Thursday, January 18, 2007

China may have an Anti-Satellite Weapon

According to Aviation Week & Space Technology China may have performed a successful anti-satellite weapons test destroying one of their older weather satellites with a kinetic kill vehicle launched on board a ballistic missile.

The Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, NASA and other government organizations have a full court press underway to obtain data on the alleged test, Aviation Week & Space Technology will report in its Jan. 22 issue.

If the test is verified it will signify a major new Chinese military capability.

Neither the Office of the U. S. Secretary of Defense nor Air Force Space Command would comment on the attack, which followed by several months the alleged illumination of a U. S. military spacecraft by a Chinese ground based laser.

China's growing military space capability is one major reason the Bush Administration last year formed the nation's first new National Space Policy in ten years, Aviation Week will report.

If this story and test are confirmed it’s extremely troubling indeed; this new capability marks a significant up-tick in china’s ability to render foreign powers reconnaissance satellites inoperative at best, destroyed at worst!

And if true many questions will have to be answered in a quick. A couple of many being:

1) Does the U.S. currently have such capability?
2) Can the U.S. counter this new capability?

The following are some details of the alleged test:

Details emerging from space sources indicate that the Chinese Feng Yun 1C (FY-1C) polar orbit weather satellite launched in 1999 was attacked by an asat system launched from or near the Xichang Space Center.

The attack is believe to have occurred as the weather satellite flew at 530 mi. altitude 4 deg. west of Xichang located in Sichuan province. Xichang is a major Chinese space launch center.

Although intelligence agencies must complete confirmation of the test, the attack is believed to have occurred at about 5:28 p.m. EST Jan. 11. U. S. intelligence agencies had been expecting some sort of test that day, sources said.

U. S. Air Force Defense Support Program missile warning satellites in geosynchronous orbit would have detected the Xichang launch of the asat kill vehicle and U. S. Air Force Space Command monitored the FY-1C orbit both before and after the exercise.

The CATO institute had a great Policy Analysis on militarizing space (pdf) the article is from 2002 but seems extreamly relevant in light of this new dicovery.

Advocates of a more aggressive U.S. military policy for space argue that the United States is more reliant on the use of space than is any other nation, that space systems are vulnerable to attack, and that U.S. space systems are thus an attractive candidate for a "space Pearl Harbor." But as important and potentially vulnerable as current U.S. space-based assets may be, deploying actual weapons (whether defensive or offensive) will likely be perceived by the rest of the world as more threatening than the status quo. Any move by the United States to introduce weapons into space will surely lead to the development and deployment of anti-satellite weapons by potentially hostile nations. As the dominant user of space for military and civilian functions, the United States would have the most to lose from such an arms race.


National security must be one component of total U.S. space policy, but it must certainly not be the primary component. In the post–Cold War environment—with no immediate threat from a rival great power and none on the horizon— the United States must not establish over-stated and costly military requirements for space-based resources. The military must make greater use of commercial space assets. Also, the United States should strive to foster an environment that allows commercial space activity to grow and flourish rather than use it to create a new area for costly military competition.

If china has successfully tested an anti-satellite weapon it was a very irresponsible move on their part. Along with the fact, that they would have effectively resigned being partners with the rest of the world to keep space peaceful and un-weaponized, they would be setting a precedent for other countries to follow! Their action would not only spur other countries on to create anti-satellite weapons but also create and atmosphere of competition for other types of space arms.

Another potential problem as a side effect to kinetic kill vehicles and ballistics in Orbit is the debris. Putting aside the risk to military reconnaissance, the risk to commercial satellites and friendly space programs from scattered debris would be overwhelming and put global communications in serious jeopardy!

Very irresponsible indeed!

h/t to blackhedd for bring this to my attention!

1 comment:

Obob said...

The Chinese were handed this technology by the Clinton admin