force but now a rump service entity, will be melded into McKinney’s office of deputy undersecretary office. McKinney’s office will continue to serve as the service’s primary center of expertise on space, advising the new board and the undersecretary.

One of the most delicate policy issues the Air Force must deal with over the next 18 months is the best path forward on the international front for managing space debris and the question of who is responsible and what they must do when satellites collide or are destroyed.

[This story should be updated tomorrow when we get more reaction and analysis of these changes from summertime Washington.]

Join the Conversation

From the text: “One of the most delicate policy issues the Air Force must deal with over the next 18 months is the best path forward on the international front for managing space debris and the question of who is responsible and what they must do when satellites collide or are destroyed.”

I wonder: Is it really sooo hard to use an aging satellite’s or Space station’s last fuel reserve to send them into the sun, or at least out of orbit and into the vastness of Space?

And lest somebody says that this would endanger future Space journeys in the same directions: How about agreeing on a single, empty corner or angle in the skies with no economic or scientific interest for absolutely anybody where to send EVERY man-made object to, after its expiry date?

Yes, what you suggest is very difficult. It took the Saturn V to get the very small apollo capsule fast enough to leave Earth orbit. I don’t know of a satellite that when fully fueled has enough propellent to escape Earth orbit. The option is to deorbit and run the risk it doesn’t all burn up, or have graveyard orbits where we move dead satellites and know where they are. But to leave Earth orbit is out of the question, it just takes too much energy

FFB — you should consider taking a basic Orbital Mechanics class where you could find out about the amount of energy required to get out of the Earth’s gravitational well. To get out of the gravitational well you need to strenuously minimize mass and add serious thrust — like a cryogenic Centaur, etc.
The other option is steering the vehicle (like is done with Progress and ATV and HTV) into the ocean below. But that requires significant effort to make sure you don’t drop the spacecraft onto a landmass.
Just think — if all of these really smart people haven’t yet thought of a solution — can it be so easy??

Jeremy — yes you are mostly correct. It takes a very powerful vehicle to push something as far as the Moon or Mars or whereever. Current geosynchronous satellites could escape the Earth’s gravity but they steer themselves into their operational orbits instead. But then after hoarding attitude control prop for years, to lengthen lifetime, they normally run out of gas before they are worn out. Deorbitting satellites is a very tough challenge — if you don’t steer it into the south Pacific you run the risk of repeating the Skylab mistake of hitting Austrailia or worse.

Part 1 / 2

But I’m not talking about Space junk leaving Earth’s orbit at rocket speed, like Saturn V’s capsule or like a shooting star, or even towards any precise destination point in Space. I’m just talking about making dead satellites leave Earth’s orbit SLOWLY , but certifiably and unstoppably, towards an only more or less defined direction (but ALWAYS upwards, of course, NEVER downwards), until the sun’s gravity field grabs them and sucks them in.
All my life I thought that the orbits of Space objects were extremely labile (delicate, instable) balances between centrifugal and centripetal forces, where – theoretically – deviating even
1) a hair-width from the ideal altitude
and / or
2) a mm/year from the perfect speed
meant either
1) unstoppable ascent ( = getting lost in Space)
2) unstoppable descent ( = contact with Earth’s surface, colloquially also known as a “crash”),
unless their orbits got constantly corrected.


Part 2 / 2

And judging by the quantity of satellites that were already lost (with unstoppable ascents or unstoppable descents), before, during or after their scheduled missions, indeed this happens easier than you depicted it, even accidentally (almost “naturally”), and NOT “very difficult”, as you state.

So, why not do it deliberately and nudge every defunct, man-made Space object gently into the sun, after performing a thousand ever-widening orbits ( = a spiral) around Earth?

“Is it really sooo hard to use an aging satellite’s or Space station’s last fuel reserve to send them into the sun, or at least out of orbit and into the vastness of Space?”

This is what they already do; see “graveyard orbit”.

In the article: Oh hey, pass the buck and invent a new committee. THAT’LL solve ALL the problems. Good job, Donley, your golf club or mine this afternoon?

