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January 19, 2007

Day One Of Starwars: China Conducts First Test Of Antisatellite Weapon

Scary!

China has shown it can destroy a satellite in orbit. What could the U.S. do to stop Beijing, if it decided to attack an American orbiter next? Short answer: nothing. - Defense Tech
China has just fired the opening salvo of what is certainly to become a "Starwars" race that will reach across the entire globe. Aviation Week & Space Technology will report in its Jan. 22 issue that 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.
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.

Chinese Anti_Satellite Test.jpg


(Click image to see larger view and source)

The NYT paints a dim picture for the planet:

"This is the first real escalation in the weaponization of space that we've seen in 20 years," said Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astronomer who tracks rocket launchings and space activity. "It ends a long period of restraint."

White House officials said the United States and other nations, which they did not identify, had "expressed our concern regarding this action to the Chinese." Despite its protest, the Bush administration has long resisted a global treaty banning such tests because it says it needs freedom of action in space.

Jianhua Li, a spokesman at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said that he had heard about the antisatellite story but that he had no statement or information.

At a time when China is modernizing its nuclear weapons, expanding the reach of its navy and sending astronauts into orbit for the first time, the test appears to mark a new sphere of technical and military competition. American officials complained yesterday that China had made no public or private announcements about its test, despite repeated requests by American officials for more openness about its actions.

The weather satellite hit by the weapon had circled the globe at an altitude of roughly 500 miles. In theory, the test means that China can now hit American spy satellites, which orbit closer to Earth. The satellites presumably in range of the Chinese missile include most of the imagery satellites used for basic military reconnaissance, which are essentially the eyes of the American intelligence community for military movements, potential nuclear tests and even some counterterrorism, and commercial satellites.

Experts said the weather satellite's speeding remnants could pose a threat to other satellites for years or even decades.

china_satellite.jpgNow we know that there has been good reason for the United States to have consistently deflected Chinese advances for closer cooperation on the two nations' space programs - owing to concerns about the involvement of China's military. The Chinese kickoff of what amounts to now as a Starwars race, in the context of a Chinese government defense paper released last month saying that its defense expenditure had grown by more than 15 percent every year since 1990, certainly signals the likely beginings of an arms race with possible disastorous concequences for the entire planet. At a time that the world is dealing with the plague of radical Islam, we certainly didn't need the introduction of yet another one. Of course that doesn't matter now that we have two. Starwars has begun.

Other media coverage: Aviation week

Other blog coverage: The Political Pit Bull, Redstate, Arms Control Wonk

Cross posted from Hyscience



Posted by Richard at January 19, 2007 8:05 AM





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