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Space China Government Japan The Military United States

Preparing For Satellite Defense 118

Taco Cowboy sends a report into China's development of anti-satellite technology, and efforts by the U.S. and Japan to build defenses for this new potential battleground. Last year, China launched what they said was a science space mission, but they did so at night and with a truck-based launch system, which are not generally used for science projects. Experts believe this was actually a missile test for targets in geostationary orbit. U.S. and Japanese analysts say China has the most aggressive satellite attack program in the world. It has staged at least six ASAT missile tests over the past nine years, including the destruction of a defunct Chinese weather satellite in 2007. ... Besides testing missiles that can intercept and destroy satellites, the Chinese have developed jamming techniques to disrupt satellite communications. In addition, ... the Chinese have studied ground-based lasers that could take down a satellite's solar panels, and satellites equipped with grappling arms that could co-orbit and then disable expensive U.S. hardware. To defend themselves against China, the U.S. and Japan are in the early stages of integrating their space programs as part of negotiations to update their defense policy guidelines. ... Both countries have sunk billions of dollars into a sophisticated missile defense system that relies in part on data from U.S. spy satellites. That's why strategists working for China's People's Liberation Army have published numerous articles in defense journals about the strategic value of chipping away at U.S. domination in space.
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Preparing For Satellite Defense

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  • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Friday July 18, 2014 @10:29AM (#47482487) Journal

    New since, umm, the 1960's? 1980's, anyway. The US has tested several different ASATs over the years, and has long had countermeasures. I assume other countries have countermeasures as well.

    • What kinds of countermeasures are available? You can't intercept a laser, or is there some kind of coating they use? You can't easily dodge with the amount of fuel most satellites have. If there is another full scale war vs a major wold power, I don't think our satellites will last long. Hopefully we have practiced using other sorts of navigation.
      • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:35AM (#47483143)

        If there's a war with another superpower it's all over anyways because any general who see his realtime intelligence assets quickly going away is going to assume it's part of a preemptive strike plan and so will recommend we launch. That's why the idea of blinding the enemy is so dangerous, in a MAD scenario the only thing keeping the peace is the ability to verify that your enemy is not trying to perform a first strike.

        • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

          In the future it's all about space. He who owns Low Earth Orbit will own the planet. From satellites you can watch and attack at will. ICBM's will be useless so any delivery system will have to be cruise missile or strategic bombers. That's the problem with warfare, the game constantly changes.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Seems like submarines will rule then(as they already do now). If you can't lob one from the other side of the globe, you can still pop up out of nowhere and deliver your payload in 5 minutes or less.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots.

      • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

        lasers are pretty easy to deflect with reflective surfaces. or you could just vent a cloud of gas or vapor that will attenuate the beam (obviously you'd have only so many uses of this tactic, but essentially "chaff" for lasers). plus even though lasers are coherent, they still diffuse some over extreme distances, which amplifies the power requirement in order to actually concentrate enough energy to do damage. plus the laser source would ideallyneed to be space-borne itself, simply because having to go thro

        • by fisted ( 2295862 )

          lasers are pretty easy to deflect with reflective surfaces that can handle the energy input


    • by alexander_686 ( 957440 ) on Friday July 18, 2014 @10:39AM (#47482605)

      Asymmetric warfare. The US has more space assets and is more heavily dependent on them. If space warfare ever occurred the US would be hurt relatively more. And I have a hard time of thing of any decent countermeasures.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Asymmetric warfare is a misnomer. All warfare is waged by two non-symmetric sides.

        That said, the idea that if space warfare ever occurred, (in this scenario) the US would be hurt relatively more, is a shortsighted assumption. Your premise is based on the belief that no matter how hard the U.S. gets hit, it would refuse to retaliate in equal or greater strike(s).

        The car analogy would be: if your neighbor destroys your car engine with thermite; you don't retaliate by slashing his car tires, you retaliate by s

        • Your premise is based on the belief that no matter how hard the U.S. gets hit, it would refuse to retaliate in equal or greater strike(s).

