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Author Topic: Satellites Discussion  (Read 1885 times)

rogueranger1993

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Satellites Discussion
« on: 12 February 2019, 18:31:58 »
Now that I'm finally running a BattleTech RPG game after nearly four years of having literally NO ONE to play ANY games with, I'm finding myself wanting to explore some aspects of the BTU more deeply than I have before, and it's really quite a thrilling experience for me - especially since I've already learned quite a lot from my question about DropShip life.  :)

In any case, this is the first of three threads I'm starting, to discuss satellites, recharging stations, and high ports/trade stations. This post will focus on discussing satellites.

So, the main question is, how common are satellites in the Inner Sphere? I'm aware that there are a multitude of roles they can fulfill - the Taurians use microwave satellites to power cities, for instance - but I'm less focused on those unique power/spy satellites. What I'm really interested in are details about communications, mapping, GPS, and early warning satellites.

It seems to me that three types of satellite - Communications, GPS, and Mapping - would tend to be rather common on the majority of planets, even during the Succession Wars. Satellites are generally easy to launch even for low-tech worlds - either deploy them with a simple one-use rocket, or deploy them with a handy DropShip. In addition, having satellites to extend communications range and to provide GPS navigation service is EXTREMELY useful for any military force, especially invading ones. As such, it seems sensible (to me, at least), that invading forces during the early Succession Wars would probably avoid destroying local satellite networks - while the enemy can use them to aid their defense of the planet, the benefits they provide to your forces seems to more than outweigh such a concern. The only case I can reasonably see satellites being destroyed in, is when a world is being totally wasted so that the enemy can't claim even a Pyrrhic victory (and can I just mention how much this makes the Great Houses seem like a bunch of toddlers throwing temper tantrums because they didn't get what they wanted? Geez...)

The fourth type of satellite I wanted to learn a bit about, the early warning type, is something I see as being relatively extinct during the Succession Wars, though it might see some resurgence during later periods. Basically, when I use the term 'early warning' I'm thinking of a satellite that you stick in space to detect and identify JumpShip arrivals/departures and incoming DropShips. I can see these satellites being destroyed, or at least disabled, by hostile forces prior to or during a military operation, especially during the early first two Succession Wars. These satellites provide no benefit to the invading force, and in fact they can hinder them even, so there's no value in keeping them around - might as well blast 'em into tiny chunks of space trash, right?

So, any thoughts, comments, ideas? I'm very excited to hear what people have to say on this topic!  ;D

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Colt Ward

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #1 on: 12 February 2019, 18:35:41 »
A couple of books address them in a combat environment- specifically one ground force hoarded their ASF just to use them to knock down any satellites sent up by the other side.  Having just re-read Wolves on the Border, Jaime reveals he cheated by having stealthy spy sats to track the Ryuken so its been in the fiction almost from the start.
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AlphaMirage

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #2 on: 12 February 2019, 18:40:35 »
There are special rules for Satellite assistance as well (I believe in TacOps) using all of the types you mentioned.  It's something that I really wish was dealt with more in game. As is most anything of greater strategic depth than the death match at close range that this game almost entirely consists of.

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #3 on: 12 February 2019, 18:42:18 »
There are special rules for Satellite assistance as well (I believe in TacOps) using all of the types you mentioned.  It's something that I really wish was dealt with more in game. As is most anything of greater strategic depth than the death match at close range that this game almost entirely consists of.

Its not all the game has to be, you just have to find the folks who want to play more than the pick up Last Mech Standing action.  I prefer the wargame approach myself, and thus why I love Campaign Ops.
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AlphaMirage

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #4 on: 12 February 2019, 18:45:36 »
I still miss the old Mercs rules, those really captured the Battletech feel in a way that Is think SO and CO fail to do (easily)

rogueranger1993

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #5 on: 12 February 2019, 19:31:21 »
I really prefer the wargame approach as well, which is why Campaign Ops was the first BattleTech book in a long while  that I picked up in print - I really want to expand my collection of books in print, but alas, it's going to be a long process due to my poor wallet not having near enough money for my discretionary spending desires...  :'(

I fully intend to utilize the more advanced rules covering satellites in combat, and that's part of why I want to try and learn about satellite networks in the Inner Sphere - I want to gain at least some kind of general understanding of what kinds of satellites might already be available in a system, and how commonly you might encounter pre-existing satellite networks, in particular the communications, GPS/mapping, and weather satellites that could reasonably be assumed to be relatively common for most worlds.

