Defending the Spaceways

Interplanetary military ships like Adam Burch so amazingly draws may be possible but what will they actually do? You may thing that with the vast resources of the Solar System there should be no need of military efforts, that we could all happily live together exploiting space resources for the benefits of all. Well, I think we need to realize there are strategic areas and in space who ever controls them will be able to control the security of any Solar civilization . Dennis has written about the military potential of the Moon, as the character said in the classic Science Fiction movie Destination Moon, “Who controls the Moon controls the Earth” but there are other strategic areas.

It has been long known that two orbiting bodies have five points of gravitational equilibrium, the Lagrange points. A third body can settle at that gravity point, two of those points are stable the other three semi-stable.. The Lunar-Earth stable points L5 and L4 have long been proposed as sites for space colonies. NASA and others have proposed a gateway station at L1 which also seems a good place to anchor a space elevator.

These gravitational points are not just theory either, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe is already in orbit around the Sun–Earth L2 which will also station the James Webb Space Telescope.

However not only are Lagrange points useful for their location they are also important for transportation. A spacecraft can spiral out of the liberation point with very little energy expediture Whats more some of these trajectories are linked leading to what has been called the Interplanetary Super Highway. Again spacecraft have already proved the utility of the theory, the Genesis spacecraft used the ISW to return to Earth. These spaceways provide the least energy expensive to travel the Solar System but at the cost of being the slowest way to do so. Because of this the highway is of no direct use for crewed missions but would be very useful for cargo vehicles. It may be possible to use them to build up refueling depots at Lagrange points throughout the Solar System.

Some of those points are not just vacuum either. Several planets have collected asteroids there too. The Trojan asteroids orbit at the stable L5/ L4 points, Mars has two while Jupiter has lots more.

In my view the Lagrange points will be of considerable strategic interest to future space powers. Think of them as coaling stations and transportation hubs in the ocean of Space. I expect Spaceships will need patrol them to ensure their security.

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Note: Lt Col G.W. Rinehert article Toward Space War in the Winter 2005 issue of the USAF Space Command’s High Frontier has a lot more .

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