Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Space Force gets its first weapon: a satellite jammer

And the first sci-fi weapon the Space Force gets is....a device to scramble communications?

A recent image of the new radar jammers

Courtesy Photo by @L3HarrisTech
  • The United States Space Force recently got its first real weapon, a satellite communications jammer.
  • The device was previously used by the Air Force.
  • While seemingly mundane, the jammer will serve a very real purpose on the battlefield.

The United States Space Force has just gotten its first offensive weapon, a satellite jammer. While it might not be the kind of weapon that most people would have expected a space force to start with, the potential applications of the device will undoubtedly play a large part in future operations around the world.

I was expecting a laser of some kind, what is this?

The Counter Communications System Block 10.2, or CCS, is an upgrade to a previous device used by the United States Air Force for several years. The mechanism is understood to be a jammer that consists of a large trailer-mounted dish. When used, it scrambles incoming transmissions from enemy satellites. The effect is not permanent, allowing for communications to be restored after the device is turned off.

It would be used in combat operations to deny the benefits of satellite communications to enemy forces, a major factor in combat operations for any modern army.

How does it work?

We don't have the exact details of how it works—however, Maj. Seth Horner explained the recent updates to it by saying, "CCS has had incremental upgrades since the early 2000's, which have incorporated new techniques, frequency bands, technology refreshes, and lessons learned from previous block upgrades. This specific upgrade includes new software capabilities to counter new adversary targets and threats."

Popular Mechanics also found a technical source which speculates on the potential specifications of CCS:

"...it is reasonable to conclude that CCS can likely jam most of the major commercial frequencies (particularly C and Ku) and the most common military frequencies (X-band), with a possible capability in the increasingly popular Ka band. Also, it is likely that the CCS is targeted mainly at geostationary communications satellites (COMSATs), given that they are currently the primary source of satellite communications."

A recent tweet shows what the jammer looks like

Why is the Space Force getting this, if the Air Force already had it?

While the idea of blowing up satellites with lasers or rockets seems like more fun, some considerations make a jammer more practical than the alternatives.

A kinetic weapon, like a missile, being used to blow up enemy satellites would first have to get up to where military satellites orbit, a bit higher than where other ones tend to be. While this is not an impossible task, it is a problem to solve. After it blows up the target, the issue of debris would start. Even small pieces of space junk can tear other satellites apart, imagine what collateral damage could be caused by the results of this kind of action.

As for lasers, the kinks in laser weapons are still being worked out. There is a reason the Strategic Defense Initiative never worked.

The Space Force is getting this weapon because it does exactly what the Space Force is supposed to be doing according to its mission. This includes providing support for the other branches, when that support involves space. Stopping satellite communications to and from enemy units fits the bill.

Does anybody else have this capability?

The Russians, who had an independent Space Force on two separate occasions, have a similar weapon called the "Tirada-2S" However, as is standard for Russia, details are lacking. The Chinese are also working on a similar device.

With the transfer of the CCS to the Space Force, it now takes on offensive capabilities. While it may not be as flashy as Ion Cannons, Strategic Defense Initiatives, or Death Stars, the ability to jam a communications satellite will undoubtedly prove vital in future combat operations.

Hulu's original movie "Palm Springs" is the comedy we needed this summer

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.

Gear
  • Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
  • As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
  • The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
Keep reading Show less

Two MIT students just solved Richard Feynman’s famed physics puzzle

Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.

Surprising Science

Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.

Keep reading Show less

Our ‘little brain’ turns out to be pretty big

The multifaceted cerebellum is large — it's just tightly folded.

Image source: Sereno, et al
Mind & Brain
  • A powerful MRI combined with modeling software results in a totally new view of the human cerebellum.
  • The so-called 'little brain' is nearly 80% the size of the cerebral cortex when it's unfolded.
  • This part of the brain is associated with a lot of things, and a new virtual map is suitably chaotic and complex.

Just under our brain's cortex and close to our brain stem sits the cerebellum, also known as the "little brain." It's an organ many animals have, and we're still learning what it does in humans. It's long been thought to be involved in sensory input and motor control, but recent studies suggests it also plays a role in a lot of other things, including emotion, thought, and pain. After all, about half of the brain's neurons reside there. But it's so small. Except it's not, according to a new study from San Diego State University (SDSU) published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

A neural crêpe

A new imaging study led by psychology professor and cognitive neuroscientist Martin Sereno of the SDSU MRI Imaging Center reveals that the cerebellum is actually an intricately folded organ that has a surface area equal in size to 78 percent of the cerebral cortex. Sereno, a pioneer in MRI brain imaging, collaborated with other experts from the U.K., Canada, and the Netherlands.

So what does it look like? Unfolded, the cerebellum is reminiscent of a crêpe, according to Sereno, about four inches wide and three feet long.

The team didn't physically unfold a cerebellum in their research. Instead, they worked with brain scans from a 9.4 Tesla MRI machine, and virtually unfolded and mapped the organ. Custom software was developed for the project, based on the open-source FreeSurfer app developed by Sereno and others. Their model allowed the scientists to unpack the virtual cerebellum down to each individual fold, or "folia."

Study's cross-sections of a folded cerebellum

Image source: Sereno, et al.

A complicated map

Sereno tells SDSU NewsCenter that "Until now we only had crude models of what it looked like. We now have a complete map or surface representation of the cerebellum, much like cities, counties, and states."

That map is a bit surprising, too, in that regions associated with different functions are scattered across the organ in peculiar ways, unlike the cortex where it's all pretty orderly. "You get a little chunk of the lip, next to a chunk of the shoulder or face, like jumbled puzzle pieces," says Sereno. This may have to do with the fact that when the cerebellum is folded, its elements line up differently than they do when the organ is unfolded.

It seems the folded structure of the cerebellum is a configuration that facilitates access to information coming from places all over the body. Sereno says, "Now that we have the first high resolution base map of the human cerebellum, there are many possibilities for researchers to start filling in what is certain to be a complex quilt of inputs, from many different parts of the cerebral cortex in more detail than ever before."

This makes sense if the cerebellum is involved in highly complex, advanced cognitive functions, such as handling language or performing abstract reasoning as scientists suspect. "When you think of the cognition required to write a scientific paper or explain a concept," says Sereno, "you have to pull in information from many different sources. And that's just how the cerebellum is set up."

Bigger and bigger

The study also suggests that the large size of their virtual human cerebellum is likely to be related to the sheer number of tasks with which the organ is involved in the complex human brain. The macaque cerebellum that the team analyzed, for example, amounts to just 30 percent the size of the animal's cortex.

"The fact that [the cerebellum] has such a large surface area speaks to the evolution of distinctively human behaviors and cognition," says Sereno. "It has expanded so much that the folding patterns are very complex."

As the study says, "Rather than coordinating sensory signals to execute expert physical movements, parts of the cerebellum may have been extended in humans to help coordinate fictive 'conceptual movements,' such as rapidly mentally rearranging a movement plan — or, in the fullness of time, perhaps even a mathematical equation."

Sereno concludes, "The 'little brain' is quite the jack of all trades. Mapping the cerebellum will be an interesting new frontier for the next decade."

Economists show how welfare programs can turn a "profit"

What happens if we consider welfare programs as investments?

A homeless man faces Wall Street

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A recently published study suggests that some welfare programs more than pay for themselves.
  • It is one of the first major reviews of welfare programs to measure so many by a single metric.
  • The findings will likely inform future welfare reform and encourage debate on how to grade success.
Keep reading Show less
Videos

Unhappy at work? How to find meaning and maintain your mental health

Finding a balance between job satisfaction, money, and lifestyle is not easy.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast