Essay by Eric Worrall
Chinese activity on the Moon may have prompted renewed NASA interest in establishing a permanent foothold on our nearest neighbour.
US Space Force unit to monitor region beyond Earth’s geosynchronous orbit
Team America: Solar System Police
Katyanna Quach Sat 23 Apr 2022 // 00:12 UTC
The US Space Force has created a unit, the 19th Space Defense Squadron, to monitor activity in the region beyond Earth’s geosynchronous orbit, all the way out to the Moon and yonder.
Commander of the 18th SDS, Lt. Col. Matt Lintker, confirmed the launch of the task force during a panel discussion at the intelligence and defense-focused C4ISRNet conference held virtually this week.
Lintker said the 19th SDS will be in charge of monitoring the area of space further out than our planet’s geosynchronous equatorial orbit, a region officials called “xGEO” space. Space Force is mostly concerned with the operation and defense of its satellites for communications and navigation purposes, but it also keeps an eye on space for any military activity from foreign adversaries and also tracks space junk that could cause a risk to American interests.
Space Force also works closely with NASA, providing airspace security, search and rescue capabilities for the International Space Station crew, and more. In return, NASA conducts scientific research on behalf of the military. As NASA hopes to team up with private corporations to colonize the Moon, Space Force also needs to expand its remit further out into cislunar space to support future missions and capabilities.
…Read more: https://www.theregister.com/2022/04/23/space_force_geox/
Chemical rockets are inadequate for establishing a permanent base, they simply don’t have the lifting power to transport large amounts of material to the lunar surface. Nuclear rockets, both nuclear thermal and the more powerful one they don’t talk about, are far more capable.
Last year, NASA announced the development of a nuclear thermal rocket, a reusable launcher far more powerful than a chemical rocket. The USA ground tested a nuclear rocket in the 1970s, which was intended to service a permanent US moon base, but the US nuclear rocket was never launched, and the programme was abandoned.
Russia has been developing nuclear thermal rockets and nuclear powered cruise missiles for at least the last decade, based on an old Soviet programme. While the main focus of today’s programme appears to be on the nuclear powered cruise missile, the technology for a nuclear powered cruise missile and nuclear powered rocket, at least in terms of reactor design, are likely very similar.
Why is NASA and Space Force showing a sudden interest in moon bases, nuclear rockets, and deep space missions?
This is speculative, but given China is starting to show a serious interest in the moon, if Russia supplies the launchers, China could potentially use Russian nuclear launch technology to establish a permanent base on the moon with very little warning. This possibility may be prompting the US government to develop the capability to move quickly, should the need arise.
Update (EW): Nuclear thermal rockets are old technology, there is no doubt they work. The picture below is a US nuclear thermal rocket ground test in 1967.