And the race to militarize space is on!

If the test is verified it will signify a major new Chinese military capability.

Neither the Office of the U. S. Secretary of Defense nor Air Force Space Command would comment on the attack, which followed by several months the alleged illumination of a U. S. military spacecraft by a Chinese ground based laser.

China’s growing military space capability is one major reason the Bush Administration last year formed the nation’s first new National Space Policy in ten years, Aviation Week will report.

It gets worse, says Defense Tech:

[I]f this anti-sat weapon was really “kinetic” — i.e., hit-to-kill, non-explosive — instead of a plain ol’ exploding weapon, that’s extremely bad news. That means the booster rocket has to be very accurate “in order to deliver the kill vehicle to the desired initial trajectory…. Then the kill vehicle needs to tweak its trajectory into a precise collision course using on-board propulsion and either on-board target tracking or… command guidance from the ground.” That’s no mean task.

DT wrote about another Chinese experiment in space warfare back in September involving anti-satellite lasers. That wasn’t really a “test,” though — allegedly, the lasers were fired at American orbiters.

It’s worth reading the whole post at Arms Control Wonk by Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, an expert in this area who’s calling this “a very disappointing day”:

In my forthcoming book, Minimum Means of Reprisal, I warned that China might move toward ASATs as a counter to the development of US missile defense and conventional strike capabilities—although I thought we might have more time than this…

If China has conducted an ASAT test, this is extremely bad. I had been hoping that the Bush Administration would push for a ban on anti-satellite testing, either in the form of a code of conduct. The Bush folks, however, have been fond of saying that wasn’t necessary, because “there is no arms race in space.”

Well, we have one now, instigated by an incredibly short-sighted Chinese government.

Update: Noah Schachtman of Defense Tech e-mails with a link to DT’s latest post and a pithy warning that “this [development] is REALLY bad.”

There’s nothing we can do to defend our eyes in the sky as of this moment, and there won’t be for years to come. And every new test, of which more are expected, complicates things further:

The Chinese trial could “lead to nearly 800 debris fragments of size 10 cm or larger, nearly 40,000 debris fragments with size between 1 and 10 cm, and roughly 2 million fragments of size 1 mm or larger,” the Union of Concerned Scientists’ David Wright notes on the Arms Control Wonk blog. “Roughly half of the debris fragments with size 1 cm or larger would stay in orbit for more than a decade.”

Update: Canada, South Korea, Australia, and Japan are all expected to lodge protests. This is a seriously big deal.

Tags: China