There’s been plenty of discussion of the potential negative effects of the Chinese ASAT test earlier this month, from the debris created by the test imperiling other satellites to the increased threat now faced by US low Earth orbit satellites. But who will benefit? An Aerospace Daily article earlier this week suggests that both missile defense and operationally responsive space (ORS) efforts could win additional support based on the reaction to the test. Jeff Keuter of the Marshall Institute says that space-based missile defenses, which he argues could also be effective against ASATs, could get a, um, “boost” (his words, not mine) from the test. Defensive counterspace—hardening or otherwise protecting satellites from attack—could also win coverts in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.
ORS, with its promised ability to quickly launch new or gapfiller spacecraft in the event of a crisis (like an ASAT attack on existing satellites), could also win new support. That may be critical since there had been rumors in previous months that funding for ORS in FY08 and beyond was jeopardy. Rand Simberg makes a similar argument in a TCS Daily essay, although I would quibble that the issue is not Operationally Responsive Spacelift, as he identifies it, but Operationally Responsive Space. Low-cost rapid launch is a key part of the puzzle, but it is not the only one, and maybe not even the most important one, given issues ranging from satellite buses and payloads to integrating those systems into existing systems to provide the maximum benefit to the warfighter.