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Thread: Missile launch from orbit

  1. #1

    Missile launch from orbit

    Talking with a friend we were trying to determine in a very unscientifically way if it were possible to launch a missile from an orbiting satellite, nothing fancy, about the size of the ones that go in fighter jets.

    So, would anyone knows this? Is is possible given our present technology?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by H4p10 View Post
    Talking with a friend we were trying to determine in a very unscientifically way if it were possible to launch a missile from an orbiting satellite, nothing fancy, about the size of the ones that go in fighter jets.

    So, would anyone knows this? Is is possible given our present technology?

    Thanks in advance!
    The biggest obstacle is that there would need to be such a missile on a satellite.
    When we launch a probe to the moon, or another planet, we essentially put a missile in orbit, and then later launch that missile out of orbit.
    Forming opinions as we speak

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    I am not sure firing a rocket while it is still in contact with a spacecraft is advisable, so a PAM-like system might be the only way to do it.

    I would say PAM-D fits the requirements, although the PAM-D boosts whole satellites from the Shuttle cargo bay. The satellite was placed on a spinning platform so it was spin-stablized and once it was away from the Shuttle a rocket would propel it away. I think the PAM dropped off after burning.

    Launching a missile should be somewhat easier as it would be lighter so the whole thing could be smaller and lighter.
    Solfe

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    Very possible; of course, standard AAM's use fins to steer through air so any missile meant for a low atmosphere environment would need to be constructed specifically for that.

    Missile firing in general doesn't have to transfer any sort of recoil to the platform. Best way would probably let go of it next to the platform then let it fire its engine. If hot gasses were a problem a low then high thrust approach would work where it putters out to safe distance then kicks the main thruster. Some disturbance of the launching platform is inevitable but should be easily manageable by normal station-keeping measures.

    In orbit though, the range for any given missile is going to be odd compared to earthbound expectations. It will be a matter of delta-v. A visual readout of possible targeting areas might be unintuitive without decent experience in orbital dynamics. But range isn't inherently limited laterally, only limited by ability to make different levels of orbit. Range is nearly unlimited across the same orbit level... a missile could make a dozen orbits before hitting a target if it had standby power to last long enough.

    Guns work in space too, but have a lot more Newtonian baggage to deal with.

  5. #5
    Thanks for your answers!

    So, if it's "that simple", do we know if it has been done? I'm sure a lot of governments would find it desireable to have such systems in order to take down enemy satellites capable of the same...

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    It is against at least one treaty that has been widely ratified (the weaponisation of space IIRC). Essentially it is not a huge challenge but given the destabilising and disproportionate effect of these weapons it is in no ones interest to develop and deploy them

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    Back when we actually had a Space Shuttle , we launched satellites from it all the time.
    Sat would get pushed out with springs, then after it drifted to a safe distance, the ground boys would light the sat's rocket motor.

    ...so it's already been done....

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCoyote View Post
    Some disturbance of the launching platform is inevitable but should be easily manageable by normal station-keeping measures.
    I don't see why it's inevitable. Just rotate the missile so that the low thrust exhaust travels in some direction other than back at the platform.

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    The missile would have to launch slowly as not to send the satellite spinning and it would need it's own vector-thrust steering system.

    We've played a lot of space-combat table-top games that have been as real as possible (no Star-Wars stuff). The best way to survive is not to be detected by the enemy's sensors. If a space shuttle approaches too quickly, a Soviet ZU-32-2 will splinter it in a matter of seconds, but if they approach slowly, the 23mm rounds will just bounce off of it. If you have artillery on the Moon, you can destroy any surface structure. The best time to attack enemy shuttles full of space-marines is when they are entering the Martian atmosphere with IR-seeking ASAT missiles as they can't deploy counter-measures that are effective. Or to use a nuke to blind the enemy constellation's sensors, then have ASATs in bound shortly to hit them while they're busy fixing their sensors and can't deploy counter-measures. I also have seen that war in space is very expensive and you lose a lot of highly trained, highly paid individuals rather quickly and POWs are rare. Everyone just dies.

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    Another reason it hasn't been done is that it's quite possible and likely much cheaper to launch an anti-satellite missile from a ship or fighter jet which has been done a bunch of times.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elukka View Post
    Another reason it hasn't been done is that it's quite possible and likely much cheaper to launch an anti-satellite missile from a ship or fighter jet which has been done a bunch of times.
    Yes, since it is much cheaper just to provide a rocket with just orbital height than it is to provide orbital speed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elukka View Post
    Another reason it hasn't been done is that it's quite possible and likely much cheaper to launch an anti-satellite missile from a ship or fighter jet which has been done a bunch of times.
    Unless you wanted a satellite or space station to be able to defend itself and/or destroy space debris that is on a collision course. Then putting the missile on the orbital platform would make it easier to intercept the target in time - say, if you want the satellite or space station to intercept an incoming ASAT missile.

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