Who benefits from the Chinese ASAT test

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.

7 comments to Who benefits from the Chinese ASAT test

  • Well, I did note the need for payloads as well. I think we’re in violent agreement.

  • Tom

    I’m closer to Rand on this. Payloads are important, but when you need responses on the order of hours-days, the only part of the puzzle left is the launch. Any satellite not built, checked out, and likely continuously operating by that time won’t be flying with the necessary speed.

  • > responses on the order of hours-days

    Hours, since we’re very likely talking about a real shooting war where things are happening quickly. IMO, the proper model to bear in mind here is a modern ICBM.

    Probably, for orbitological reasons, you would want to have two or more launch sites well separated in longitude. Or a ready-to-go air launch capability.

    (All this once again reminds me of General Moorman, who noted that one Titan IV + spysat took longer to get off the pad than the time between Pearl Harbor and VJ Day.)

  • maximum benefit to the warfighter.

    There are no benefits in fighting wars.

  • richardb

    This event will be the gift that keeps on giving. The USA had so many space control programs budgeted, its hard to see what could be new, but I’m sure they will be found. Look for black program growth. Adding fire to this was the Chinese PLA spokeswoman at Davos quoted as saying the Chinese believe its inevitable that space will be weaponized and that there will be two space superpowers, Chinese and American. One good thing out of this, the DOD might decide the Iraq war is too costly now that space warfare is what the Chinese are preparing for.

  • Adrasteia

    Ot, but the new page is very pretty.

  • J Wheeler

    Reagan was right! If we would have started the Star Wars project in the 80’S we would be trillions of dollars ahead by now and not scrambling
    for defense funds or weapons to fight this type of attack. With the majority of our modern military weapons reliant on GPS systems and satellite communications a major attack would throw us into a WWII type
    military or worse. It is our technology advances that have kept us safe and the leaders of modern society. With no modern industrial complex to equip us our future would surely be bleak.

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