China restarts the arms race in space

Weapons in the final frontier

There are three ways of looking at it: China tested a new way to clean up orbital slots occupied by defunct satellites; it now has a way to take out space-based assets belonging to other countries; or, that it just created a whole lot of hazardous orbital junk up there. But let there be no mistake—it has also started this century’s arms race. Star wars, ladies and gentlemen, has received a new lease of life.

What China did is not tremendously difficult to do. Both the United States and the Soviet Union have tested anti-satellite (ASAT) missiles, but the post-cold war world has held back from testing space-related weapons. That unspoken taboo is now broken.

Where is India in all this? At least three air chiefs have publicly talked about the establishment of an Aerospace Command. Although the government has not approved its formation, the Indian air force has started “work on conceptualising (space-based) weapons systems and its operational command system”. And then there are accounts of DURGA or Directionally Unrestricted Ray-Gun Array, and KALI or Kinetic Attack Loitering Interceptor. Whether or not these projects exist outside the anyone’s imagination is not known. But the folks at DRDO have a way with acronyms. (Actually, these weapons may belong to the family of advanced weapons known to professionals as Vertically Aligned Polar Omnidirectional Uniform Radioactive Weapon And Re-entry Equipment.)

For now, the United States has reacted with reproach at the Chinese for having defected first in this prisoner’s dilemma game. But the Chinese may have settled the domestic debate in the United States weapons programmes in space. They may have settled it in India too.

Related Links: Two posts on this at DefenseTech; Theresa Hitchens’s report on developments in military space.

12 thoughts on “China restarts the arms race in space”

  1. Are you outta your mind??? China clearing debris by destroying a defunct satellite!!! The defunct satellite doesn’t destroy. It adds a cloud of particles which might destroy anything in tis orbit. The cloud would be there for long. Your knowledge on the subject is poor. The affair is serious. Not convinced? Suggest go through Space, the frontiers of modern defense. Its an Indian book. The author,a Squadron leader KK Nair talks at length on the chinese space program.

  2. Christina,

    As for knowledge of the subject, I have designed part of a satellite and set up a ground station to track orbital objects. But yes, I do lack formal training in the field of delicate sarcasm, which is why I may have put it in a form that escaped you.

  3. God bless you,your satellite part and your ground station. I reiterate, the affair is serious. Your comments are frivolous.

  4. Christina,

    Human civility should be easier to give than God’s blessings, no?

    No one disputes that the matter is serious. A bit of sarcasm, even if it is deemed frivolous, does not change it either way.


  5. Can’t say who’s right betn Christina & Nitin. But one thing that can be said with ceratinity is that the book she mentions is good. Good is an understatement. It is excellent. Never knew Indian military minds could be so perspective or articulate.

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