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AdmiralObvious

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #6 on: 12 February 2019, 22:15:49 »
I mean, there are two ways to handle satellites.

On the ground, where a unit with communication equipment uses it to gain a tactical advantage.

Or, there's the aerospace part of it where fighters and other craft might consider taking them out for those specific tactical advantages, whether they be on the ground or not.

Then there's the intended purpose of the satellite, which as mentioned before can be anything from a boring old weather satellite, to a key component of a planetary communications network (military or not). The last one is pertinent to the actual people on the ground.

It really depends on how you want to look at them.

I think there's even "personal habitats" which qualify as satellites, but those are usually from the star leauge and probably don't exist since the succession wars as anything other than abandoned derilicts.

R.Tempest

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #7 on: 13 February 2019, 00:37:10 »
 Remember how communication technology has changed since the game setting was first devised. Comm satellites were owned by governments or large corporations. The average civilian access was for telephones & television. GPS systems were unknown. Radar satellites gave you weather images. So for civilians loss of satellites gives you mid-20th century levels of technology and that's not too bad. Many worlds in the game exist at this level of technology use.
 But look at today. People rely on GPS. I know of young people who have trouble with reading a paper map. Radar sats are still pretty much the same for civilians (more detail perhaps). You can now have live video chats with people almost anywhere on the planet thanks to communication satellites. And be aware of what your friends and family are doing all of the time.
 In game, think of the effects on the civilian population when your invading troops knock out all the communication satellites. Look what happens today if even part of World Wide Web goes down.
 On a related note (sort of) think about Hunter/Killer satellites. Launch them in orbit on your way in and let them take care of the planets satellites.
 

RifleMech

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #8 on: 13 February 2019, 03:46:24 »
I don't think satellites is going to depend on the planet. Some planets, those highly populated or strategically important, will have more satellites than others. Some like Trellwall with a single city probably won't have any. Others like Avalon will have lots. I also don't think they're as widely used for military uses as they could be. If they were the Ryuken would have used their own against the Dragoons. Kurita also would have used them against the Rebels and Grey Death Legion on Verthandi and Marik/Comstar would have used them against the Grey Death on Helm.

guardiandashi

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #9 on: 13 February 2019, 04:16:30 »
as a long time battletech person here is my view on satellites.

yes satellites should be pretty common, but in universe they are pretty rare.
The reason they are rare is because of tech loss issues, not that they are hard to deploy, but most planets basically got frustrated with having to replace them over and over so the sheeple gave up and just did without.
if you have a heavily industrialized, and well protected planet like New Avalon likely has extensive satellite networks.

now taking a step back, yes satellite networks should be almost everywhere but, officially they aren't because basic satellites are too easy to kill, an aerospace fighter could cruise around in orbit and blow all our satellites to scrap, likely in a couple hours or less.

Elmoth

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #10 on: 13 February 2019, 04:25:27 »
Trellwan has at least 2 cities, but yes, few satellites. however, they are aware of jumpships at the jump point from the get go, so land based detection systems must be capable.

I would not consider verthandi as a good example. In Verthandi the Kuritas are clearly an operetta enemy. They are so evil and so incompetent as to make them unworthy enemies. Eeach time they have an advantage they screw it for no apparent reason, just because. this happens in trellwan as well in the final battle and in the spaceport, but not as blatantly (well, in the spaceport is as blatant, but hey).

In Helm the Mariks use satellites and orbiting comms dropships to map the whole area and keep track of enemy movements. It is one of the things that Grayson uses to pinpoint the cache, the difference between a map that is 3 days (IIRC) old and a 300 year old map he has in a pendrive.


