Satellite Killer’s Big Impact

There’s been immediate fallout — both physical and political — from China’s satellite killer test.
Debris from the orbital collision has already been spotted, the M-T Milcom blog notes. “As of this writing NORAD has officially cataloged 32 objects… that now pollute a vital area of space (sun-synchronous polar orbit).” The picture to the right is of a few of ’em.
sat_orbits005.jpg“There are over 125 satellites that operate in this portion of space,” the M-T blog observes. Those include reconnaissance satellites, like the Lacrosse and Advanced Keyhole orbiters, as well as weather-monitors, like the Defense Meteorological Satellites Program series. In other words, this test directly affects the American military’s ability look for terrorist hideouts, and survey a potential battlefield. These are not small matters. “Our space assets are the first asset on the scene,” GlobalSecurity.org’s John Pike tells the AP. “They are absolutely central to why we are a superpower - a signature component to America’s style of warfare.”
Frequent Defense Tech commenter Robot Economist, now with his own blog, warns that “this situation has the potential of becoming the next Katyusha rocket or IED problem for the United States.” Even the International Space Station could be at risk. That said, RE reminds us that “it is unlikely that [China’s] success… translates into any sort of immediately fieldable capability.”

If the spotty record of our ground-based missile interceptors demonstrate anything, it is the difficulty of intercepting even predictable space targets… [And] the Chinese had a pretty good handicap on this test.

Robert Farley sees the anti-satellite trial as “first and foremost… a deterrent move aimed at the United States.”

The US military isn’t completely dependent on spy satellites (in case of war, the Taiwan Straits would be overflown by enough spy and communications aircraft to make the satellites redundant), but destroying them is a way of chipping away at US capability, and thus indicating that China can inflict real costs in case of a US intervention in a militarized China-Taiwan dispute. The public way in which the Chinese have carried out this test, as well as earlier “blinding” tests, and the recent submarine-stalks-carrier debacle indicates to me that they’re as serious as possible about showing the US their capabilities, which is key to a deterrent strategy. Also, Chinese anti-satellite capabilities don’t have to be targeted against US military satellites; the Chinese may threaten commercial satellites as well, which would help to metastasize the costs of any US intervention.

No wonder, then, that governments around the world are protesting the move. With one exception, apparently: Russia. Arms Control Wonk notes…

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov commented to reporters that he has heard reports of the Chinese test, but thinks that the rumors are quite abstract and are exaggerated.
In an interview, vice-preseident of the Russian Academy of geopolitcal affairs, General Leonid Ivashov, said that he thinks the Chinese used Russian developments for making their antisatellite missiles.

How do you think this is going to play out? Speak up!
ALSO:
* China Tests Satellite Killer?
* China Space Attack: Unstoppable
* Beijing’s Next-Gen Sat Strike
* Why Did China Smack the Sat?
* China Sat-Killer Not Yet Weapons Grade?
* Who Ordered the Satellite Strike?

  • Rob

    How many more ‘tests’ do they have to conduct to successfully block an orbit?

  • Eric Hundman

    Are any readers competent to evaluate how much a new clump of debris ups the likelihood of a collision with existing satellites? I’d guess the likelihood is still pretty low, but I am no expert.

  • JH

    I say if some of this commie space trash damages or even kills something or someone American (Sat, Shuttle, Astronaut,) we places some real sanctions on them.

  • MinorRipper

    Wait a minute, I thought we (the USA) were the only ones in the world allowed to do stuff like this??!! I thought space belonged to us?
    http://www.minor-ripper.blogspot.com

  • Stephen

    I unfortunately believe that these are small steps that will one day eventually lead us to go to war with china and also be a set up for the next world war.

  • Yeong

    Hey, just a high-tech warfare! Just watch which side got a better research lab and brain!! I would not bid any money on China in the long run.

  • Sean Collins

    All our enemies are now steppong forward. First it was North Korea followed by Iran with their nuclear programs and now China. They consider the U.S. to be so bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan that we will be unable to stop them. This war against terrorism is fixing to expand into a world war.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    What if the real purpose of the weapon turns out to be filling a much needed orbit with “test” debris, thus denying the U.S. unobstructed usage for the near future. Showering American spy satellites with “accidental” test debris could be very hard to pinpoint as an act of war.

  • frank

    well everybody that has a gps and any other gadgets, better start remmebering how the oldfashion way.

  • Robot Economist

    Eric - In response to your question, I don’t think this test will make huge waves in low earth orbit.
    SPACETRACK has logged only 40 >10cm pieces so far, but the space geeks over at ACW have calculated there could be up to 800 >10cm pieces. Given that there already is an estimate 10,000 pieces of debris that size already out there in LEO, even this worst case scenario only represents an 8% increase in an already crowded sky.
    As for specific sat systems, FY-1C was in a pretty popular orbit, but it was too low to have a significant impact on the U.S.’s GPS or Lacrosse constellations. I’m not really sure where most of our keyhole and optical imagery satellites are nowadays though.

