back to article Satellites with lasers and machine guns coming! China's new plans? Trump's Space Force? Nope, the French

France is threatening to stick submachine guns on its next generation of satellites as part of an "active space defense" strategy that would enable it to shoot down other space hardware. That demented idea is part of a broader review of the country's approach to space that has absolutely nothing to do with President Donald …

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  1. Haku

    Real Genius (1985)

    Operation Crossbow is all I could think of when I read they wanted to put laser weapons in space.

    Altogether now: ♫ Everybody wants to rule the world... ♫ (extended version)

    1. Mongrel

      Re: Real Genius (1985)

      "Operation Crossbow is all I could think of when I read they wanted to put laser weapons in space."

      I went to Iron Sky

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Real Genius (1985)

      For the machine guns in space I guess someone's been watching Battlestar Galactica or The Expanse.

      If it's in The Expanse it's probably doable in real life some day, the question is if we would want to... And the answer is no, because if it were used Earth would be locked in a cage of shrapnel.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Real Genius (1985)

        A cage of shrapnel will help us fend off any alien invasion. Go Space Wars!

        1. Allan George Dyer
          Coat

          Re: Real Genius (1985)

          @AC - "A cage of shrapnel will help us fend off any alien invasion. Go Space Wars!"

          But then they just nuke us from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Unhappy

      Re: Real Genius (1985)

      I thought of the Star Wars Peace Platform from the original Robocop, but there are no video clips of that fake news story seen in the movie. :(

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Real Genius (1985)

        There you go.

        Looks like real news from where I'm sitting 32 years later.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Real Genius (1985)

          "Looks like real news from where I'm sitting 32 years later."

          The scariest thing about that clip is that it could have been broadcast just yesterday as part of a real news programme and no one would have thought it was a 30 year old clip. The newsreaders still fit the look and presenting style, ie cookie cutter presenters.

    4. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: Real Genius (1985)

      You can even get a patch for that.

    5. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Real Genius (1985)

      All you need are lasers mounted on Low Orbit Great White SpaceSharks. Kindly substitute Space Seabass (Angry) for the poverty-stricken British.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Real Genius (1985)

        Mutant space goats for Britain.

        Make Britain bleat again!

    6. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Real Genius (1985)

      none of these replies are Real Genius related!

      what a film!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well

    If direct war breaks out involving two or more spacefaring countries against each other, you better not plan to depend on satellites for your TV or other telecommunications needs, because orbit is quickly going to be full of far too much shrapnel to track once the 'first strike' happens.

    Maybe that's Fermi's "Great Filter", civilizations do something stupid and are unable to reliably launch anything off their planet ever again so they see no point in trying to communicate with anyone else.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well

      Diminishing returns. May also apply to the required knowledge and industrial focus for building a interstellar transportation.

      That, and we could be the first. We certainly are early at messing it all up, so perhaps it will be everyone else to learn from us?

    2. not.known@this.address Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Well

      Surely all you need to do is launch a few large magnets and let attraction take its course... Over time, all the magnetic junk will be caught by the magnets and then the coalescing balls of junk will sweep up everything in their paths - as they get bigger, they sweep up more junk. Problem solved! :-)

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Well

        If only Willie Coyote physics worked in the real world

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: Oh Well*

          If only Willie Coyote physics worked in the real world .... Yet Another Anonymous coward

          How very odd 0ne would not Believe IT to be easily so. ....... and with all of these new-fangled entangling tools and exciting programs streaming ....... well, Future Instruction Sets which be Virtually Free Online for Protocol Command and Control Advancement Testing/Stealthy Firing ......for Simply Complex Range Finding Purpose.

          One wouldn't want to be bedevilled and bewildered, bedazzled and bewitched in the draughty halls of delusion whenever the real chambers of delight are so heavenly a confection/desire/satisfaction/temptation

          :-) And that all simply says is the above be demonstrably true .... and readily available for Future AI Testing with the Best of ALTuring Type Applications which Never Forget the Insatiable Pleasures Presented for Delivery. .... and they be for All to Enjoy and Employ ...... with Immaculate Desire to Satisfy Exhaustively and to Heavenly XSS. :-)

          * ... Oh Well

        2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: Well

          If only Willie Coyote physics worked in the real world

          Get the debris to look down, at which point it would plummet earthwards.

        3. Ugotta B. Kiddingme
      2. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

        Re: Well

        Don't call me Shirley

    3. Persona Silver badge

      Re: Well

      A clean way to take out a satellite would be to deploy a spinning disk of black mylar coated with a gecko type adhesive. By positioning it in an orbit that will intersect the satellite with a smallish relative velocity of about 100mph its tiny mass would mean the impact would cause no debris but it would envelope and disable the satellite,

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Well

        100 mph would definitely cause a lot of debris. You don't think if you flung a piece of mylar at a solar panel it wouldn't break? Satellites are extremely flimsy, because every pound is precious. It would be very easy to break off pieces with even a 10 mph relative speed, let alone 100.

        1. Persona Silver badge

          Re: Well

          A 20m radius disk of 5 micron mylar weighs less than 10 grams

          Even at 100mph the impact energy is only 6 joules and spread over all the satellite.

          To put that energy in context, take a nice rubber band that will stretch fully to about 200mm. That's about 2J of stored energy. Alternatively if you twist it about 100 times you will have over 7J stored.

      2. Schultz
        Stop

        ...deploy a spinning disk of black mylar...

        So how will you depose of the resulting mylar-wrapped space-debris? And don't tell me that the garbage truck can pick up, because I don't want that junk in a spacefill near my planet!

    4. SonOfDilbert
      Thumb Up

      Re: Well

      > ... because orbit is quickly going to be full of far too much shrapnel to track once the 'first strike' happens

      I have one word for you: Space Magnet.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Well

        "I have one word for you: Space Magnet."