You don’t appear to understand orbital mechanics at all. Escape velocity is escape velocity, it’s that simple. How are you obtaining the energy to push these objects into higher orbits? Rockets? Lasers? Gravity? ________?

Can you cite some examples of satellites that have drifted away from Earth?

To affirm mike j — FFB does not understand orbital mechanics.
It doesn’t matter if you add energy fast or slow, it is the same amount of energy. This means you have to have an engine.
An “unstoppable descent” is easily acheived — but you risk dropping debris on some city. Skylab luckily ended up in central Austrailia, but other spacecraft parts have ended up in farmer’s fields, someone’s house, etc.
Do you have an example of an “unstoppable ascent”???

Charles, if you’re going to downrate all my posts, then at least downrate the snarky ones that don’t add to the discussion, as opposed to the factual ones that do.

To the poster Charles Houston:

You wrote: “Do you have an example of an ‘unstoppable ascent’???”

“Houston, we have a problem”: 622.000 results on “Google” alone for the following search words:

“satellite” + “wrong” + “orbit” + “lost” + “contact”

And “lost contact” is almost a SYNONYM for “drifted into deep Space”, not for “exploded” or “fell down”. Articles in specialized magazines describe each of these satellites’ fate in far greater detail.

Did you REALLY never hear of satellites that were lost in Space because of incorrectly calculated orbits?

Actually “lost contact” is a synonym for “lost communication”, it’s a standard term across all English-speaking organizations that highly utilizes radio communication technologies. It’s not even close to being a synonym for “drifted into deep space”.

A more accurate search term for what you’re trying to disprove would be “satellite+drifting+into+space” or “satellite+lost+in+space” which still turns out negative results for what you’re trying to prove.

You’re still wrong.

What about this is difficult to understand? If an object is launched off of Earth at less than escape velocity, it does not escape. It returns, or it orbits. There’s no “spiraling away”. For an object to get into a higher orbit, or leave Earth orbit, it has to increase velocity. There’s no free lunch, that additional energy has to come from someplace.

For your “send orbiting trash into the Sun” plan to work on a timescale of months or maybe years, instead of decades or centuries or millennia, you’ll be needing quite a bit of energy.

There’s no excuse for not comprehending this. You have a computer and by your own admission you know what Google is.

To the poster “mike j”:

You wrote: “For an object to get into a higher orbit, or leave Earth orbit, it has to increase velocity.”


Part 1 / 3

Oh my God, the confusion, the neural knots, the.….….….. absolutely unbelievable! (But it’s only my posts that get deleted here, never yours)

“…to get into a higher orbit” and “or leave Earth orbit” I-S almost the same, it represents the same danger, and it’s precisely this problem that has to be avoided at all cost!!!
Most of the satellites who drifted into deep Space (I’m not saying that they are many) got lost precisely during their launch, because…


Part 2 / 3

1) AND THAT’S THE CAUSE OF IT ALL : …the last launcher stage released the satellites one or two SECONDS TOO LATE (or even later…).

2) CONSEQUENCE NR. 1 : At a flight / ascent speed of several kilometers per second (yes, it’s fast, so stop being dazzled by high speeds or asking me where all that “necessary energy” comes from), this means that they end up flying a few kilometers too high above ground for their own good, and not at the designated height / orbit.

3) CONSEQUENCE NR. 2 : But even a FEW kilometers too high already represent too many ADDITIONAL % of their ideal flight / orbit altitude, especially for low-orbiting satellites.

4) CONSEQUENCE NR. 3 : Earth’s gravity pull diminishes to the square of its distance (Newton’s “law of universal gravitation”), but since the runaway satellites’ speed remains at a constant high, the centrifugal forces (their excessive speed) overcome the centripetal forces (Earth’s weak[er] gravity pull up there) and they move out, in a slow, outward spiral (upward spiral, seen from below).

Small interjection to “CharlesHouston”: I’m not aware of any satellite industries in Space yet. So, if all launch vehicles for satellites start their flights on Earth, ANY satellite lost in Space is an uncontrollably ascending satellite, per exclusion of parts ( up / down ).

Do you like your meals minced, or do you prefer them mashed?


