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I'm currently in a nation roleplay and some nations are now looking towards the stars to expand their reach and power. We are all using modern technology mixed in with near future technology (30 to 40 years in the future) and was wondering how feasible it would be to create some sort of defensive dome (not like an actual solid dome) around the earth that could block/destroy any rockets that try and reach for space.

I want to create the dome because we are still waiting to establish a new DM for the roleplay and one guy just went ahead and said he doesn't care, he's going to space whether we like it or not, so I'm kind of annoyed and just want see what I can do to stop him. I still want to stay within the realm of possibility however.

Outside of the realm of roleplay, I just thought it was an interesting question that could also be used for people that would want to apply this to the real world, so you can just use real nations as the basis of whether or not it's possible.

In case it is needed, my nation is not the best in anything (although I do have a thriving agriculture sector), but my technology, manufacturing, and education is better than his according to stats. My economy is also more powerful.

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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps this merits a question on Role-Playing SE, specifically regarding the conflict(?) you're having with the player who wants to disregard the absence of a proper DM. $\endgroup$ – Alex Clough Aug 3 '16 at 1:56
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexClough Perhaps, but I thought that it could still fit here by using only real nations and could help others that may want to determine the feasibility of creating an anti space rocket defense system. $\endgroup$ – Devin Aug 3 '16 at 1:59
  • $\begingroup$ I'm too much of a newbie to determine if this off-topic so I'll go ahead and answer it :) $\endgroup$ – Alex Clough Aug 3 '16 at 2:01
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    $\begingroup$ I feel that this should be on-topic, but definitely check out RPG SE if the conclusion to your reality-check is negative. $\endgroup$ – ApproachingDarknessFish Aug 3 '16 at 2:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Devin I remember playing NationStates years ago, wasn't sure it was still a thing! I'll take a look :) $\endgroup$ – James Monger Aug 4 '16 at 13:23
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Space Debris presents a serious risk to anything in orbit. Normally, responsible space-agencies try to minimise the amount they produce, but if you wanted to make going into space difficult, you could launch a bunch of rockets filled with ball-bearings or something similar, and and release them into high-speed orbits. You can have this be a temporary obstacle by putting them in orbits that would degrade after a chosen period of time, whereupon they would burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere.

This wouldn't make it impossible, but getting into space is already hard; the likelihood of your spacecraft being hit by a cloud of projectiles travelling at tens of thousands of km/h makes it significantly harder.

This approach won't really work if you already have satellites in orbit, unless you're willing to sacrifice them to the cause - however, you'd then run the risk of Kessler Syndrome, which could make it impossible for the people of your planet to go into space for generations.

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    $\begingroup$ The problem with "high speed orbit" is that orbital period squared equals the semi-major axis cubed. In other words, for any given circular orbit, there's only one speed particles could move at, and it's the one where the centrifugal force equals the centripetal force. You could try elliptical orbits, but that gets inefficient, so you'd probably have more luck with varying the inclination. In any case, it would be hard to make sure your projectiles miss 1) each other, 2) the ships bringing more of them in, and 3) nothing else. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Aug 3 '16 at 8:38
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    $\begingroup$ Most of the current satellites are in a prograde orbit, so launching the ball-bearings retrograde would give them a relative velocity of twice orbital velocity, and the prograde debris would then take out most retrograde stragglers. (This is of course what Jan Dvorak suggests, but with an inclination of 180 degrees) $\endgroup$ – yatima2975 Aug 3 '16 at 8:52
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    $\begingroup$ How many ball bearings would need to be in orbit at (say) 20 miles above the planet's surface for there to be even a 10% chance that a rocket travelling at escape velocity would be fatally hit during launch? $\endgroup$ – holdenweb Aug 3 '16 at 12:11
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    $\begingroup$ @holdenweb 20 miles is only about 1/5 of the way to space. $\endgroup$ – Shane Aug 3 '16 at 18:28
  • $\begingroup$ You would have to "go to space" first to do this, and it would "poison the well" for near future space travel until they all "fell down", or at least require some serious clean up (magnetic vacuum ships?) or anti-ball-bearing armor? Still +1 $\endgroup$ – Xen2050 Aug 4 '16 at 1:29
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Don't stop him, "help" him.

Develop aerospace technologies and manufacture rocket/shuttle components, use grants to undercut your commercial competitors into insolvency, having established a monopoly on aerospace manufacturing you can help him much more undertake ambitious projects for a fraction of the price.

He gets what he wants but he gets it on your terms, once he's sufficiently invested you can pull the rug out from under him. If he can't provide supplies to the people in his space stations and moon bases they're now your stations/bases, if he can't service his own satellites you can make them your satellites.

