ASAT: When Space Becomes A Shooting Gallery


Space is so hot right now. The past year has seen a flurry of activity from all over the globe with regards to space and orbital operations, and with the recent announcement of Russia’s plans to install 11 new military satellites by 2015, it looks like things won’t be slowing down any time soon. Besides SpaceX’s first commercial satellite, a milestone in itself, this year saw the launch of the US government’s newest spy satellite, complete with creepy mission badge, and the launch of India’s first defense satellite and their new Mars Orbiter. The last two years have seen more countries put their first satellites into space than any other two years combined. Right now there are more than 1071 operational satellites in Earth’s orbit, and more stuff tends to mean more junk as well, which has military experts and orbit otakus quaking in their moon shoes. On July 20th, the Chinese government launched three new satellites which many observers believe are the next stage in China’s growing ASAT, or Anti-Satellite, capabilities. Satellites form the backbone of our most valuable communication and signal relay networks, yet are suspended completely defenseless in orbit. In the future the destruction of key satellites, as well as a barrage of cyber-attacks, could act as the first salvos in a major conflict between nations. And while this may seem like forced moves from a strategic viewpoint, a chaotic dismantling of our orbital infrastructure could have a lasting impact measured in decades, potentially leaving a legacy more destructive than any atom bomb.

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