BROOMFIELD, Colo. (SWF PR) — Over the last fifteen years there has been a resurgence of anti-satellite (ASAT) testing in space by multiple countries. During the Cold War between 1960 and 1991, the United States and the Soviet Union conducted dozens of tests of both direct ascent and co-orbital ASAT weapons, some of which destroyed satellites and created hundreds of pieces of orbital debris.
After a brief pause, ASAT testing in space resumed in the mid-2000s and since then China, India, Russia, and the United States have all tested either direct ascent or co-orbital ASAT weapons, some of which again have destroyed satellites and created thousands of pieces of orbital debris.
The National Security Space Strategy released today responds to the realities of a space environment that is increasingly crowded, challenging and competitive, said senior Defense Department officials.
â€œThe National Security Space Strategy represents a significant departure from past practice,â€ Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in a DOD news release issued today. â€œIt is a pragmatic approach to maintain the advantages we derive from space while confronting the new challenges we face.â€
I found an interesting article that looks at the delicate balance that the United States must keep as it attempts to expand cooperation in space with both China and India, whose fierce rivalry for dominance in Asia is spilling over into the building of geo-positioning systems, ballistic missile defense, and satellite-killing spacecraft.
China’s determination to hold the option of denying the use of space-based capabilities to other states was illuminated in its successful test of an anti-satellite weapon in January 2007, eliminating an old Chinese weather satellite. Building upon this experience, Beijing conducted its first ballistic missile defense (BMD) test on 11 January 2010.
RIA Novosti reports that ISRO has nixed a proposal for a solo Soyuz flight that would include two Indian astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut. The mission would be an intermediate step toward India’s effort to launch astronauts aboard its own vehicle. India still wants to cooperate with Russia on human spaceflight. (Via Roscosmos website)
Spaceflight Now has a somewhat speculative story about whether ISRO will seek Russian help on its 17-year effort to develop an indigenous cryogenic upper stage. That help could include technical assistance or purchasing additional engines (India has bought seven already). The article notes that the U.S. recently dropped anti-proliferation sanctions against Russia’s Glavkosmos in 1988 that prohibited technical cooperation. ISRO’s attempt to launch its first cryogenic stage failed in April when the engine failed to ignite.
ISRO officials have ruled out the possibility that the Insat-4 B satellite was partially crippled by the Stuxnet internet worm, The Economic Times reports. Twelve of the satellites 24Â transponders shut down, apparently due to a power glitch.
M P Anil Kumar, a former fighter pilot of the Indian Air Force, has a published a two-part series in he urges his nation to develop a strong military space program to counter threats from China and Pakistan. It’s a very interesting read that sheds some light on what could be a developing space arms race in Asia.
The Space Foundation and the Secure World Foundation co-hosted a standing-room-only policy briefing on space weapons earlier this week in Washington, D.C.
The audience comprised primarily congressional staff, representing the House and the Senate at both an office and a committee level. Other attendees included representatives from a number of major aerospace companies.
Over at Aviation Week, Jeffrey Manber reports some news coming out of the UN about space weapons:
The United Nations Conference on Disarmament, the Geneva-based 65-nation group that has been stuck in a diplomatic quagmire for the past decade, announced two surprising breakthroughs two weeks ago.
The first concerned creating rules prohibiting the production of nuclear-grade materials, even among nations with nuclear weapons. The second was the equally dramatic agreement to create a working group to seek an end to weapons in space.
Manber sees these developments – done with the blessing of the Obama Administration – as good news:
For the space community there are only good implications. Sure, it could well take another decade to reach an agreement. But in the meantime it will send a signal of goodwill to other spacefaring nations, with spillover effects for increased cooperation in the civil and commercial sectors.
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 weekendâ€™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.
Some bad news for those who would keep outer space safe from militarization and dangerous clouds of debris:
Russia is working on anti-satellite weapons to match technologies developed by other nations and will speed up modernization of its nuclear forces, a deputy defense minister was quoted as saying Thursday.
The Space Review’s Jeff Foust has some thoughts about whether there’s a new space race between the United States and China.
“While some people continue to wave a red flag (so to speak) about Chinese intentions in space, others argue that the real problem is not lunar exploration plans or ASAT weapons but rather a fundamental lack of understandingâ€”on both sides of the Pacific,” Foust writes.