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  • $\begingroup$ A very cunning stunt, how Machiavellian. Sounds like fun in a game, as long as no one gets too upset $\endgroup$ – Xen2050 Aug 4 '16 at 1:26
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Use Star Wars!

By "Star Wars", I'm referring to the infamous Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which was an American proposed system designed to stop ICBMs in a number of ways. It would have used:

  • Intercepting missiles
  • Lasers of all kinds
  • Particle beams
  • Anti-missile satellites

These could all be used against missiles on ballistic trajectories, and I'd bet anything that they could be used against rockets trying to get to orbit (or on suborbital trajectories).

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  • $\begingroup$ "Anti-missile satellites" - not to be confused with anti-matter missiles, which would be much more expensive to build and manipulate. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Aug 3 '16 at 9:37
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Preventing him from reaching space, or preventing him from spending more than a few minutes there?

I'm assuming that you can't set up Anti-Aircraft batteries next to his launch site, and you don't want to toy with economics or planting spies in his space program, so I'll offer you a couple direct-action options.

1: Ground launched Interception Missile:

  • This is your most basic option - a surface-launched rocket, designed to co-habit the same space and time as your friends orbital vehicle. AKA, Smashing into it at a relative speed of thousands of miles per hour.
  • This can be cheaper than a rocket, because it doesn't have to make it into a circular orbit. All it has to do is get on a course that intercepts his. If you can build them cheap enough you could have a hundred missiles for every spacecraft he tries to launch.
  • Bonus points for packing an explosive charge in the probe that detonates when it's in proximity and on course, turning a single dodgeable impact into a hurricane of lethal shrapnel. Even more points for having independently guided sub-munitions to further increase hit probability.
  • Aside from building the missiles, this requires no planning. All you need to do is lock and fire when you see something that doesn't fly your flag.

2: Airborne launcher:

  • Same principle as the interception missile, but copy-pasted into a Pegasus Air-Launched Rocket type device.
  • A cargo aircraft (Or Even bomber/fighter if you can make it small enough) carries the missile up to an initial altitude and speed, giving it a nice boost and reducing the amount of distance the missile has to cover, and thus fuel needed. That makes it even smaller and cheaper.
  • Side benefit is it also reduces the time between launch and intercept. You could have a few B52s or other strategic bombers on 'Space Patrol' duty, flying at high altitude and ready to launch their missiles at a moments notice. Think of how the USAF had bombers airborne 24/7 during the cold war, then apply the idea to space missiles.

3: Orbital Minefield:

  • This is much, much harder, but the sheer domination of space it provides is worth it.
  • Instead of a singular launch like the Interception Missile, you pack multiple missile payloads into a launch vehicle. They don't need to be much - enough fuel to make some decent orbit changes, a guidance system, and some sensors/comms to control them. Launch a few of these packages into disparate orbits, and let them sit.
  • When you detect his spacecraft, just figure out which packages can most easily be steered onto a collision course. Have a couple of your "Terminal Engagement Vehicles" leave their parking orbit and alter their course to briefly but violently intersect his.
  • The actual Terminal Engagement Vehicles can be comparably tiny. Like I said, you just need to carry enough fuel for minor course changes, and smartphone-level processing power. They could be devices not much bigger than a milkjug, with dozens per package.

  • To make the minefield prohibitively difficult to take out, have the TEVs separate from the package they were launched in, and make minute course changes to spread out their orbits. This makes them harder to detect, harder to destroy, and also harder to evade because they can come at a spacecraft from any direction at any time.

If you want to get straight-up sadistic, place orbital minefields around Mars, Venus, and Jupiter. The mines will have months to detect incoming spacecraft and get on intercept trajectories, and you'll be denying him some very potent gravitational slingshot options.

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  • $\begingroup$ designed to co-habit the same space and time, leave their parking orbit and … briefly but violently intersect his. Brilliant! $\endgroup$ – Wayne Werner Aug 4 '16 at 12:29
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To prevent a spacecraft from reaching orbit, I believe that we have four options:

  1. Sabotage the rockets before they take off
  2. Jam communications while the rocket is in flight
  3. Shoot the rockets down mid-flight
  4. Dyson Sphere of Doom

The first option requires the lowest level of monetary investment and technological prowess; any half-wit with a wrench could cause some serious pre-launch issues in your rival's rocket system. The problem is that your half-wit also has to be a ninja in order to get past launchpad security. Additionally, this is only a temporary fix. Your rival will soon fix the rocket and develop sabotage countermeasures, and then they'll be in space before you can say "wubalubadubdub".

The second option is generally better in the sense that it could create a persisting issue for the rival's space program. The key issue, however, with communication jamming is coverage. Your society will have to invest a significant amount of money in whatever apparatus you're using to gum up the rival's communicators. Again, the main reason this is a better option than #1 is that the rival won't be immediately able to thwart your jamming system. Additionally, it's likely that a rocket with which communication is lost will fail spectacularly.

