In a fantastic piece posted over at there appears to be an emerging capability that may allow key defense surveillance and communications satellites to be outfitted with a robust countermeasure against anti-satellite weaponry. Like heat seeking missiles on aircraft, anti-satellite missiles are also dominantly guided by high-end infra-red seekers. Because space is a vacuum, instead of traditional flares or BOL-IR type of expendables commonly used on combat aircraft to repel heat seeking missile attacks, this system would use “Quantum Dots,” something I had never heard of before reading this piece. You can read about Quantum Dots here-

What is so exciting about this technology is that it could be deployed on satellites already in orbit via rendezvousing a micro satellite equipped with the ability to dispense Quantum Dots nearby. These guardian-like micro-satellites would leverage America’s robust ballistic missile early warning network for command and control. Such a decoy system truly appears to be a fascinating new possibility that would give US defense satellites, which are so key to winning on today’s “net-centric” battlefield, an actual line of defense against anti-satellite attacks. Who knows, maybe the USAF’s X-37B, currently in orbit for months on end, is deploying such devices as we speak, or is acting as the test vehicle to prove such a capability before fielding it on a larger scale. Commanders and war-planners know that China is very aware of our dependency of satellites to prosecute our modern form of warfare, surely a satellite defense capability like this would be absolutely invaluable, regardless of it’s cost.

I do have one question that maybe one of my bright readers can answer for me, if anti-satellite weaponry will most likely use infra-red guidance, than why not equip American defense satellites with a laser based Directional Infra-Red Counter-Measure (DIRCM) type of system similar to those fielded on hundreds of DoD transports and helicopters including Air Force One???


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  1. Will says:

    Putting an IR laser on a satellite is problematic for many reasons. Firstly, the power consumption when engaging a target would be too large for solar panels, so much larger ones would need to be fitted to new satellites. The only other option would be a radioisotope thermoelectric generator, but the public doesn’t care for those so having whole constellations over their heads might not be the best idea (even though they’re highly survivable). Current DIRCM systems also draw significant amounts of power on stand-by mode as well(, so a constant supply of energy is necessary. Larger solar panels make the whole target larger, and all it takes is a glancing blow to reduce the satellites power generation capacity, or worse, put it into a tumble that cannot be corrected.

    Unfortunately, even if the power consumption problems are reduced to manageable levels, the hardware just isn’t ready for space. Protecting circuitry from solar radiation is a huge problem, especially with vehicles that orbit far from Earth such as the highly elliptical orbits of spy satellites. Historically, microprocessors designed for space have lagged 5 to 10 years behind those intended for terrestrial use. The lenses used to focus the IR light need to contend with large temperature differentials, and even materials such as plastic cannot survive vacuum as they tend to dehydrate and become brittle. Unfortunately there is no off-the-shelf option here.

    • says:

      FANTASTIC explanation! Thank you Will! Yes that all makes very good sense. Expendables are the only real option it would seem.

  2. Pingback: NEWS ROUNDUP!: JUNE 4th, 2012 | aviationintel

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