And the first sci-fi weapon the Space Force gets is....a device to scramble communications?
- 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.
I was expecting a laser of some kind, what is this?<p>The <a href="https://www.peterson.af.mil/News/Article/2071832/21st-space-wing-squadron-poised-to-receive-first-space-force-weapon-system/" target="_blank">Counter Communications System Block 10.2</a>, 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 <a href="https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/32570/space-force-just-received-its-first-new-offensive-weapon" target="_blank">off</a>. </p><p>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. </p>
How does it work?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="d0hzsazZ" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="91415045074d263a4b3b97efbd156951"> <div id="botr_d0hzsazZ_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/d0hzsazZ-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/d0hzsazZ-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/d0hzsazZ-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>We don't have the exact details of how it works—however, Maj. Seth Horner <a href="https://www.peterson.af.mil/News/Article/2071832/21st-space-wing-squadron-poised-to-receive-first-space-force-weapon-system/" target="_blank">explained</a> 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."<br></p><p><a href="https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/a31703515/space-force-first-weapon/" target="_blank">Popular Mechanics</a> also found a technical <a href="https://swfound.org/media/206408/swf_global_counterspace_april2019_web.pdf" target="_blank">source </a>which speculates on the potential specifications of CCS:<br></p><p>"...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."</p>
A recent tweet shows what the jammer looks like<div id="e1c98" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="be82fc3d52bb42fdc39d7fb2eed21fb6"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1237879900867940353" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">SMC’s CCS B10.2 is putting the “Force” in Space Force reaching IOC, Monday, March 9th, marking the first offensive… https://t.co/zaRN9h2pKi</div> — SMC (@SMC)<a href="https://twitter.com/AF_SMC/statuses/1237879900867940353">1583968541.0</a></blockquote></div>
Why is the Space Force getting this, if the Air Force already had it?<p>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. </p><p> 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. <br> <br> As for lasers, the kinks in laser weapons are still being worked out. There is a reason the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_Defense_Initiative" target="_blank">Strategic Defense Initiative</a> never worked. </p><p>The Space Force is getting this weapon because it does exactly what the Space Force is supposed to be doing according to its <a href="https://velosteam.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Space-Force-Report.pdf" target="_blank">mission</a>. This includes providing support for the other branches, when that support involves space. Stopping satellite communications to and from enemy units fits the bill. </p>
Does anybody else have this capability?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="vydnUMSy" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="3bc6ae3dc422f5acdfaef6aee5d6a08d"> <div id="botr_vydnUMSy_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/vydnUMSy-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/vydnUMSy-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/vydnUMSy-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The Russians, who had an independent Space Force on two separate <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Space_Forces" target="_blank">occasions</a>, 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 <a href="https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/a31703515/space-force-first-weapon/" target="_blank">device</a>.</p><p>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. <br> <br></p>
It turns out light can not only be twisted, but at different speeds.
- An unsuspected property of light, called "self-torque," had just been discovered.
- The discovery will allow scientists to control the behavior of light in a new way.
- The potential applications are still being worked out, but look very exciting.
First, the history of orbital angular momentum<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTY0MjUwOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjE3OTQzOH0.sysab1kwPtdLP-AqRdWw__tg-I_Dy9i3U9QStZk9OE8/img.jpg?width=980" id="30a93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5300d6a0ce7ca74e78e21cafe4c20455" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Orbital angular momentum in a light beam and a particle within it. Image source: E-karimi / Wikimedia Commons<p>Twisted light beams have to do with a property called "orbital angular momentum" (OAM). It's a subset of angular momentum. Imagine an object attached to a string swinging round and around a pole to which the string is connected — the force with which it goes around the pole is its angular momentum. Technically, it's calculated in the other direction, if you will: It's the measurement of the amount of force it would take to stop the object from circling the pole.</p><p>In 1932, scientists realized that a perpendicular cross-section of a light wave revealed oscillating mini-waves within it. While typically these mini-waves oscillate together, that's not always the case. In some light beams, researchers found mini-waves out of phase with each other and rotating around the larger beam's center. A particle hit by such a beam of light will orbit that center like a planet orbiting a star. Hence "orbital angle momentum." At the time, these weird light waves were considered to be organically produced by oddly behaving electrons spinning around nuclei.</p><p>In the 1970s, lasers allowed the creation of "vortex beams," with "vortex" here meaning a hole in the middle of a light beam. Now we know that it's not really a hole, but rather an area where out-of-phase mini-waves overlap and cancel each other out as they spin around the center of a beam. Though it wasn't realized at the time, what the scientists were seeing was a manifestation of OAM.</p><p>In 1991, physicist Robert Spreeuw in Han Woerdman's lab at Leiden University in the Netherlands began dreaming up ways to deliberately create light beams with OAM. He presented his ideas to his team during a coffee break. "The first reactions were a bit skeptical," Spreeuw <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5984548/" target="_blank">says</a>. "But we kept thinking about it and, bit by bit, it started to look more realistic."</p><p>In 1992, Woerdman, working with colleague Les Allen, successfully twisted light and demonstrated how a photon within it would share the beam's OAM. In 1993, they published their technique of sending a light beam through a lens shaped like a seashell to produce twisted light.</p><p>In such a beam, mini-waves rotate around the center of the beam as a <a href="https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/helix" target="_blank">helix</a>. If you shine the beam onto a table, or make a perpendicular cross-section, it looks like a donut: Light around a seemingly empty center.</p><p>Since then, twisted light beams have proven extremely useful as optical tweezers with which microscopic particles can be captured and manipulated. In the area of communications, they've enabled higher data rates by allowing the manipulation of light characteristics such as color, intensity, and polarization. They also may make possible finer-grained medical diagnostic tools, the stimulation of atoms and molecules into exotic states, and controllers for micro- and non-scale machinery.</p>