So I think satellites are used for intel gathering on a regular basis in most planets that are no donkey-powered when it comes to tech level.

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #11 on: 13 February 2019, 11:13:23 »
Except, as guardian said taking out all sats on the way in is SOP.  So your borders that get raided frequently will just stop putting them up- its a expenditure that will not pay for itself.  Instead they will go with buried landlines or re-trans stations if most the settlements are close together (Colony-ville topic), By Blood Betrayed has the national force mercs transmitting orders and then sending secret ones by buried land line to get the raiders off balance.

One other thing to consider is that you could have a re-trans site on a moon (or moons) which also gets your sensors out beyond the atmo though I would expect this from more developed worlds.  Its also more likely to be left intact since a raider/invader COULD capture it to gain the advantage.
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boilerman

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #12 on: 14 February 2019, 00:28:50 »
BattleTech satellites are very cheap. A comm sat with 1 ton of communications gear can be built for less than a ton of LRM missiles cost. Deployment is cheap, even a light aerospace fighter can haul up the small satellites, even if only one at a time.

I honestly believe just about any planet can afford a satellite network, even if they don't own any other aerospace assets. Buy in bulk, a few dozen at a time and hire a passing free trader DropShip passing through to dump a few in orbit as they leave the system.  Even if free trader DropShip only comes through the system once every couple years satellites can last decades in orbit no problem.

I think satellite networks will be very critical for the low population worlds, more so than high population planets. Ground based communications networks are expensive to construct. I think the best real world analog would be a microwave tower network - one tower every 20 miles or so. I can see the investment in a communications satellite network costing a fraction of ground based one when a a dozen or two sats can cover an entire planet.

I think the only communications network more cost effective than a satellite system for a low population world might be high altitude loitering aerostats or drones and I doubt even they would be.

Utility type for weather observation, GPS would be just as invaluable and relatively cheap.

Are satellites vulnerable? Of course, but when they are as cheap as the ammunition you use you can afford to stock pile them.


One planetary invasion scenario that goes through my mind:
1. invasion force targets enemy satellite network
2. invasion force dumps literally disposable mini satellites in orbit by the hundreds as they reach orbit
3. defending force deploys their own disposable mini satellite network

Can you imagine how difficult it would be to wipe a cloud mini cube sats in low orbit if they're only 1 cubic foot in size and cheap enough to dump in orbit by the hundreds?

Just my 2 cents worth.
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guardiandashi

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #13 on: 14 February 2019, 02:28:06 »
BattleTech satellites are very cheap. A comm sat with 1 ton of communications gear can be built for less than a ton of LRM missiles cost. Deployment is cheap, even a light aerospace fighter can haul up the small satellites, even if only one at a time.

I honestly believe just about any planet can afford a satellite network, even if they don't own any other aerospace assets. Buy in bulk, a few dozen at a time and hire a passing free trader DropShip passing through to dump a few in orbit as they leave the system.  Even if free trader DropShip only comes through the system once every couple years satellites can last decades in orbit no problem.

I think satellite networks will be very critical for the low population worlds, more so than high population planets. Ground based communications networks are expensive to construct. I think the best real world analog would be a microwave tower network - one tower every 20 miles or so. I can see the investment in a communications satellite network costing a fraction of ground based one when a a dozen or two sats can cover an entire planet.

I think the only communications network more cost effective than a satellite system for a low population world might be high altitude loitering aerostats or drones and I doubt even they would be.

Utility type for weather observation, GPS would be just as invaluable and relatively cheap.

Are satellites vulnerable? Of course, but when they are as cheap as the ammunition you use you can afford to stock pile them.


One planetary invasion scenario that goes through my mind:
1. invasion force targets enemy satellite network
2. invasion force dumps literally disposable mini satellites in orbit by the hundreds as they reach orbit
3. defending force deploys their own disposable mini satellite network

Can you imagine how difficult it would be to wipe a cloud mini cube sats in low orbit if they're only 1 cubic foot in size and cheap enough to dump in orbit by the hundreds?

