Monday, January 5, 2015

Building a Space Navy V: Fleet Missions: CONOPS

Welcome back RocketFans!  Hope everyone had a happy new year.  I certainly did; among other things I am now the proud father of a teenage daughter.  I also established and launched a Patreon campaign to help keep this blog going.  If you like what you see here, consider pledging a small amount.  Or a large amount, as I am not adverse and you get free stuff that way.
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But enough about that.  Today we continue our series on Building a Space Navy with a section of CONOPS, or Concept of Operations.  For an overview of the whole thing, you should start here, or for a more general and in possibly useful summary, consult the obligatory Atomic Rockets link. 

Just to get on the board here, Winchell Chung sums up the crux of the CONOPS discussion this way:

"CONOPS is Concept of Operations.
"When and where will the space navy perform the inter-service missions defined in the last step? Is the space navy mostly offensive or mostly defensive? Does the space navy operate mostly inside the empire, at the border, or outside? What is the standard operating procedure?
"CONOPS might change, especially if they are fossilized conservative procedures that apply poorly to the new situation."
And once again, The Chart

This is one of the few sections of the chart that is almost always covered by science fiction authors.  This makes sense, since next to Fleet Design, it is the most often seen aspect of a Space Navy in stories, movies and other media.  That being said, maybe there are some things we still have to learn about the subject.  After all, we maybe using the term "Space Navy"  but what we are designing for Conjunction is most certainly not any kind of navy at all,  it is a Space Force, and that is a new thing entirely.

Why is a Space Navy so different from a wet-navy?  The medium, of course.  Space is not like anywhere we've ever been and we've never had to fight up there before.  It requires extreme levels of preparedness from all who dare enter, and the physics and mechanics and stuff is all wrong from a naval standpoint.  "Stand" - that right there is a good example.  In space, nothing "stands", everything is moving all the time, at speeds which impart the force of our most potent explosives.  There is also no boarders in space.  All planetary bodies are in constant motion - the planet in the next orbit will spend half the time on the other side of the Sun, making it's neighbor farther out the closer.  Conjunction  is based on the idea that planets move and thus cause the concept of territory to chance with the calendar.  That's space for you. It's just not the same.

But there are some parallels.  For example, the US Navy currently divides the theaters of operation they work in by colors (well, the color of the water, anyway).  Brown water naval ops are conducted in the river regions of the world, green water along the shores and coastlines, and blue water in the open oceans.  These last two have a near-perfect analog in space:  Orbital Space, and Open Space.

Orbital space seems obvious, but let's define it anyway; after all, everything within a light year or so orbits the Sun in some fashion.  But for our purposes, in 2015, Orbital space is anything between the upper atmosphere and Earth Departure.  This includes GEO, or the geo-synchronous orbits or GPS and communication satellites, the low-fast orbits in NEO currently used for manned missions, and any and all in between.  By logical extension, Every planet and moon has an orbital space easy to define by use of Sir Isaac's mighty maths.

Fear my mighty maths.
The rest of space, deep space or interplanetary space is huge and open and that doesn't matter, because a spacecraft must travel in certain orbits to get to point A to B for a given speed and Delta V, and there are no exceptions.  That being said, since everything is moving all the time at different orbital speeds around the sun, there is no way to establish trade routs or shipping lanes.  The use of Hohmann trajectories does allow for convoys and such, but that's about it for interplanetary space; it's a lonely black desert out there, with spacecraft either deliberately close together or impossibly far apart.

So, where does our Navy Space Force operate?  Obviously, in orbital space, of course.  This is the perfect place to operate using Patrol Rockets and smaller craft to zip to and fro.  It is also where Espatiers get the most use - boarding inspections, SAR, and the classic orbital drop on a planet.  But that's just the tip of the iceteroid - what about enforcement of quarantine? This could be an even bigger deal than it is today, since the enclosed system of a space station or rocket pretty much insures that if I got it, you got it. 
Shown: Astronauts protecting themselves from
the biggest threat to space exploration.

Rick Robinson has some cogent points on the subject here.

As for Interplanetary space, the missions are similar but modified by circumstance.  The world of Conjunction moves objects, oil and ore via the convoy system.  I thought long and hard about the balance between the added expense of multiple spacecraft and the safety margin provided by the same, and decided that when you are flying missions measured in years, you really shouldn't put all your life support and Delta V in one basket.  Therefore, rockets boosting to Saturn from Earth and vice versa, or to anywhere except maybe the moon, will travel in packs.  This makes sense from an author's perspective, as well - just ask the writers on Battlestar Galactica.   It's a lot more fun for our Astros and Espos to have somewhere to actually go on leave - and for work as well.  The oft-mentioned inspection teams, emergency SAR, and even simple cargo transfers all give our Space Navy folks something to do for those long, long months is the Black.

Anyway, that takes care of where.  The next rhetorical question Winchell proposes is whether or not our Space Navy is offensive or defensive.  We established last time that Peacekeepers aren't in the business of offensive war, so the answer to this one's obvious.  In fact, at the starting point of this setting, there has never been a war in space, so the role of our Space Forces is more law enforcement than anything else.  This is especially true when you add in the duties of obit/beam guard.  The Space Force SOP is the implicit nature of their service roles.  The main point of the UNSF is to be there.  Just in case.

Of course, if Jupiter decided to do something to interfere with Saturn's oil shipments, such as attempt to blockade the convoys, then all bets are off and the space forces on the spot would have the unenviable job of tossing the manual out the lock and improvising a war based on no practical experience.

See? I told you that that little chart could inspire novel plots...



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