China has become the first nation to successfully shoot down a low-earth orbit satellite with a ballistic missile. Russia, opposed to space weaponry, criticizes the US for the Chinese shoot-down (typical,) and this is certain to heat up the Asian Space Race.
Many countries in the region are advancing their space programs by leaps and bounds over the past few years, which why it’s terribly important for us to keep our efforts going. With this threat, China could create a “Space based Pearl Harbor” since much of our defense integration and network centric warfar methods are based on GPS satellites and other recon sats.
The clear worry of all space faring nations is the potential of one nation taking the “high ground”, and by doing so control access to space for all time.
From the AP:
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – The Fengyunâ€””Wind and Cloud”â€”1-C weather satellite was a proud worker in China’s space program. Launched in May 1999, it provided a wealth of information that scientists used for forecasting floods, sandstorms and disturbances in space caused by solar activity. Now, it has been reduced to a nebula of debris. And that may prove to be its most lasting legacy. In January, China blasted the Fengyun 1-C into oblivion with a land- based anti-satellite missile from its southwestern Xichang spaceport. It was the first kill of a satellite by a land-based missile ever conducted by any nation, including the United States and Russia. The message was hard to miss: China is readyâ€”and increasingly ableâ€”to challenge the U.S. military advantage in space.
“Competition is moving toward the new frontier, space,” said Arthur Ding, a research fellow at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University.
To space and military experts, China’s success is no surpriseâ€”its military-run space program has taken a great leap forward in recent years.
It launched its first manned space flight in 2003. A second mission in 2005 put two astronauts into orbit for a week, and a third manned launch is planned for next year. This year, China plans to launch a probe that will orbit the moon.
In the meantime our space program lacks true heavy lift capability, and we are falling behind.
Regarding the Asian Space Race, also from AP:
The most heated space race since the Cold War is under way in Asia, where countries are concluding that a space program is no longer just an expensive status symbol but a matter of national security. And they are scrambling to keep abreast.
China, the only Asian country to put its own astronauts into orbit, is far ahead.
But India, South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan all have satellites in orbit. North Korea claims to have sent one up with its 1998 ballistic missile launch and to have used it to broadcast messages from its leader, Kim Jong Il, though that claim has never been substantiated.
Japan is closest to keeping pace with China.
After a decade of work, Tokyo in February completed a network of four spy satellites that can monitor any spot on the globe, every day.
Japan’s program was spurred by the 1998 North Korean test of a Taepodong ballistic missile, which flew over its main island and into the Pacific somewhere off the coast of Alaska. Tokyo now spends about $500 million a year on its spy satellite program.