          No, I am not making that assumption. You are right the opponents seek to exploit their opponent's weaknesses, and just because one has a relative strength in one area does not mean you have an absolute advantage. I just think that in this area we have a large potential weakness that would be hard to shore up against China.

      • But having assets in place might assist in their defense. If you start attacking us space assets, it is a fair bet that the us will consider that an act of war. I will bet you money there are some military sats in orbit that have offensive capabilities. Start shooting at sats, and you might get a 10 pound tungsten bar de-orbited on your ground based laser or ASAT launcher. Being is space is a POWERFUL position on the military game board.
    • by dywolf ( 2673597 ) on Friday July 18, 2014 @12:26PM (#47483567)

      I think the new part here was being able to reach targets in geostationary orbits. We've long had the ability to take out the orbits closer to earth, but geostationary is typically 22,000+ miles out. I'm not sure if our weapons yet have the capability to reach those satellites.

      • If you can put a satellite there, you can put a weapon there as well. Payload has little to do with the capability to get there.

        • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

          Not quite, no. You have to consider the size of the rocket required to get there. And payload very much has to do with the capability to get there. The requirements for achieving near earth orbits vs geostat orbits are very different, and those requirements will change based on both payload size and orbit level.

          The current ASAT's are very large missiles, but still borderline launchable from aircraft...specifically an F15 is a supersonic zoom climb, with initial ballistic guidance provided by the jet's traje

          • By contrast to get even the same small warhead to geostationary, with guidance and course course correction ability, will require a rocket very similar to that used to put geostats into orbit in the first place.

            I think you just backed up my claim. Reread what I wrote. If you can get a satellite to a specific point, you can get a weapon there as well.

            By payload I am referring to the use type, not the mass. Assuming equivalent mass, it doesn't matter if you're throwing up a few kilograms of circuitry or a a f

  • by Anonymous Coward

    a mine shaft gap.

  • Without military satellites, how can we protect ourselves from the Nazis from Moon []?
    • We beat them by sending the Japanese prime minister [] into space to beat him at mahjong.

    • All kidding aside, I think this illustrates how important it is that we establish permanent moon telecommunications infrastructure.

      • I apologize for the possible mis-use of the word telecommunications.

      • by mccabem ( 44513 )
        Then China targets the moon? It may take them longer, but I fail to see how that's better.

        • It's much easier to deploy countermeasures from a large body of land than a relatively small satellite in orbit. It takes much longer for a missile to get there so there's a longer opportunity to respond. Different international regulations on bombing the moon. Redundancy for emergency failure. We can continue to target our nukes at them while the closer satellites are taken out. I could keep going on but either you'll understand or fail to see the motivations. "Better" is probably not the precise wor

      • by ixuzus ( 2418046 )
        How does that help you? Your enemies don't even have to bother to destroy your lunar telecommunications system - they just wait until it is below the horizon.
        • Build more than one on different faces retard.

          • by ixuzus ( 2418046 )
            Okay, I'll bite.

            The moon is tidally locked so you're probably worrying about the wrong horizon. Go ahead and build on different sides - how does that help you when the moon is on the opposite side of the earth?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 18, 2014 @10:34AM (#47482531)

    Kessler syndrome. [] Thanks, China!

  • On the plus side, if space gets militarized then the United States will actually spend money on it.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Space is already militarized.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hamsterdan ( 815291 )

      Why? There's no oil in space.

    • by ahaweb ( 762825 )
      Money spent on space used to be dual-use (civilian and military). Now it's single-use (military), and the civilian stuff is private.
  • This puts a new spin on the phrase "sitting duck".

  • We'll need to break through the space junk to get to the moon or Mars: []

  • Did the Men in Black fail their mission? Which timeline is this again?

  • so? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Friday July 18, 2014 @10:49AM (#47482713)

    Given that the US is almost assuredly got armed satellites in orbit, and the US Airforce has a unmanned space shuttle: []

    I think it's a bit silly to call this anything other than "Common sense" on China's part. At the very least during an armed conflict the US could use these satellites to spy on China... at worst they could nuke them from orbit. If they didn't have an anti-satalite program they'd be remiss in their duties I'd think.

