Space Talks Series

Dr. Garret Schneider at NewSpace NYC

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War stories are traditionally historical tales we are privileged to hear from veterans. The stories we’ve heard resonate brutal tales and plightful missions, but there is another side of war stories which goes hand in hand with games, space and science. Space and the government's efforts in aeronautics are intertwined because the mission of humanity is to explore further beyond the horizon and the stars. That is the story that Garret Schneider, PhD, painted through decades of work and expertise in the Air Force, Department of Defense and private contracting.

This is the side of war many are unaware of, sparsely depicted in Hollywood films such as Star Wars. NewSpace NYC had the privilege to have Dr. Garret Schneider give a talk at our Friday #SpaceTalk and this is our post on his story, career and experiences in public sector space development.

Garret Schneider spent most of his career in the Air Force working on satellite projects and space technology. In his talk at NewSpace NYC, Dr. Schneider gave a walkthrough of the types of weapons and their effects on space systems and the survivability of those space systems. There are two types of techniques, which are active and passive. Passive (hardening) techniques are primarily centered around nuclear, laser and kinetic weapons effects. Active techniques consist of maneuvering, decoys, shoot-back and proliferation, for example. Regarding kinetic protection techniques, research on hypervelocity impacts has led to development of debris shields. The ISS has a few debris shields like these.

He continued to share notable stories of lasers and underground nuclear tests in Nevada. In his projects, Dr. Schneider participated in tests conducting different experiments. These were not the average test-tube and agarose gel experiments, these were nuclear tests with atomic bombs going off. Dr. Schneider commented on how blast doors would contain the underground explosions. However, there was one test where the blast doors did not close, and the test caused a conflagration in the chamber.

The Miniature Sensor Technology Integration-3 (MSTI-3) is a satellite system, launched in 1997, which surveyed the Earth, mountains and sea by collecting data. MSTI-3 capabilities were so useful that its mission was extended. The DOD used the Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL), to “dazzle” the MSTI-3 sensors and collect sensor effectiveness data. News of the test created a surge of controversy and an exchange of correspondence letters from Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton. The ‘Dear Bill/ Dear Boris’ correspondence initiated when former Russian President Boris Yeltsin had mistakenly thought the U.S. was engaging in an Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test. Mr. Yeltsin was alarmed whether the U.S. was engaged in the research and development of anti-satellite weapons . Former U.S. president, Bill Clinton, replied that the tests were only dazzling the sensors to the harbingering accusations from Mr. Yeltsin, denying the statements of anti-satellite weapons. The test results significantly alarmed the Air Force how even low-powers lasers could damage space-based sensors.

“The damage caused by the small laser alarmed many Pentagon and military officials because it showed that low-powered lasers can damage space sensors after only a short exposure. "There was a lot of panic over that," one official said.” (FAS)

There is a mission ground segment for every satellite. This could be a security vulnerability because a hijacker would only have to target ground control in order to take out the effectiveness of the satellite. Implications of such an attack concerned the satellites of the DOD, NASA, and NOAA, as well as commercial satellite companies. The most memorable of Dr. Schneider’s stories were his activities in war-games for the Military War College students , notably “Army After Next” “Navy Global”, and “AF Space Games.” In one “Army After Next” there was a simulated scenario where satellites were ‘nuked in space’ which implied the destruction of the GPS constellation by setting off nuclear weapons in their orbits. Of course, these were all simulated scenarios and did not actually take place.

AF Space Games were more geared to general space activities and how space capabilities and their employment drive the outcome and impact of terrestrial conflicts. Generally there would be two teams, the red team and the blue team. Each team would write down their plan of action and submit them at the end of that day to the game’s judges. The judges would determine what would happen the next day from each team’s written maneuvers and plans. This was more of a qualitative exercise and allowed them to deduce the feasibility of certain actions and outcomes were, as well as set probabilities . Features allowed them to ascertain which satellites would be affected. And even though these were just simulated scenarios, it startled everyone that someone actually did go after a real satellite, even in the game, thus opening many eyes to see how these scenarios are realistic and inevitably much more development was required by the Air Force.

Dr. Schneider discussed methodological processes of the Department of Defense (DoD). DoD uses a five year process to program budgets for their Services. He discussed the Services’ approaches to product divisions, laboratories, funding, research and business/contracting. Dr. Schneider was able to share some general information about the DoD, providing a glimpse into how private companies would coordinate with government facilities. There are services and finances for small business research, notably the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) programs.

Dr. Schneider gave a glimpse into the dynamic and fruitful space / aeronautic oriented missions by the DoD and Air Force. His experiences are a few of the prospects many share and desire for furthering the development of our space industry. Dr. Schneider’s journey is still ongoing. His endeavors may influence a younger and eager generation of astropreneurs such as depicted by NewSpace NYC’s efforts as a space accelerator. Watching the video of Dr. Garret Schneider and hearing his story, one can only want to explore further into the unknown of outer-space as inquisitive children of the Universe.