Improving space-based reconnaissance and surveillance technologies is high on China's agenda. "These systems, when fully deployed, will provide a
robust and versatile space reconnaissance capability with regional coverage," the just released DoD report explains.
"Publicly, China opposes the militarization of space and seeks to prevent or slow the development of U.S. anti-satellite (ASAT) systems and
space-based missile defenses," the DoD reports states. "Privately, however, China's leaders probably view ASAT systems -- and offensive
counterspace systems, in general -- as well as space-based missile defenses as inevitabilities."
Meanwhile, the report adds, China is said to be acquiring a variety of foreign technologies that could be used to develop its own satellite-killing
On this score, China already may possess the ability to damage optical sensors on some spacecraft - at least those vulnerable to laser damage.
Ground-based, satellite-blinding laser weaponry is likely being pursued. "Given China's current level of interest in laser technology, Beijing
probably could develop a weapon that could destroy satellites in the future," the report notes.
China is also thought on a path toward a direct-ascent ASAT system. This hardware could be fielded in the 2005-2010 timeframe, the DoD asserts. Space
interceptors can destroy targets in space. Moreover, the report highlights a Hong Kong newspaper account in January 2001 that claimed China had
developed and tested an ASAT system using a "parasitic microsatellite." Although the DoD review says this claim cannot be confirmed, it points out
that home-grown microsatellite and nanosatellite technologies are being proliferated by a number of nations.
New booster families
In the booster department, China is proceeding with building a new modular family of heavy-lift launchers. Additionally, a new small, solid-propellant
space lifter is being developed. A family of these smaller boosters would provide China the ability to hurl small satellites into orbit. This class of
booster would give China a rapid launch capability, "and has broad military, civil, and commercial applications," the DoD report observes.
As for China's human spaceflight program, the DoD acknowledges the fact that the country's first manned space mission may occur this year.
"China also has long-term plans to launch its own space station, and possibly a reusable space plane as well. While one of the strongest immediate
motivations for this program appears to be political prestige, China's manned space efforts almost certainly will contribute to improved military
space systems in the 2010-2020 timeframe," the report concludes.
Lots of action-reaction
In reviewing the DoD report, some Western China watchers don't see anything startling or new in the assessment of Chinese space interests. But the
report does wave a cautionary flag, according to one expert.
"Still lots of speculation of what the Chinese might be developing," said Joan Johnson-Freese, chair of the Naval War Colleges National Security
Decision Making Department in Newport, Rhode Island.
"Regarding space specifically, both countries see space as so vital to their futures," Johnson-Freese told SPACE.com. "Actions by one are seen as
nearly zero-sum to the other," she said.
Johnson-Freese said that the Chinese have read the 2001 Report of the Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and
Organization as suggesting the inevitability that space will become a battleground. Therefore, the U.S. would be remiss not to prepare.
"They also note that in the first U.S. Space War Game in 2001, American forces were pitted against an opponent threatening a small neighbor.
Subsequently, the Chinese view that they would be remiss not to prepare for the inevitability of U.S. development of space weapons."
There are lots of "inevitabilities" in both U.S. and China camps, Johnson-Freese said, that were not considered inevitabilities five years ago.
"Lots of action-reaction on both sides," she added.
Targets for preemption
Dean Cheng, Research Analyst with Project Asia at the CNA Corporation in Washington, D.C., has also perused the DoD report on China.
"I think that the Second Gulf War highlighted, on the one hand, the dependence of the United States on space-based systems, which China's People's
Liberation Army cannot help but notice and note," Cheng said. "Space assets gave U.S. forces a significant edge, and that is something that the
Chinese have noticed."
Cheng said the DoD report correctly observes that the Chinese are showing an interest in the topic of physical attack against satellites.
"It would be dangerous and foolhardy, in my opinion, to either ignore such reports, or worse to pooh-pooh them. Given the degree of American reliance
on satellite systems, it would behoove us to consider the prospect of attack against our space-based infrastructure from all potential sources, and to
explore and, where possible, undertake countermeasures against such possibilities," Cheng told SPACE.com.
As the DoD report notes, Cheng said, "the Chinese have highlighted space systems as targets for preemption. That should only make us pay more
attention to improving the survivability of the American space force."
nothing is so assured as many many many great empires have fell in the past thinking they were invincible...just as many will follow.
Don't Ever become blind with Errogance.
there are many countries whom don't necessarily Agree with how the world is bieng policed.
just words of caution and one should always try to take a bigger picture into account.
[edit on 26-7-2010 by plube]