Just my 2 cents worth.
you aren't wrong, I said that.  realistically they should be essentially everywhere, but according to canon they aren't as I said.

AdmiralObvious

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #14 on: 14 February 2019, 02:46:41 »
I don't think tech slipped too far back to current era levels.

I'm not sure whether or not you'd have the current generation "microlites" that we're just starting to deploy. If you're deploying larger satellites, they'd probably be less common. If you're deploying tiny less than one ton satellites, then you're probably going to see them everywhere.

Based on how heavy comms equipment is however, I'm pretty sure satellites are pretty massive as a result of the loss of tech.

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #15 on: 14 February 2019, 02:52:24 »
I subscribe to @boilerman's ideal

In the planetary struggle I envision aerospace forces of both sides constantly battling for recon information to support the ground ops and putting up and destroying mini-sats is part of that.

But I lean more towards a higher-tech treatment of BT yeah, so it may not suit the taste of Madmax purists...

RifleMech

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #16 on: 14 February 2019, 04:31:38 »
Just looked and Trellwan has 3 principle settlements. I don't think they'd need com. satellites. In Price of Glory. Marik and Grayson use satellites against Laio in the beginning of the book. After that there's old satellite images, Boomerang Spotter Planes, presumption of satellites, and an infrared photo that looks like a satellite photo but could be from the Boomerang.  So use of satellites on Helm could go either way.  But I don't think they were used all the time. When used against Laio they had aerospace superiority. That allowed them to use satellites. Without that Laio would be shooting them down as fast as they're deployed.


Com Sats are going to be over a ton each. Destroying them can disrupt planetary communications. A land based system wouldn't be so easily destroyed. Some planets may not need a planetary network. Trellwan for example. Other more heavily populated planets would.

You would also want more than just Com. Sats. though. You want Cameras and Imagers to find the enemy. Cameras are relatively cheap but imagers get expensive and they would be targets for the enemy. They'd also deploy their own if they have aerospace superiority. Aerospace is also in short supply in many areas making deployment a problem for the planet. Sure you could hire a dropship to do it but that's expensive and it could be a while before a friendly dropship arrives. Launching them on Rockets is also out since we don't have Rockets.

Even for incoming forces deploying satellites will be a problem. You either have to sacrifice a Bay to deploy the satellite or spend a lot of time to unload the satellite as cargo. You're also sacrificing cargo that could be used for ammo and parts. Why not just bring a spotter plane, or better yet, put a camera pod on a fighter?




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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #17 on: 14 February 2019, 06:52:47 »

Why not just bring a spotter plane, or better yet, put a camera pod on a fighter?
Satellites give real time data and don't eat up precious ASF assets

klarg1

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #18 on: 14 February 2019, 11:11:35 »
My assumption has always been that the orbital space over many worlds in the Inner Sphere are badly choked with assorted debris. This would be especially true for border worlds.

Routine destruction of local satellites, not to mention debris from space battles would make navigation of any planet's orbital space amazingly hazardous for anything not armored like a military aerospace fighter or dropship. It wouldn't surprise me if attackers launched cheap, lightly armored satellites to get a picture of the ground fully expecting them to be torn to shreds by whirling scrap after just a few hours or a few days.

It would certainly make maintaining a stable civilian network challenging over the long term, unless new satellites were heavily armored to compensate. Of course, armored satellites generate even more debris when they eventually succumb. Honestly, the Inner Sphere is probably one giant poster child for Kessler Syndrome.
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Colt Ward

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #19 on: 14 February 2019, 11:22:09 »
Even for incoming forces deploying satellites will be a problem. You either have to sacrifice a Bay to deploy the satellite or spend a lot of time to unload the satellite as cargo. You're also sacrificing cargo that could be used for ammo and parts. Why not just bring a spotter plane, or better yet, put a camera pod on a fighter?

Well, some books do have a force keeping a DS in orbit to act as a recon and C&C platform.

