Washington, USA, 18 January 2007 – The United States, Australia and Canada have voiced concerns to China over the first known satellite-killing test in space in more than 20 years, the White House said on January 18.
“The U.S. believes China’s development and testing of such weapons is inconsistent with the spirit of cooperation that both countries aspire to in the civil space area,” National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. “We and other countries have expressed our concern regarding this action to the Chinese.”
Using a ground-based medium-range ballistic missile, the test knocked out an aging Chinese weather satellite about 537 miles above the Earth on January 11 through “kinetic impact,” or by slamming into it, Johndroe said.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, the first to report the test, cited space sources as saying a Chinese Feng Yun 1C polar orbit weather satellite, launched in 1999, was destroyed by an antisatellite system launched from or near China’s Xichang Space Center in Sichuan Province.
The capability demonstrated by China was no surprise to the Bush administration, which revised U.S. national space policy in October to assert a right to deny space access to anyone hostile to U.S. Interests. The United States has been researching satellite-killers of its own, experimenting with lasers on the ground that could disable, disrupt and destroy spacecraft.
The last U.S. anti-satellite test took place on September 13, 1985. Washington then halted such Cold War-era testing, concerned by debris that could harm civilian and military satellite operations on which the West increasingly relies for everything from pinpoint navigation to Internet access to automated teller machines.
According to David Wright of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Union of Concerned Scientists, the satellite pulverized by China could have broken into nearly 40,000 fragments from 1 cm to 10 cm or up to 4 inches, roughly half of which would stay in orbit for more than a decade.