[FPSPACE] Chinese ASAT test reported; it was successful

robot at esper.com robot at esper.com
Thu Jan 18 18:28:04 EST 2007

> Excerpt:
> U. S. intelligence agencies believe China performed a successful
> anti-satellite (asat) weapons test at more than 500 mi. altitude
> Jan. 11 destroying an aging Chinese weather satellite target with
> a kinetic kill vehicle launched on board a ballistic missile.

I think this is a smart move by the Chicoms.

I suspect the Chicom military looked at the state of American
milspace and concluded that the U.S. military-industrial complex
couldn't fix a plate of white bread, even if it wanted to. The
Chinese military may believe they have the better part of a decade to
do want in LEO they want before the U.S. even catches up (catch-up is
the American national sport, didn't you know). Based on what I see in
the news, I can't fault the Chicoms for this conclusion. This
awareness seems to have eluded most commentators over here.

Notice the phrase "kinetic kill vehicle" in the quote. A KKV is a far
more difficult technical proposition than the fill-the-sky-with-frags
approach of first-generation Soviet ASATs. Granted, matching orbits
with good ground support (i.e. lotsa radars) is a 40-year-old
capability (e.g., USAF Program 437; Soviet co-orbital /istrebitel
sputnikov/). But direct ascent KKV is a whole 'nuther story. That's
another nuance the media doesn't seem to have picked up on yet. 

I dunno where this particular metsat was, but note that most metsats
are in polar orbits, like most spysats.

Yet another nuance: Assuming the ageing metsat was on the order of 3
meters in size, and assuming the kill was made in direct ascent mode
as opposed to co-orbiting mode, this test demonstrates the capability
to achieve a velocity error on the order of 3 meters / ~1000 seconds,
i.e., way less than 1 cm per second. This has obvious implications
for their CEPs of Chinese ballistic missiles. More fallout from the
Iridium bus tech transfer scandal in 1996, I suppose. Nobody has
picked up on that yet, either.

If my back-of-the-envelope math is wrong I'm sure someone will hop in
to correct me.

A fourth, and perhaps the most important, nuance: this test has
occurred at a time when the USA still hasn't managed to decentralize,
distribute, disperse and/or harden its force multipliers in space as
smart folks (including some on this listserver) have been
recommending for well over a decade. Quite the opposite - based on
the execrably myopic reporting in the open press over the last
decade, the near-term surge capability of the USA has declined to
almost nil. Furthermore, every milspace program is (way) behind
schedule and (way) over-budget. This is almost entirely the fault of
excessive consolidation in the post-Cold-War aerospace industry. That
is my firm belief. It's not just that these clowns are grossly
overcompensated, but they're incompetent as well. These frat boys
behave as if all national security threats can be countered with more
lobbying and more Congressional campaign contributions. What will the
USG counter this with? /Bupkis/, is my guess.

Well, there's one bright spot. At least observers of the world scene
like me won't have to listen to crocodile tears from other great
powers how Americans are "militarizing space". Boo hoo. Maybe some
fat-cat Beltway Bandits will get their collective keesters fired,
too. I like to see some of that old Soviet "volitional management -
volitional results" philosophy applied over here. That would be nice.


Robert G Kennedy III, PE

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