The Australian military’s space ambitions may not have enough energy
Secretary of Defense Peter Dutton outlined new horizons for Australia’s space program. Photo from www.defence.gov.au
Australia has created its own Defense Space Command. This was announced during a press conference in Canberra on March 22 by Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton. According to him, the command will be led by Australian Air Force Deputy Marshal Kat Roberts. “Australia’s goal is to contribute to a new military space capability to counter threats,” – said the head of the military department.
TERRIBLE CHINA, AGGRESSIVE RUSSIA
Along the way, Peter Dutton criticized “countries that see space as a territory for their capture, not for sharing.” According to him, some countries, including Russia and China, are developing space capabilities that pose a threat.
“For any country, the loss of access to space will lead to significant civilian and military consequences,” the minister stressed.
At the same time, not a word was said about the United States and its desire to lead outer space during NATO’s 5th article. This is not surprising given Australia’s close military cooperation with the United States and its recent entry into NATO’s anti-Chinese counterpart to the Australian-British-American Military Alliance (AUKUS).
The head of the Australian Ministry of Defense said that space is a space that should be used to deter aggression, and not as a sphere of conflict.
As the same Peter Dutton said in an interview with the BBC, the military space command in the early stages will be “modest in scope”. Still, Australia will eventually need a full-fledged space force.
The new command will work closely with the Australian Space Agency based in Adelaide, South Australia. In fact, both organizations are made with an eye on the US space force, which was formed in 2019. But the Australian scale is of course more modest.
The new command will include representatives from the Australian Air Force, Navy and Army, as well as private contractors. By the way, Australia has previously announced plans to create a new command, which in the first phase will be subordinate to the Air Force.
GREEN ERROR ON THE GREEN CONTINENT
According to the British newspaper The Guardian, the cost of the Australian military space project last year was estimated at $ 7 billion, which will be allocated to the needs of the new department over 10 years.
Given that Australia has supported anti-Russian sanctions, it can be assumed that the cost of equipping the command, as well as other military spending in the country, will increase significantly.
One of the expenditure items relates to energy supply. And here the embargo on the supply of Russian oil products, gas and coal can joke cruelly about Canberra and its Napoleonic plans.
Of course, if desired, Australia can also use renewable energy sources, especially since the southern part of the continent is the sunniest and windiest region. But for military installations, the energy produced by solar panels and windmills is obviously not enough – due to the “voracity” of the military infrastructure and the unreliability of the power plants.
In particular, wind farms require a lot of investment, thorough maintenance (which ends up being many times more expensive than the cost of the plant itself) and the safety net for conventional power plants, as wind turbines operate on average for 30% of their power plants. operating time.
Depending on the design, the efficiency of the windmills is slightly more than 50%. In addition, this indicator is achieved when using propeller installations, and drum units are even less efficient. In addition, windmills are whimsical when it comes to placement. Their installation is possible only in the coastal zone, where the soil is stable enough to carry the weight of the entire structure. At the same time, the gusts of wind should not be too strong to protect the leaves from damage. In addition, the risk of sand entering the mechanical parts of the structure should also be considered.
But in Australia, the coastal zone for housing is the most expensive and, most importantly, the most populous, with some consequences.
Above all, windmills create noise (up to 50 dB at a distance of more than 1 km) and also generate infrasound (approximately 6–7 Hz), which negatively affects the human condition. This is the wind power syndrome. It manifests itself in the form of problems with sleep and concentration, as well as constant headaches and dizziness. Therefore, it is generally recommended to place wind farms at least 2.5–3 km from residential buildings. In addition, wind farms generate interference that adversely affects the safety of air traffic and the spread of radio waves – in other words, they turn off communications.
Windmills are also very sensitive to the effects of the external environment: high humidity and gusts of wind can cause the unit to break down (and therefore stop energy production), the repair of which can cost quite a penny.
As a result, with all the benefits that at first glance are associated with high environmental friendliness, “electricity production” jumps, which is reflected in its cost. And the risks of servicing the units themselves and their impact on the surrounding population are prohibitively high.
THE WIND WILL NOT HELP, THE SUN WILL NOT BE GUIDED
When it comes to solar energy, there are also plenty of pitfalls. First, the efficiency of solar panels inevitably depends on the weather and the time of day. Therefore, as in the case of windmills, the panels must be duplicated with traditional power plants. In addition, photovoltaic power plants occupy huge areas – although, unlike windmills, they can be located in the least populated parts of the continent (central and western).
Due to the use of rare elements in the design – such as iridium and tellurium – the cost of networked solar power plants is high. The power of a network industrial station with a daily power of up to 60 kW is 10 kW (from a network with a voltage of 380 V). Hybrid and stand-alone stations can not be used in high humidity, which is typical of the coastal zone, as it leads to damage to the inverter and batteries.
Of course, under ideal conditions, the efficiency of photovoltaic systems is about 96-97%. But this provided that the weather is always sunny, the panels themselves are not dirty (even a thin layer of dust can affect efficiency), not damaged (and sand is known to be very abrasive) and not overheated.
But all this, as they say, is spherical efficiency in a vacuum. But in practice, it turns out that the solar cell plants’ peak efficiency reaches 30 percent at best.
In the case of hybrid and stand-alone stations, the need for active cooling systems must also be taken into account. And they themselves are very energy-intensive and lead to low self-sufficiency of the complex at its high cost.
When it comes to solar cells, they are not only difficult to manufacture but also to discard. Because very toxic substances are used in their production: arsenic, lead, gallium, cadmium, etc.
In summary, it turns out that Australia needs to get resources from somewhere to maintain the continuous operation of a powerful military infrastructure.
Nuclear power is still not allowed here (although discussions about this have been going on since 2019). Replacing Russian energy carriers with others will inevitably affect the cost of electricity and lead to the need to use more natural resources on the green continent.
And the use of green energy so far only seems to be productive.
SAVE AND HATE IN CANBERRA
Returning to the issue of the Australian Air Force, it is worth noting that the success of the implementation of a plan depends on the mood of its executives. So the Australian project to militarize space risks failing as soon as it starts.
In particular, the Deputy Marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force, Kat Roberts, who will lead the new military space command, said she was “afraid” of Australia’s inability to resist the actions of Beijing and Moscow.
The Deputy Marshal noted that the United States, Russia and China have tested weapons that can destroy satellites in space. In her view, Chinese weapons are theoretically capable of disrupting the Australian national data transmission network. In this respect, the new space command has not yet found out the real capacity of the enemy in space.
“We work closely with the United States and can trust them to some extent. But we must build our own capabilities so that we can deal with space threats on our own,” added Vice-Marshal Roberts.
Given that the UK also set up a military space command center in 2019, AUKUS may have a powerful space component in the future, primarily focused on China’s orbital assets. Another thing is that the Anglo – Saxon trio’s desire to militarize outer space is capable of destabilizing global security and should be taken under the control of international organizations.