I do not buy the micro-sats since BT has not even edged to the shrinking of materials.
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boilerman

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #20 on: 14 February 2019, 23:23:07 »
I do not buy the micro-sats since BT has not even edged to the shrinking of materials.
Well how about aluminum foil then?

In the 1960s the USA experimented with tiny copper needles in orbit to act as reflectors for radio communications. I heard about this one years ago. Link below.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_West_Ford

Not quite Window but close enough.
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RifleMech

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #21 on: 15 February 2019, 00:03:17 »
Satellites give real time data and don't eat up precious ASF assets


Satellites are targets waitimy to be hit. That forces defenders to use precious  ASF to defend them. You're also not using a bay that could go to ASF or turning you dropship into a target while it unloads cargo.


Well, some books do have a force keeping a DS in orbit to act as a recon and C&C platform.

I do not buy the micro-sats since BT has not even edged to the shrinking of materials.

Some books, yes but not all. Satellite use does happen. I just don't think it happens on every planet to the extent it does now.

I don't believe in the micro satellite either. Just the weight of thevcom equipment precludes them.

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #22 on: 15 February 2019, 00:48:40 »
If they exist in BT micro sats are going to be very basic IMO; nothing more than repeater stations doing wide angle rebroadcast.
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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #23 on: 15 February 2019, 02:59:05 »
Satellites are targets waitimy to be hit. That forces defenders to use precious  ASF to defend them. You're also not using a bay that could go to ASF or turning you dropship into a target while it unloads cargo.
Satellites are more expendable than ASF. A lone ASF on a recon op is also asking to be bounced and so needs escorting as well. Better in my mind to send up a sat, and then wait to attack what the enemy sends up to attack the sat.

Quote
Some books, yes but not all. Satellite use does happen. I just don't think it happens on every planet to the extent it does now.
Not in 3025 no.

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #24 on: 15 February 2019, 11:29:14 »

Satellites are targets waitimy to be hit. That forces defenders to use precious  ASF to defend them. You're also not using a bay that could go to ASF or turning you dropship into a target while it unloads cargo.


Some books, yes but not all. Satellite use does happen. I just don't think it happens on every planet to the extent it does now.

I don't believe in the micro satellite either. Just the weight of thevcom equipment precludes them.

The Sat is cargo, ASF launches for BARCAP during insertion and the crew transfers preps and launches the Sat . . . or its loaded as external cargo on a fighter in place of bombs.
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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #25 on: 15 February 2019, 11:55:42 »
I vaguely recall that there was a mention of deploying a satellite in one of the BT video games, and you only had information for a few short minutes before it would inevitably be knocked down.  That basically confirms my own view that sending up satellites and knocking the enemy's down is an ongoing race, and standard procedure.  You send them up and EXPECT to lose them only minutes later when either an ASF or ground-based laser system converts them to space dust or orbital debris.

Inbound on a raid or assault, you routinely take out every satellite you can find.  It's inevitably going to be used by the enemy's military otherwise, and is easily replaced.  If you've got the advantage in ASF capability, you deploy a few of your own, but STILL expect to lose most/all to ground-based fire in a fairly short span of time.  Anything that's seen in modern/futuristic warfare is as good as dead, it's just a question of how long it takes to get the weapons or fired projectiles to where they need to be, and it's even more difficult to hide something in orbit.  Whoever wins on the ground then puts up a few more to restore the communications networks, surveillance, and mapping services.

Unlike modern communications satellites, where the staggering cost of launching something into orbit makes the price of the satellite itself seem absolutely trivial, you can simply release them from ASFs or Dropships during routine operations.  The actual costs of the communications and surveillance equipment are the biggest expenses, and those are fairly cheap in the 31st Century.

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #26 on: 15 February 2019, 14:38:54 »
Satellites are more expendable than ASF. A lone ASF on a recon op is also asking to be bounced and so needs escorting as well. Better in my mind to send up a sat, and then wait to attack what the enemy sends up to attack the sat.

Not in 3025 no.