        Balls! No, really. Space Balls. ie, This!

  3. Diogenes

    I wonder how they will overcome Newtons 3rd Law

    ♫ 'When I was a young man I carried a gun* & used to play wars with the ARes" ♫ (to tune of Bogle's 'the band played waltzing matilda')

    *defined as an M60 GPMG - the recoil on that was quite savage. Could image the satellite being nudged out of orbit by the recoil.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Twanky

        Re: I wonder how they will overcome Newtons 3rd Law

        More bazooka than machine gun, I guess.

      2. PerlyKing Silver badge

        Re: reckless

        Was that intended to be "recoilless"? Although "reckless" fits too....

        1. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

          Re: reckless

          Damned spellchucker.

    2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: I wonder how they will overcome Newtons 3rd Law

      Simples - every gun has an equal and opposite gun that fires at the same time!

      (Hopefully this post will go up without the mad spell-correct that seems to be going on in this thread)

    3. Tikimon

      Don't shoot them, Tackle them

      Any sort of space weapon system will require certain things. Assuming it's not being controlled from the ground, it will need a way to locate and track a target. It will need propulsion and maneuvering capability. And really, that's all you need. Instead of shooting or ramming the target into shrapnel, match speeds and grab it in a space tackle. Then fire the drive to push the intact target out of orbit, and/or set it spinning. Various ways to grab on, testing would find the best way.

      Someone with a better grasp of orbital mechanics than me can address this, but I don't believe it takes too much to deorbit a satellite. They only have so much maneuvering fuel, and a second Tackle can be sent if needed. It's tough for most satellites to do much useful work with a 30 RPM (unplanned) rotation, and again only so much fuel for the cursing ground controllers to resist it. Once the target is sufficiently out of control and not being boosted now and then, it might drop into the atmosphere on its own.

      Relatively simple, inexpensive, effective, and no extra space junk created. Could work.

      1. Poncey McPonceface

        Re: Don't shoot them, Tackle them

        If your front doorbell starts a-ringing this evening and you're not expecting anyone I suggest leaving the place by the back door assuming you have one otherwise hide under your bed.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Don't shoot them, Tackle them

        "Relatively simple, inexpensive, effective, and no extra space junk created. Could work."

        Don't forget, we are talking about the military mind here, not engineers and scientists. Shooting it is the first option.

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: I wonder how they will overcome Newtons 3rd Law

      I have a mental image of Snoopy on his space capable doghouse having at go at the "evil" satellites. Twin Vickers for the win.

    5. teknopaul Silver badge

      Re: I wonder how they will overcome Newtons 3rd Law

      Fire first

  4. Hstubbe

    Humanity is so utterly stupid, I can't wait for us to extinguish our race once and for all by idiocy like this. We don't deserve this planet.

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      At which point you'll be able to stand there and say "I told you so!"

    2. Ken 16

      Speaking as one of the morons who lives on the planet and is in the human race, I'm going to disagree with you.

    3. Poncey McPonceface

      Hey, don't lump the rest of us in with those cheese eating surrender monkeys!

      1. teknopaul Silver badge

        How can you down vote "cheese eating surrender monkeys".

        Did you not try googling "French military Victories" and hitting "I Feel Lucky". (Back in the day)

      2. CrazyOldCatMan

        those cheese eating surrender monkeys

        You mean those people without whose help the American Rebellion wouldn't have succeeded? The people who had a consitutional document that was largle copied to create the US Constitution (with some assistance from Adam Smith).

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Heck you sound the sort that XR would love as an "arrestable"

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    France... don’t be stupid.

    Let other countries blow billions putting lasers on sharks, satellites, etc.

    Might as well build a giant laser on the moon (that can be repurposed) and say it’s for asteroid deflection... that way you can just look eccentric, rather than an ass.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: France... don’t be stupid.

      Let other countries blow billions putting lasers on sharks, satellites, etc.

      No! Mr President, we cannot allow them to open up a mineshaft shark gap

    2. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: France... don’t be stupid.

      I assume France is also launching a shark to attach to the satellites and control the frikkin' laser beams.

  6. vtcodger Silver badge

    Anti-Satellite isn't that hard

    I don't know (and couldn't talk about it if I did), but my bet is that the major powers -- the US, China, Russia -- have long had the hardware in place to disable the other major power's surveillance and military communications satellites in the event of serious conflict. On paper at least disabling that stuff is not difficult. Satellite orbits are well known within a day or two of launch and they are not very maneuverable. They make supertankers look agile. Taking advantage of the satellite's orbital velocity, it is not difficult (on paper) to hit them with a spread of "buckshot" traveling at speeds on the order of 50000 km/h. That's maybe 5 times the speed of a very high velocity armor piercing round. Even grain of sand sized particles would likely punch serious holes in the lightly built targets. It may, BTW, be easier to disable satellites with a ground based system than a space based one. Trust me on this. This has surely all been thought through by the military of every country with even a token space launch capability.

    1. Twanky
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Anti-Satellite isn't that hard

      This is what worries me most about various 'rogue' states' space/missile programs. If they want to level the playing field and deny their enemies the advantage of space-based surveillance and communications, they don't have to achieve the capability of stable orbits themselves. They just need to throw some debris across the paths of a few satellites and start the cascade.

      (icon: How can you hear that they are black helicopters?)

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Anti-Satellite isn't that hard

        "Cascade is putting it a bit strongly, I'd say. Sure they would make low earth orbit a substantially more dangerous place, but if you're just hitting a couple of satellites and then waiting for debris to take care of the rest - we'll, that's likely to be a long wait.

        Decades. Long enough for your movement and its cause to be long forgotten. So the strategic value is pretty much zip.

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