China’s anti-satellite test, strategic threat to US?

China’s anti-satellite test, strategic threat to US?

By Yu Runze, Sina English

China may be gearing up to perform an anti-satellite test this month, perhaps in the next week or two, some U.S. experts say.

For several months, rumors have been circulating within the U.S. defense and intelligence communities that a Chinese anti-satellite test is imminent, says Gregory Kulacki of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

It could even be conducted on Jan. 11, the date on which China performed ASAT operations in both 2007 and 2010.

In the 2007 test, China destroyed one of its own defunct weather satellites at an altitude of 530 miles (850 kilometers). The 2010 operation used similar technology to take out an object that was not in orbit.

The upcoming ASAT test - if China is indeed planning one - may not necessarily be so destructive, Kulacki says.

"There are different types of technologies that can be used as ASAT weapons, and a satellite may not be destroyed at all," he wrote today. "The planned test could be of the same technology as the 2007 and 2010 tests but in a missile defense or flyby mode, or a test of technology that doesn’t destroy a satellite."

Some U.S. officials suspect China may want to go higher than it did in either 2007 or 2010, targeting an object 12,000 miles (20,000 km) or so above the Earth's surface. This ability to reach medium-Earth orbit (MEO) could theoretically put the constellation of U.S. Global Positioning System navigational satellites at risk.