Part 3 / 3

The English “Wikipedia” edition prophylactically wrote an extra chapter called “Misconception” for such amusing U.S. American illiterates like you and “CharlesHouston”, and everybody else here in this forum:

Planetary or lunar escape velocity is sometimes misunderstood to be the speed a powered vehicle (such as a rocket) must reach to leave orbit; however, this is not the case, as the quoted number is typically the escape velocity at the body’s surface, and vehicles need never achieve that speed. (…)
In fact a vehicle can leave the Earth’s gravity at any speed. At higher altitudes, the local escape velocity is lower.”

I’m a White. Are you?

Wait, Wikipedia is being used as a valid source now? That doesn’t work.

You’re a white what?

Anyway. From the article: “In fact a vehicle can leave the Earth’s gravity at any speed. At higher altitudes, the local escape velocity is lower.”

And the very next sentence: “But at the instant the propulsion stops, the vehicle can only escape if its speed is greater than or equal to the local escape velocity at that position.”

So, so close…

I am trying to be respectful here, but this demonstrates again that having a computer and being able to do a Google search does NOT equal “understanding the results”.

Density — never let it be said that this group was not able to compromise. Perhaps some of your comments are implied questions? Perhaps your comment about the graveyard orbit was to mention it — hoping that people would say how it could be used to help the debris issue?

ffb: The problem with this discussion is that you’re asking questions that require six months of college-level coursework to answer. You aren’t stupid for not understanding right away–I mean, we did have to invent calculus to answer the questions you’re asking–but a blog comments section isn’t really the appropriate place to explain the many seeming paradoxes of orbital mechanics.

Something like this showed up in the anime “Planetes”; the directors’ commentary track mentioned that they had to specifically direct the animators how to draw the orbital scenes. The animators were used to sci-fi action, where orbital maneuvers are “vehicle points at destination, fire comes out the back, vehicle moves to destination”. In reality, if you want to catch up to something that’s ahead of you, your best bet is to thrust down. Thrusting forward will move you to a higher orbit, and you’ll wind up further away

Rocket scientists duke it out. Funny stuff.

This is spot on! Basic orbital mechanics and laws of satellite physics are astutely highlighted here by Jeremy. Initial orbits are key to final disposal locations, e.g. burning up or parked a loooong way out. Folks have a problem, read the UN Space Treaty of 1967 to understand more about space debris and potential ramifications.

Actually, space debris will continue to be there as long as humans keep launching. This topic is merely continution of a study started over 15 yrs ago on how to address it. Guess other priorities got it in the way. Ye who control the high ground, control the battlespace.

all we have to do is launch a democrat into space. we all know that the democrats are incredible magnets for trash, detritis, garbage, debris, bad ideas, and other stupid stuff. so as soon as any item in orbit becomes useless, damaged, or trash, it will automatically be drawn to the democrat. and since the democrats are soo full of hot air, they will perpetually fuel themselves to a higher plane until they are one with the sun!

will be dealing with disable satellites in the future? must would get banish or destroy by unknown forces, i suggest get back to the land security and the radio system for future task just in case the good satellites get in the wrong minds… it does not mean anything if u think you own your satellite? guest what… who does control the thing? and who have access to it

Are you kidding me? McKinney is considered, “one of the country’s most respected military and intelligence space experts?” Is this the same guy who ran AF space acquisition that led to billions in overruns and years of delay for programs like SBIRS, AEHF, and SBSS? I’m not sure who’s dumb and dumber: the guy who wrote the article, McKinney, or Donley. And given the AF’s track record of taking care of our nation’s space needs (NOT!), who thinks that yet another AF re-org is going to change things. Let’s ask the other services and members of the intel community who use space whether they think the AF should continue to “lead” things. And how do these guys get away with ignoring Congress — for five years or more they’ve been putting language into law that criticizes DoD for letting space management become an AF staff issue — rather than a DoD or national issue. Space expert???? WOW!

NOTE: Comments are limited to 2500 characters and spaces.

By commenting on this topic you agree to the terms and conditions of our User Agreement

AdChoices | , and join us on Google+
© 2015 Military Advantage
A Monster Company.