Report: China Making Rapid Progress on Anti-Satellite Systems

China has developed a number of weapons designed to jam and destroy enemy satellites in the event of a war while publicly opposing weapons in space, according to a new Pentagon report.

“In addition to the development of directed energy weapons and satellite jammers, China is also developing direct-ascent and co-orbital kinetic kill capabilities and has probably made progress on the anti-satellite missile system it tested in July 2014,” the report stated. “China is employing more sophisticated satellite operations and is probably testing dual-use technologies in space that could be applied to counterspace missions.

The claims come in a document from the Secretary of Defense titled, “Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2018.”

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U.S. Expresses Concerns About Russian “Inspector” Satellite, Space Lasers & ASATs

Soyuz-2.1v on launch pad (Credit: Russian Ministry of Defence)

The United States said this week that a Russian satellite launched last year is exhibiting “very abnormal behavior” in orbit, suggesting that it is a weapons system rather than a “space apparatus inspector” as claimed by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

“In October of last year the Russian Ministry of Defense deployed a space object they claimed was a ‘space apparatus inspector,'” said Yleem D.S. Poblete, assistant secretary at the U.S. Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance. “But its behavior on-orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities, including other Russian inspection satellite activities.”

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China Enjoyed Stellar Year in Space

Yutu rolls out onto the moon. (Credit: CNSA)
Yutu rolls out onto the moon. (Credit: CNSA)

China had a highly successful year in space in 2013, sending a second crew to live aboard the Tiangong-1 space station in June and becoming only the third nation to successfully soft land a spacecraft on the moon in December. As the year ended, the Yutu rover had completed its first exploration of the lunar surface and had entered a hibernation period for a long lunar night.

With increasingly sophisticated spacecraft, a reliable stable of Long March launch vehicles, and ambitious plans for the future, China has made itself a major player in the international space arena as space agencies in the United States and Europe face budgetary pressures and Russia struggles to revive a once formidable space program.

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The Space Review: Skylon, Shuttles and Area 51

In The Space Review this week….

Skylon: ready for takeoff?
The British Skylon RLV concept has received some recent attention after an ESA study found no showstoppers with its design. Jeff Foust explores the work on Skylon performed to date and identifies some challenges, both engineering and business, that it has yet to overcome.

The irreplaceable Space Shuttle
After next month’s launch of Atlantis, the Space Shuttle program will come to an end. Taylor Dinerman looks back on what the shuttle did and did not achieve.

Hubble in the crosshairs
Is Russian developing an airborne laser anti-satellite weapon? Dwayne Day examines the history of a curious Russian aircraft that may be fitted with a laser, and its implications for a potential ASAT arms race.

Roswell that ends well, part 2
Dwayne Day follows up on a critique of a new book about Area 51 with an analysis of the research that went into that book, and the flaws associated with it.

The Space Review Looks at CCDev, Seed Corn and Chinese ASATs

Boeing's proposed commercial capsule.
Artist's conception of Boeing's commercial crew module. (Credit: Boeing)

This week in The Space Review….

Funding the seed corn of advanced space technology
The final NASA fiscal year 2011 funding bill provided no explicit funding for space technology activities, a key element of the agency’s future plans. Lou Friedman says that without such investment, it will become increasingly difficult to make new advances in robotic or human space exploration.

Commercial crew’s final four
Last week NASA announced that four companies would share nearly $270 million in commercial crew development awards, the next step in efforts to develop commercial vehicles to carry astronauts to orbit. Jeff Foust reports on the outcome of the competition and whether there’s room for other companies to compete later in the program.

Fifty years of piloted spaceflight: Where are we going?
It’s clear to many that, half a century after the era of human spaceflight began, we have fallen fall short of our early dreams for the exploration and settlement of space. Claude Lafleur take a look at what went wrong.

Paul Allen’s past (and future) in space
While best known for co-founding Microsoft, Paul Allen is known in the space community for funding development of SpaceShipOne. Jeff Foust discusses some insights about that effort Allen reveals in a new book, and his potential to return to the commercial space field.

An exercise in the Art of War: China’s National Defense white paper, outer space, and the PPWT
China continues to press for a treaty banning the placement of weapons in outer space, even while developing its own ASAT capability. Michael Listner examines what may be at the root of Chinese strategy regarding space weaponization.

Space Review: The Destroy Everything Edition

A Titan rocket explodes just after liftoff. (Credit: USAF)
A Titan rocket explodes just after liftoff. Not a good day for the Air Force. (Credit: USAF)

This week in The Space Review

  • HLV! HLV! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Say it again! That is basically Lou Friedman’s view of the job creating, budget busting heavy-lift vehicle that Congress has thrust upon a reluctant NASA.
  • Todd Neff looks at the vastly over budget and behind schedule James Webb Space Telescope, which threatens to scuttle and delay other valuable projects.
  • Jeff Foust reports on some the measures the US and other countries can take to make sure orbital debris, satellite collisions, and anti-satellite weapons don’t destroy space as a useful place to visit and do work.
  • Jeff Foust reviews a book by an astronomer who helped to obliterate Pluto’s status as a planet.
  • Dwayne Day continues his look at the long-since-canceled and little mourned TV show “Defying Gravity,” ABC’s valiant effort to wipe out the space science fiction genre once and for all.

ASATs and Ballistic Missile Technology

The Space Review has a couple of stories about the military uses of space:

How should we secure our space-based assets as a nation?
The White House has proposed negotiating a ban on space weapons, even though there is uncertainty about exactly what would be considered such a device. Christopher Stone argues that other measures can be taken to better protect the safety and security of space assets.

North Korea proves the point: ICBMs are proliferating
This weekend’s launch of a North Korean rocket was supposedly intended to put a satellite into orbit, but many observers considered it a test of a long-range missile. Taylor Dinerman opines on the implications of this launch.

Space Junk Becoming a Big Problem; No Easy Solutions in Sight

When an out-of-control Russian satellite crashed into an Iridium spacecraft last week, it did much more than just create a massive debris cloud in low Earth orbit. It also set off an international debate about what to do about a growing collection of dangerous junk that humanity has deposited around the planet. It promises to be a costly problem with few easy answers.

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Dispatches from Colorado: Politics, Shuttles and ASATs

Aviation Week’s Frank Morring, Jr. is providing blog updates from the ongoing U.S. Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Morring’s blog posts:

  • review the evolving space policies of the three major U.S. presidential candidates;
  • report on a proposal by former shuttle commander turned Boeing executive Brewster Shaw to keep the space shuttle flying beyond its planned retirement date in 2010; and,
  • reveal that the U.S. Air Force had been assisting the Chinese human spaceflight program with avoiding orbital debris, at least until the Chinese made the problem much worse last year by blowing up a spacecraft with an anti-satellite missile.