    • there should be some treaties in place that would only allow space warfare if they properly handle the resulting space junk, otherwise space will become a no man land. perhaps this would result in non explosive/kinetic attacks, capture and burn in the atmosphere attacks, and repositioning attacks.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        How would you enforce such a treaty?
        Once you are at war with a country I doubt they'd care if they broke some treaty.

      • by mccabem ( 44513 )
        Download Google Earth and get the extension that shows all orbiting satellites (including junk). It's pretty startling how much crap has been shot up into space and just left there.

        It makes a good reminder of how stupid some things are that seem to make so much sense at the time we're doing them.

      • there should be some treaties in place that would only allow space warfare if

        Useful hint: first thing that happens when you decide to start a war is that you junk the Treaties.

        Or do you really think all it takes to prevent war is a Treaty of Eternal Chumship between all nations on Earth?

      • there should be some treaties in place that would only allow space warfare if they properly handle the resulting space junk, otherwise space will become a no man land. perhaps this would result in non explosive/kinetic attacks, capture and burn in the atmosphere attacks, and repositioning attacks.

        We were also under treaty to assist Ukraine should they be invaded...

        • by dryeo ( 100693 )

          Who are we? America never had a treaty to assist the Ukraine if they were invaded.

          • well, we made an agreement with them, if they give up their nukes, that the USA would ensure their safety.

            • by dryeo ( 100693 )

              The agreement, not treaty consisted of

              Respect Ukrainian independence and sovereignty within its existing borders.
              Refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine.
              Refrain from using economic pressure on Ukraine in order to influence its politics.
              Seek United Nations Security Council action if nuclear weapons are used against Ukraine.
              Refrain from the use of nuclear arms against Ukraine.
              Consult with one another if questions arise regarding these commitments.

              Now while it can be argued that America broke the first condition by spending billions inside the Ukraine to destabilize the government leading to the resignation of its democratically elected leader, the only country that the USA promised to ensure the Ukrainians safety from was America.

              Full text, []

    • I wonder, how much high tech military gear (including drones) the US can operate if their GPS system goes down?

      Sure those things are not in low orbit but you start at lower orbit and work for outward from that. Plus the US has been wasting money on space based weapons systems since the 1980s and those were low orbit. Spy satellites are not the big deal.

      • Nearly all of it. THey have interia guidance systems for dealing with this. By the time that an ICBM is in space, they are no longer using GPS.

        Now as to conventional stuff, we have multiple ways of triangulating and controlling locations. If GPS is taken out, then the battle field will still be OK. Where GPS really helps is if you want to change a cruise missile, etc in-route to a different target and you do not have an active targeting system.
      • by Jahoda ( 2715225 )
        GPS is convenient for the military to have, but they are in no way dependent upon it to conduct operations. Very paranoid folks, those guys.
  • Could be worse (Score:4, Insightful)

    by aprentic ( 1832 ) on Friday July 18, 2014 @10:53AM (#47482737) Homepage

    The US has military satellites for a reason.
    Given that the US has a reputation for invading countries they don't like it only makes sense to defend against them and there are several potential strategies for doing so.
    I feel much better about China going the defensive route (get ready to blow up the satellites) rather than the MAD route (start stockpiling nukes).

    • This isn't an either - or. They are doing both.

    • Are you so sure they're not doing both? I certainly would, and in today's climate it would be bad PR to publicize the fact that you are growing your stockpiles before their size becomes sufficient to rival the primary threats and/or their imminent usage becomes a serious possibility. After all you're not looking to leverage a cold war against your own population - just ensure that if/when the day comes you're the one standing on higher ground.

    • WRONG. (Score:3, Informative)

      by WindBourne ( 631190 )
      The route that they are going, is NOT defensive. It is OFFENSIVE. Look, lets say that the west decides to launch against China. By the time that China realizes this, the ICBMs are on their way and have already switched off from sats and are working with intertia systems.