Any lone ASF is asking to be bounced, unless one has air superiority. Then there wouldn't be a problem using them but we don't see it.

I don't think it happens on every planet in any era. Some planets just wouldn't need them. Others would get tired of pirates destroying or stealing them and stop putting them up.


The Sat is cargo, ASF launches for BARCAP during insertion and the crew transfers preps and launches the Sat . . . or its loaded as external cargo on a fighter in place of bombs.


Which takes time and exposes the dropship to attack and fighters can't legally carry external cargo. Even if allowed it a com sat would be too heavy.

I vaguely recall that there was a mention of deploying a satellite in one of the BT video games, and you only had information for a few short minutes before it would inevitably be knocked down.  That basically confirms my own view that sending up satellites and knocking the enemy's down is an ongoing race, and standard procedure.  You send them up and EXPECT to lose them only minutes later when either an ASF or ground-based laser system converts them to space dust or orbital debris.

Inbound on a raid or assault, you routinely take out every satellite you can find.  It's inevitably going to be used by the enemy's military otherwise, and is easily replaced.  If you've got the advantage in ASF capability, you deploy a few of your own, but STILL expect to lose most/all to ground-based fire in a fairly short span of time.  Anything that's seen in modern/futuristic warfare is as good as dead, it's just a question of how long it takes to get the weapons or fired projectiles to where they need to be, and it's even more difficult to hide something in orbit.  Whoever wins on the ground then puts up a few more to restore the communications networks, surveillance, and mapping services.

Unlike modern communications satellites, where the staggering cost of launching something into orbit makes the price of the satellite itself seem absolutely trivial, you can simply release them from ASFs or Dropships during routine operations.  The actual costs of the communications and surveillance equipment are the biggest expenses, and those are fairly cheap in the 31st Century.

We don't have any means of launching satellites other than kicking them out of an aerospace craft which are supposed to be in short supply. That seriously limits how quickly satellites can be replaced.

If one doesn't want one's satellite to simply be a target one arms it. That's extra cost, weight, and deployment time.

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #27 on: 15 February 2019, 14:51:06 »

A small craft can easily seed a simple communication net, sats are cheap and SC are quite common.
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Colt Ward

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #28 on: 15 February 2019, 15:09:46 »
Which takes time and exposes the dropship to attack and fighters can't legally carry external cargo. Even if allowed it a com sat would be too heavy.

The BARCAP is already escorting the dropship in, so that bay is clear.  It takes a few minutes at most (rules in TO?  SO?) to take something from cargo and load it into a ASF cubicle.  Its done on the way in, and if you are worried about your DS doing some orbital maneuvering- like adjusting the vector to change prospective DZ- then you have other problems.  Cost-benefit . . . if the orbital defenses are bad enough you are not able to loiter, then should you really be sending the troop transports in yet?

ASF can carry bombs and rockets externally, and based on some novel fluff I would swear a TAG pod.  I think they can also carry sensor dispensers?  They are not taking them through atmo if they are going to ferry it into the proper orbit.
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AdmiralObvious

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Re: Satellites Discussion
« Reply #29 on: 15 February 2019, 16:18:30 »
The BARCAP is already escorting the dropship in, so that bay is clear.  It takes a few minutes at most (rules in TO?  SO?) to take something from cargo and load it into a ASF cubicle.  Its done on the way in, and if you are worried about your DS doing some orbital maneuvering- like adjusting the vector to change prospective DZ- then you have other problems.  Cost-benefit . . . if the orbital defenses are bad enough you are not able to loiter, then should you really be sending the troop transports in yet?

ASF can carry bombs and rockets externally, and based on some novel fluff I would swear a TAG pod.  I think they can also carry sensor dispensers?  They are not taking them through atmo if they are going to ferry it into the proper orbit.
I'm fairly sure ASFs and CFs can mount TAG pods if they have a external hardpoint.

I think if you extrapolate the rules a lot, you can probably carry an unmanned unit on an external hardpoint too if you hook it up right. Granted this has to be extremely light.