Virtual Idea Lab

Research Papers > Climate Change

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    Environmental Changes and National Security Space Programs

    (Click on title to download pdf) Concerns regarding the strategic impacts of environmental change will soon begin to affect space system requirements and budget priorities. Various climate impacts are projected globally in this century. The predicted impacts of these global changes are already becoming hard to ignore, and the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as well as numerous other organizations have identified specific regions and phenomena of significant concern. The focus of this research project is to better understand the impacts of changing climate scenarios on national security issues and requirements, and to explore new mission needs that are arising as a result of changing military priorities, missions, and technologies. Our approach is to cross-reference climate change threats with vulnerable geographic regions, then match existing space-based assets with potentially useful capabilities in suitable orbits (e.g., polar, low-inclination, or geosynchronous) to each regional threat pairing. Several examples of vulnerable regions and threats are: melting ice/opening seas in the Arctic; sea level rise near worldwide coastal military bases and launch facilities; severe storms and flooding in the Gulf Coast and Mississippi River Valley regions. This task will help us determine where there are gaps in capabilities, leading to recommendations for future missions.
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    Feasibility of Space-Based Monitoring of Solar Radiation Management Activities

    (Click on title to download pdf) Substantive research has begun into proposed schemes to synthetically increase the earth’s albedo as a potential improvised measure to mitigate impacts of global warming if emission reductions are not sufficient or if the climate response is more extreme than anticipated. The authors of this paper do not take a position on whether Solar Radiation Management (SRM) should be used as a strategy to respond to climate change. However, future international agreements regarding development, testing, and implementation of SRM schemes will not be enforceable without effective means of monitoring and verification, especially since the relatively low cost of injecting reflective particles such as sulfur into the upper atmosphere will allow individual nations - perhaps even private corporations or other groups - to experiment on their own. This paper discusses monitoring requirements and the feasibility of space-based remote-sensing systems for detecting and monitoring particle injection into the upper atmosphere. Our preliminary findings suggest that detecting clandestine unilateral small-scale precursor particle-injection with satellite instruments may not be practical. This conclusion suggests that future treaty negotiations will need to consider alternative means of monitoring such activities.
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    Future Space System Support to U.S. Military Operations in an Ice-Free Arctic

    (Click on title to download pdf) Significant increases in shipping traffic and resource exploration/exploitation activities are occurring in the Arctic region. The U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and other military services have begun to plan for increased operations in the region, which could start ramping up as early as about 2013 if recent climate model predictions for Arctic melting prove accurate. The polar region is a very different arena for space system operations compared to lower latitudes, and supporting increased U.S. military activities in the Arctic may require new satellite systems and user terminals. U.S. weather, navigation and surveillance satellites in polar orbits already cover the Arctic region, but current military satellite communications capabilities in the region are quite limited and existing passive satellite imagery (for ice monitoring and other types of surveillance) is hampered by persistent cloud cover and seasonal darkness. Given the high costs and long lead times (up to 10 years or more) to develop new space systems, the U.S. military could face a shortage of communications and possibly other space-based support capabilities during a period when nations are intensely jockeying for influence and resource claims in the region. Canada and Russia are developing new satellite programs to support their countries’ increased Arctic activities. The potential need for new space-based support capabilities in the Arctic region is certainly well within the U.S. military’s current planning horizon. This paper focuses on the military’s future requirements and options for broadband satellite communications in the Arctic region. Getting a head start on defining the requirements analysis and procurement options will help to expedite the space-system acquisition process when, perhaps in the very near future, the timeline for Arctic melting and increased military activities in the region becomes better established.