      Where anti-sat systems come into play, from a military pov, is knocking out the enemies eyes and communications PRIOR to your launching first strike.
      China is busy developing a first strike set-up, that is useless for defense.

      In additio
      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Since ICBMs predate GPS by several decades and the US has a massive submarine launch capability I doubt taking out the satellites would affect the US counter-strike much. What worries China is the US rocket shield technology, they say it's against "rogue states" but who is to say what it's really capable of. If the US strikes first are they able to retaliate? Do they have any submarines capable if the ICBMs fail? Doubtful. Take out the satellites and you're back to MAD - if the US can nuke China then China

  • Geostationary? (Score:4, Informative)

    by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:17AM (#47482959)

    Most military assets are not in geostationary orbit. You get a better view from closer up, and you move around to cover more area.

    Geostationary orbit is mostly for communications.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The geostationaries also probably handle drone C&C, which is of interest I'd imagine.

  • The entire western world is thankful for the teachings of Sun Tzu. One cannot blame China for following a good defensive strategy.

    By the way, the article makes it sound like it was an offence by China, but the initial offence is the one of nations putting spy satellites into space in the first place. It is then just twisted and ironic, if not funny, to see how the US and Japan seemingly want to defend themselves against China's defence plans, when it took some more spying to find out about the launch.

    Be gla

    • by afidel ( 530433 )

      Spy satellites aren't offensive, they're intelligence assets and good intelligence about equal opponents leads to more peace and calm, not more war. The Cuban missile crisis is a good example of this in action.

      • by sdack ( 601542 )

        Well, this sadly only shows the culture you are growing up in. To some of us is spying a sign of mistrust and an offence. If you had read Sun Tzu would you know that spying is an act of war.

        China's is more than 5,000 years old, possibly 10,000 years. The "Art of War" was written more than 2,500 years ago. The book alone is far older than the Bible or the USA. It is also being used at the military academy in Westpoint as teaching material.

        Anyhow, when you then want to make China your enemy, should you also l

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      Be glad they are not stupidly trying to set up nuclear missiles on Cuba in order to get a "head start" in a nuclear world war like the Russians did.

      Umm .. I think you need to learn some history. The Russian placement of missiles in Cuba was a response to the West's placements of similar missiles near the Russian border in Europe. And one of the terms of the resolution of the crisis in Cuba was a reduction of the West's missiles in Europe.

      • by sdack ( 601542 )

        I said to be glad in comparison to what China could have done instead. Nothing more. You are missing the point if you now want to expand onto what happened in Europe. We might be sitting here all day and night just remind us what happened before then and then before then, and so on. Say, are you at least glad it is not worse?

  • satellites equipped with grappling arms that could co-orbit and then disable expensive U.S. hardware

    They watched Outlaw Star [] decided that they had uncovered a Top Secret military program and then decided to copy them verbatim. [] Can these guys do ANYTHING original?

  • > including the destruction of a defunct Chinese weather satellite in 2007 Which was highly irresponsible and obnoxious on their part because to sprayed deadly space debris all over the place....
    • by Anonymous Coward

      ...sprayed deadly space debris all over the place....

      Which killed George Clooney and almost got Sandra Bullock too.

  • is that the anti-sat systems are really only useful in a FIRST ATTACK.
    China is NOT thinking of MAD. They are planning and designing a first strike system.
    This WILL lead to a war between the wests and China, along with China's Allies (north Korea, Iran, and whom ever else China is sharing nuke secrets with).
  • So, how long do you think it will be before Kessler syndrome finishes the job all these anti-satellite weapons and tests start? As one professor back in college (the class was 'War in the Nuclear Age') pointed out, you could take out all of geosync orbit with a large bag of sand if you got it going in the opposite direction from Earth's spin. LEO and MEO are both crowded enough that we could get a spontaneous Kessler syndrome even if we don't keep blowing the satellites up there into shrapnel. I suppose we
  • I have 1 Firestorm and 2 normal interceptors defending each of my sats. All armed with EMP cannons and Plasma guns. Let them Aliens come!!!

"You can have my Unix system when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." -- Cal Keegan