[FPSPACE] Reuters reports on items from US intelligence assessment on Chinese space

Peter Pesavento pjp961 at svol.net
Mon Jan 14 11:08:52 EST 2013

Reuters via Yahoo




To me, there is something about this news reportage that bothers me, that
focuses on alleged (but no evidence for currently, as this news story does
state) ASAT test preparations in the near future, but I can't put my finger
directly upon it.  Maybe others can point it out.  The tangentially
referenced report in the first few paragraphs is probably a National
Intelligence Estimate issued in December 2012.


China's space activities raising U.S. satellite security concerns

By Andrea Shalal-Esa | Reuters - 9 hrs ago


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is concerned about China's
expanding ability to disrupt the most sensitive U.S. military and
intelligence satellites, as Beijing pursues its expanded ambitions in space,
according to multiple sources in the U.S. government and outside space

A classified U.S. intelligence assessment completed late last year analyzed
China's increasing activities in space and mapped out the growing
vulnerability of U.S. satellites that provide secure military
communications, warn about enemy missile launches and provide precise
targeting coordinates, said the sources, who were not authorized to speak

"It was a very credible and sobering assessment that is now provoking a lot
of activities in different quarters," said one former government official
who is familiar with U.S. national security satellite programs.

The intelligence report raised red flags about Beijing's ability to disrupt
satellites in higher orbits, which could put the most sensitive U.S.
spacecraft at risk, according to the sources. China has already conducted
several anti-satellite tests at lower orbital levels in recent years.

Given the heightened concerns, Washington is keeping a watchful eye on
Chinese activities that could be used to disrupt U.S. satellites. It is also
urging Beijing to avoid a repeat of its January 2007 test that created an
enormous amount of "space junk," said one senior defense official.

Details of the latest Chinese moves that have raised U.S. concerns remain

U.S. officials charge that China's anti-satellite activities are part of a
major military modernization that has seen Beijing test two new stealth
fighters; step up cyber attacks on foreign computer networks; and launch
more commercial and military satellites in 2012 than the United States.

China still lags behind the United States in most military fields.

"What we're seeing is a heightened sense in the United States that China is
a potential threat and that it has the technology to be a threat if it
wishes to," said Jonathan McDowell, with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for

"As China becomes a space superpower, and given that it does have a
significant military component to its space program, it is inevitable that
the U.S. will be concerned about threats to its most valued satellite
systems, whether or not China actually intends to deploy such aggressive
systems," he said.


Six years ago, on January 11, 2007, China destroyed one of its own defunct
weather satellites in low-earth orbit, which created over 10,000 pieces of
debris that pose a threat to other spacecraft. A less-destructive test
followed on January 11, 2010.

Space experts and U.S. officials say they expect China to continue testing
anti-satellite technologies, although they doubt it would repeat the 2007
test, given the massive international outcry it triggered.

Gregory Kulacki, a respected researcher with the Union of Concerned
Scientists, reported earlier this month on the group's website that there
was "a strong possibility" of a new anti-satellite test by China within the
next few weeks.

He said Chinese sources had told him in November that an announcement about
an upcoming anti-satellite test had been circulated within the Chinese
government, and a high-ranking U.S. defense official confirmed in December
that Washington was "very concerned" about an imminent Chinese
anti-satellite test.

The Chinese Defense Ministry did not respond to emailed queries by Reuters'
Beijing office on the question.

The Pentagon said it was aware of reports predicting another test, but
declined comment on what it called "intelligence matters."

"We monitor carefully China's military developments and urge China to
exhibit greater transparency regarding its capabilities and intentions,"
said Lieutenant Colonel Monica Matoush.

Sources within the U.S. government and outside experts said there was no
immediate evidence pointing to the preparations for the type of satellite or
rocket launches used by China for past anti-satellite tests at lower orbits.

But they said Beijing could test its anti-satellite weapons in other ways
that would be harder to detect, such as by jamming a satellite's signals
from the ground or issuing a powerful electromagnetic pulse from one
satellite to disable another.

China could also maneuver two satellites very close together at higher
orbits, replicating actions it has already taken in lower orbits in August
2010 and November 2010. Such activities could be used to perform maintenance
or test docking capabilities for human spaceflight, but could clearly be
used for more destructive purposes as well, they said.

The United States has continued to test its own anti-satellite capabilities.
In February 2008, a missile fired from a U.S. Navy cruiser in the north
Pacific destroyed an ailing American satellite in orbit.

The U.S. government said the satellite's toxic fuel posed a risk upon
re-entry of the earth's atmosphere. Skeptics said the test was a message to

Any further anti-satellite test by China would be troubling, especially if
it occurred at higher altitudes, said Bruce MacDonald, a former White House
official who is now a senior director at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

The United States operates its fleet of Global Positioning System (GPS)
satellites in medium earth orbit about 11,000 miles above the surface of the
earth, while U.S. military communications and early missile warning
satellites are located in geostationary orbit 22,000 miles above the

Brian Weeden, technical adviser for the nonprofit Secure World Foundation
and a former Air Force space and missile expert, said a Chinese
anti-satellite test at those higher orbits would put U.S. satellites at

"Some critical U.S. assets in that region have been assumed for the most
part to be safe from those kind of attacks," he said. "Such tests would
signal that they're not."




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