It’s being called “The Most Valuable Real Estate in Space” and the Pentagon is working hard to protect it. Military officials are spending billions of dollars on ways to shield sensitive satellites from potential enemies in space.
This isn’t your typical real estate story, but it’s one that could have an umbrella effect on any real estate you own in this world. And the technology you use to conduct business.
According to a recent report by the Center for New American Society, a Chinese missile launch three years ago served as a wake-up call. The missile flew more than 18,000 miles into space and was just short of reaching the 22,000-mile altitude of sensitive U.S. military satellites. Satellites in this outermost orbit contribute to critical missile warning and communication systems.
The military is highly dependent on these satellites and others, including the well-known GPS system for civilian and military purposes. Those satellites orbit much closer to earth making them even more vulnerable to the growing possibility of a conflict in space. China knocked one of those satellites out of the sky in 2007.
One reason the satellites are so vulnerable is an idea, decades ago, that these high-flying satellites were safely out of reach of enemy missiles. That may have been true when the satellites were first launched, but it’s no longer true today.
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work says that, “We have considered space a sanctuary for quite some time. And therefore a lot of our systems are big, expensive, enormously capable, but enormously vulnerable.”
And what’s more disturbing – military officials say that as the U.S. focuses most of its attention on the fight against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russia and China have been working on ways to attack the United States in space.
A Washington Post article offered an interesting hypothetical scenario. It starts with a Chinese fighter jet accidentally crashing into a Navy surveillance plane. Or it could be an intentional attack on a Navy surveillance plane. For fear of retaliation by the U.S., the Chinese military quickly shoots down several U.S. satellites. That cripples Navy activity in the Pacific and makes it difficult or impossible for the Navy to fight back.
The U.S. military relies heavily on satellites for navigation, location and communication services. Commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command, John Hyten said during a broadcast interview that, “we can attack any target on the planet, anytime, anywhere, in any weather” but only with the help of those satellites.
Circling at a lower orbit than the outermost satellites is the Global Positioning System for both military and civilian use. It’s made up of 24 satellites that fly at an altitude of about 12 miles. They are positioned in such a way that you would have at least four of them in your line of sight at any time, if you could actually see them, from virtually any place on earth. The Air Force is committed to keeping 24 satellites at least 95% operational at all times so it has a total of 31 satellites deployed, including some that are apparently “back-ups”.
The Center for New American Security published its report in January on the threat of space warfare, in particular with Russia and China. It says that the U.S. military has enjoyed a “space advantage” for a long time. But it says that advantage is diminishing along with the idea of a space sanctuary. In fact, the report says the threat to U.S. assets in space will become the biggest threat to the U.S. military by 2025.
The report calls for a big shift in strategy. After so many years of building up U.S. satellite systems, Defense Secretary Ash Carter says the U.S. needs to reduce it’s dependency on satellites. That will help the military remain operational in the event of a satellite attack.
The Pentagon has reportedly done a number of internal reviews on how to proceed. Ideas include the use of smaller, more resilient satellites that might be deployed in swarms and are resistant to electronic jamming. A new radar system or “space fence” might also be needed to track objects in space. The U.S. has already deployed two space surveillance satellites at the outermost orbit level.
The Pentagon is spending about $2 billion dollars this year on space-control measures. The CNAS report says the Department of Defense could invest as much as $8 billion over the next five years.
You can appreciate the difficulty of the threat the Pentagon is facing when you think about your own dependency on GPS. I personally don’t have maps in my car any more and haven’t for years, because the GPS in my car and on my phone have replaced the need for paper.
GPS has also become an essential tool for the real estate industry. Sellers can list homes on GPS-based apps. Buyers can search for homes on these apps and get turn-by-turn directions when they want to check out properties. GPS saves time when it comes to any kind of information that involves location. And of course, “location” is king in a real estate transaction.
Of course, if GPS was knocked out, finding a home would likely be at the bottom of our list of concerns. The bigger concern, of course, would be the subsequent alien invasion. Just kidding. Just thought I’d throw a little humor in…
Let’s end this story on a positive note… The U.S. always leads the way in technological advances and will find a solution. Maybe we’ve simply outgrown satellites.
And since Hillary Clinton has committed to opening up the files on the mysterious Area 51 and exposing as much as possible of what is hidden there in regards to aliens – maybe we’ll discover some new advanced communication technologies from our friends on Mars and beyond.
The National Association of Realtors has a page on its website called “Field Guide to Using GPS Navigation Systems in Real Estate”. You can also find out more about the U.S. Global Positioning System at a GPS.gov.