As China Stalks Satellites, U.S. and Japan Prepare to Defend Them

 

 

In May 2013 the Chinese government conducted what it called a science space mission from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China. Half a world away, Brian Weeden, a former U.S. Air Force officer, wasn’t buying it. The liftoff took place at night and employed a powerful rocket as well as a truck-based launch vehicle—all quite unusual for a science project, he says.

In a subsequent report for the Secure World Foundation, the space policy think tank where he works, Weeden concluded that the Chinese launch was more likely a test of a mobile rocket booster for an antisatellite (ASAT) weapon that could reach targets in geostationary orbit about 22,236 miles above the equator. That’s the stomping grounds of expensive U.S. spacecraft that monitor battlefield movements, detect heat from the early stages of missile launches, and help orchestrate drone fleets. “This is the stuff the U.S. really cares about,” Weeden says.

The Pentagon never commented in detail on last year’s launch—and the Chinese have stuck to their story. U.S. and Japanese analysts say China has the most aggressive satellite attack program in the world. It has staged at least six ASAT missile tests over the past nine years, including the destruction of a defunct Chinese weather satellite in 2007. “It’s part of a Chinese bid for hegemony, which is not just about controlling the oceans but airspace and, as an extension of that, outer space,” says Minoru Terada, deputy secretary-general of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Continue reading

Is China’s space programme a cover for anti-satellite technology? Expert claims we should be wary of ‘missiles’ being launched

On 15 October 2003 China launched their first ‘taikonaut,’ the Chinese term for an astronaut, into space on the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft

This has been followed by further space exploration achievements, including an Earth-orbiting laboratory called Tiangong-1 and a lunar rover named Jade Rabbit.

But is it all a front to build anti-satellite technology? That’s what one expert warns we should be wary of, and not just from China, but Iran and North Korea as well.

In a paper called Dangerous Space Incidents, Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations explains how satellites could be under threat from the rising space exploration capabilities of certain nations. Continue reading

How the U.S. Is Vulnerable to Terrorism in Space

Space terrorism is a growing threat to U.S. national security, according to a new report.

And an attack on a U.S. satellite—or damage to one from another country’s debris—could have astronomical effects on national security, says the report from the Council on Foreign Relations. Continue reading