WASHINGTON — The U.S. Defense Department is suggesting that the May 2013 launch of a Chinese rocket that it branded at the time as suspicious was a test of a technology designed to counter or destroy satellites in geosynchronous orbit.
China characterized the launch as a scientific sounding rocket mission, but the U.S. Air Force said the vehicle’s trajectory was inconsistent with that explanation. In a statement released shortly after the launch, the service said the rocket climbed to a nearly geosynchronous-orbit altitude — 36,000 kilometers high — but that all objects associated with the launch subsequently re-entered the atmosphere.
In its latest annual report on Chinese military power, released May 8, the Pentagon doubled down on its initial assessment.
“The launch profile was not consistent with traditional space-launch vehicles, ballistic missiles or sounding rocket launches used for scientific research,” the report said. “It could, however, have been a test of technologies with a counterspace mission in geosynchronous orbit.”
Air Force and Defense Department officials have repeatedly warned over the past year about growing Chinese and Russian threats to satellite capabilities. In the case of China, these officials have primarily cited two events: China’s deliberate destruction in 2007 of one of its own low-orbiting satellites with a ground launched missile; and a “nondestructive” anti-satellite test in 2014.
Full article: Pentagon Says 2013 Chinese Launch May Have Tested Antisatellite Technology (Space.com)