  • Lee Terry

    The best defensive move is an offensive move. Knock out all their works they’ve put up, and tell the coniving theives to shut up..or put up.
    I’ve read official works from people in charge in China, what they plan to do with us within 5
    years.

  • no one in particular

    China’s multiple public statements about “weaponizing space”, and the lack of UN or international controls restricting the use of military force in space makes this episode even more intriguing. What if, for instance, the Chinese are seeking to prompt international attention and gain international support for restrictions to be placed against the use of military force against objects in orbit?

  • no one in particular

    for more: http://cns.miis.edu/research/space/china/arms.htm

  • Ken

    JEFF: You are absolutely correct. I think Klinton should be tried as a traitor, but he will not get a conviction in the press like he would have if he had been a Conservative Republican. The Klintons are left over dope smoking flower children from the 60’s who think sharing sensitive info with our enemies levels the playing field, keeping our enemies from being insecure and thus more trigger happy. Sadly, this is the way many liberals think. They don’t understand the concept of peace through superior fire power. Klinton is a traitor egged on by his wild-eyed co-conspirator wife.

  • bob D.

    I’m not scientifically astute enough to comment on the technological or military ramifications of this. I do know however, that this threatening technology was funded by the billions of dollars worth of “trinkets” the American consumer “junkies” buy from this very scary nation.So Americans, keep buying this unneccessary bric-a-brac and someday you’ll be digging through the rubble that was once your home looking for it.

  • dumb and dumber

    I do not think there will be any more tests from China. A successful one is enough to bring the Us back to the negiotiation table for “restrictions” on “weaponizing space” (Bush has been refusing to cooperate with the world on this matter). In addition, I do think that China is a future strategic partner of the US, not an enemy.

  • S1to7

    See, full of Jealeous and Prejudice and selfish
    “say if some of this commie space trash damages or even kills something or someone American (Sat, Shuttle, Astronaut,) we places some real sanctions on them”
    “How many more ‘tests’ do they have to conduct to successfully block an orbit?”——Why don’t you ask the US government 20 years ago when they first carry out the satellite killing scheme.
    “Wait a minute, I thought we (the USA) were the only ones in the world allowed to do stuff like this??!! I thought space belonged to us?”———American think they are superior, and others only Apes.
    “I unfortunately believe that these are small steps that will one day eventually lead us to go to war with china and also be a set up for the next world war”——What makes you think China will start war? In the past, the European start WWI, Germen Italy and Japan Start WWII, now only US Start War. China, NEVER.
    …….
    …….
    …….
    ……. etc
    Please THINK!!

  • lh9

    Our system is nothing after this test of China.
    The best thing we can do is work with China and don’t involve in the issue related with TainWan.

  • Sam’s Club

    Hi Men, calm down. Nothing will happen and it is just a test—still at the low level. We, America, did much more than that…….

  • Luckynumber13

    This is all very ridiculous. I enjoy browsing through news and reading the various sleght of hand delusions that we are fed through the media, but if any decently rational human being considers either China or America or their material wealth(ie satellites, weapons) our primary concern is sadly “disillusioned”.
    On the first note, American military technology renders our government the ability to manipulate and control any satellite in the sky. If China knocks out ours, we can simply take over theirs or any other for that matter. In fact, some of our most valuable “extraterrestrial” assets belong to other nations.
    Secondly, as described in the article, while our current active systems rely on satellites, our secondary systems are well designed to function in the absense of our current satellite system.
    Thirdly, our militry and even “nonmilitary” satellites possess active weapon systems to target and eliminate any stray debris that might threaten other satellites in orbit. The very fact that CHinas missils hit anything at all is evidence that the US Government allowed it to happen. Don’t forget that we excersise dominate power in almost every potential theatre of modern warfare. Nothing enters or leaves space without out our expressed permission or our “looking the other way.” IF the destroyed satellite DOES BY CHANCE bring down an AMerican satellite, then it will be a direct result of American acceptibilty.
    Fourth. Our entire global infrastructure is set up entirely contrary to what we are allowed to see. Our relationships with China, Russia, N. Korea, Europe, Iraq/middleeast, etc. have absolutely nothing to do with communism, Islamic fascism, or national factions fighting for global supremecy. This is strictly the conclusin of 100 years of regulated propaganda…a fact that can be proven thousands of times over in a thousand different arenas. Wake up world. The facts are crystal clear and written upon every aspect of our modern existence. Quit believing what they tell you and start believing what actually makes sense!!!
    Please feel free to email me or to either compare opinions or to further seek out the truth. I don’t have all the answers, but I damn sure don’t waste my time with all of the Lies.
    Remember the numbers 13, 12, 10,9, 11, 32, 33, 96, 666 and 18. You will see alot more of them in the future

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