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From: Allen Thomson <>
Subject: Re: Ten Routes to Low-Cost Space
Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2000 20:25:50 GMT

In article <8tmpkb$rtk$>, wrote:
> > Just out of curiosity, could a black budget spacecraft be tested
> > without it becoming general knowledge?
> You can not hide it COMPLETELY - anything rising out of the atmosphere
> at orbital or suborbital speed emits huge amount of infrared, and
> there are plenty of satellites, not all of them American, which
> constantly watch for just that. Any launch would certainly get
> noticed by the Russians, possibly by the French and Chinese.

That's not really true, at least as far as public information indicates
(and I tend to believe it in this case).  US spacebased infrared
detection capabilities are vastly more powerful and comprehensive than
anyone else has.  And "anyone else" is only Russia, whose Oko
satellites seem to be dedicated to looking at likely missile launch
areas and are currently in bad shape.

If the US wanted to pull off a covert launch from a ship, submarine,
airplane or island in the southern hemisphere, I suspect it could do
so.  Whether the payload would remain undetected for long once in space
is a different matter, and depends on details of mission, orbit, etc.

But there are always leaks, espionage, slip-ups of one sort or another,
things that the security planners didn't happen to think of, indirect
evidence that constrains what might be going on in the black world (the
X-33 is an example of the last), et lengthy cetera.  I tend not to
believe in the maintainability of long-term secrecy, say beyond a few

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