The feasibility of the third option is debatable. We do have the ability to shoot down high-altitude objects (even satellites), but you would have to invest in a great number of missile systems to cover even a small sector of the sky. Also, if your rival is launching their rockets from deep in their own territory, your missiles may be unable to target — much less hit — the spacecraft before it reaches orbit.

And now we look at #4: the Dyson Sphere or "dome" approach. Let's say we place a dyson sphere in a low earth orbit of 160km from the surface. If we make our sphere only 1cm thick, it will take a whopping 3,216,991 cubic kilometers of material to construct. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's not feasible. "But wait! We could just use a web like structure and save literally tonnes of material." Sorry, but you're out of luck there too. The idea of placing many geosynchronous low-orbit installations in a grid pattern around Earth is a good one, but it hits one major hitch: Geosynchronous orbits may only exist on equatorial orbits, i.e., you'll never be able to place installations in most sectors of the sky.

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    $\begingroup$ Rockets can be built to fly without ground control. All modern ICBMs are built that way, simply to avoid the opponent hacking and diverting them. $\endgroup$ – John Dallman Aug 3 '16 at 7:52
  • $\begingroup$ "literally tonnes" out of 3.2M cubic kilometers of steel is a drop in the sea. Sorry buddy, do your math. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Aug 3 '16 at 8:47
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    $\begingroup$ "geosynchronous orbits may only exist on equatorial orbits" - wrong. A geosynchronous orbit is any orbit with the period of 24 hours. A geostationary orbit is a geosynchronous orbit that is also circular and equatorial. Additionally, there's no real use of elliptical geosynchronous equatorial orbits, since your crafts will be smashing into each other (and into those in the geostationary orbit) anyways. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Aug 3 '16 at 8:53
  • $\begingroup$ Further math shows that your proposed Dyson sphere (160km altitude, 3.3M cubic kilometers) would be 6 meters thick, not one centimeter. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Aug 3 '16 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ and no, switching from steel to aerographene won't help the "drop in the sea" bit either. It's only 50 000 times less dense than steel. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Aug 3 '16 at 9:32
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Deep-Cover Sabotage by Scientists / researchers / manufacturers

Not just "a ninja with a wrench smashing stuff," but with professional "deep cover" spies / scientists / saboteurs in every organization that researches & manufacturers rockets & their components / fuels. Doing things like

  • Leading research in wrong directions
  • sabotaging minor components in undetectable ways
  • causing "cost over-runs" that would at least increase the cost a LOT
    • Could combine with changing public opinion showing space travel is WAY too expensive & a waste of resources -> Possible riots, revolution, lots of fun for a game ;-)
  • Your nation supplying components "too cheap to pass up" but inferior / sabotaged in very hard to detect ways.
  • Finally, outright obvious sabotage as a last resort

Especially for a role playing game with nations, I'm assuming spies are probably already a big part of it, and these tactics should fit in well.

It took the USA years to get to space, there are lots of fun videos of rocket tests exploding (they still happen today occasionally) and I'm assuming there were no professional saboteurs "working hard" to get to space.

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Pre-Emptive Strike

You just need to bomb his launch sites before he launches. If you have space superiority, then you just need to launch ballistic penetrators with good coverage of his most likely launch sites. I.e., throwing rocks down the gravity well. If you don't have space superiority, then you will need to use ground-launched kill vehicles as described by others.

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There are 2 series(Records of a fallen vampire, Muv-Luv unlimited) that i read a while ago about this topic, it doesn't only stop rockets from flying(This also included SLBMs launched from Atlantic, target was an island in japan), anything generally larger than 10 meters is shot down mid air with the use of

LASERs

The lasers were used by aliens in those 2 series.

Aliens from RoaFV used meteors to strategically place their laser turrets all around the world(They camouflaged it). The gov't didn't know it was laser turrets. And when they knew, they cant even destroy it due to its molecular armor

BETA(Beings of Extra Terrestrial origin which is Adversary of human race) has laser class that has pin point accuracy that the moment you surpassed 100m off the ground you have 5 seconds to go below it to evade a laser salvo from this little aliens they also have extra ordinary range too and virtually can target anything they see.

Taking an idea from this scenario. An efficient but very effective laser can be used in near future with the current fad of bleeding edge technology that R&Ds are fond of releasing these days.

Then again why lasers.

Because you only need to point it in a right direction, and boom, the problem is solved.

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  • $\begingroup$ Point it several meters to several dozen meters ahead of target. $\endgroup$ – k-l Aug 3 '16 at 3:42
  • $\begingroup$ It travels with the speed of light, i doubt you'll need to point it ahead of your target if its only 40-120km far from you $\endgroup$ – mico villena Aug 3 '16 at 12:25

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