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Assessing the Threat: Chinese Orbital Weapons

Written by on Friday, March 16th, 2012

This week’s focus has been on space: observing it, protecting it, and arming it. Still, that leaves some skeptics wondering: is all of this concern really warranted? Are space-based defense systems really necessary, or is discussing it just irresponsible fear mongering?

To answer that question, we only need to look to China. The growing nation has been experimenting with a variety of anti-satellite space weapons, proving that this is a very real threat.

China has been growing rapidly, and orbital space has not been spared from their ambitious reach. The Chinese government has sent several astronauts into space, has expressed intent to land on the moon, and has established a satellite infrastructure. By themselves, these achievements are not terribly troubling. When viewed in light of their orbital weapon tests, however, these accomplishments become much more threatening

In 2007, China successfully destroyed a Chinese weather satellite with an orbital projectile. This collision resulted in an enormous cloud of orbital debris that continues to circle earth, threatening all other satellites in its path. China is fully buy cialis cheap online capable — and has been for 5 years now — of utterly obliterating US satellites.

Later, in 2010, the Chinese government caused two Chinese satellites to rendezvous in orbit, and even maneuvered each satellite close enough to touch one another. This test has obvious anti-satellite implications, as it suggests that the Chinese government is capable of using satellites as orbital battering rams, or to use them to dock with or interfere with other satellites.

Perhaps the most unsettling fact about these tests is that China performed each of them without alerting the world beforehand, which goes against international custom. Not only is this practice inconsiderate to the point of making other nations uneasy, but it clearly demonstrates that China is interested in testing the stealth capabilities of anti-satellite technology.

Make no mistake: thinking of space as the future’s battlefield is not at all unreasonable. As China, the US, and other nations begin developing technology to arm and defend orbital space, our skies may become the deciding factor for the wars of tomorrow.

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