Friday, January 19, 2007

China has missiles to destroy orbiting satellites

China has spooked the United States and its allies by successfully launching a missile to destroy an orbiting satellite. From CNN:
Aviation Week and Space Technology first reported the 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 (anti-satellite) system launched from or near the Xichang Space Center."

A U.S. official, who would not agree to be identified, said the event was the first successful test of the missile after three failures.

The official said that U.S. "space tracking sensors" confirmed that the satellite is no longer in orbit and that the collision produced "hundreds of pieces of debris," that also are being tracked...

"If we, for instance, got into a conflict over Taiwan, one of the first things they'd probably do would be to shoot down all of our lower Earth-orbit spy satellites, putting out our eyes," said John Pike of globalsecurity.org, a Web site that compiles information on worldwide security issues.
China refused to confirm or deny the report but did say that its space missions are no threat to anyone. Australia, one of the the countries that are worried about China's new ability, has obtained evidence of the destruction and is concerned about the militarisation of space. From News.com.au:
By one estimate, the satellite, which was launched in 1999, could have been blown into as many as 300,000 pieces, ranging in size from 1cm to 10cm. Many of the pieces could remain in space for a decade, possibly affecting future space missions.

"The concern is the debris from the destroyed satellite could hit other satellites and damage them," Mr Downer said. "That is one of the issues of destroying satellites in this way because it then has the potential to disrupt other satellites still in use and, of course, the cost of building and launching satellites is massive.

"The other issue is the militarisation of outer space and we don't want to see the spread of an arms race into outer space."

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