Space: The Coming War Up There

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November 21, 2005: The European Union ( EU) is planning to deploy its own force of spy satellites by 2010. This system, to be called Global Monitoring for Environment and Security, is intended to give the EU a means of verifying compliance with its policies, and will also help the EU become a more capable military power. This is something that the United States is going to view with suspicion, as it already does with the Galileo project - a group of 30 satellites designed to be a navigation system similar to the Global Positioning System, which China is also investing in.

The United States and Russia both have deployed spy satellites. The Americans use the KH-11, Advanced KH-11, and KH-12, while the Russians used various Cosmos satellites in the same role. European countries also have a variety of satellites as well, such as SPOT, Helios, and ERS. Japan launched two satellites in 2003, as their program has been delayed by the failure of a second 2003 launch. China has launched as many as 17 FSW satellites, which are recovered to get the pictures.

With all of these major powers deploying satellites, the question is what would happen if these countries went to war. In time of war, nobody likes having the enemy getting reconnaissance - it's a good war to lose battles and ultimately, the war. So, they will look for a way to take down these satellites. Russia used killer satellites, which were large command-triggered warheads placed into orbit to kill an offending satellite. The American approach was to use the F-15 to launch the ASM-135 ASAT missile. The ASAT was able to reach targets up to 1000 kilometers away. The ASAT was tested, and even destroyed an outdated satellite in 1985. The program was cancelled in 1988 due to Congressional opposition.

The situation in space is roughly comparable to the way aircraft were viewed prior to World War I. Satellites currently are merely seen at reconnaissance assets. Soon, however, to paraphrase Chuck Yeager, someone is going to start taking shots at satellites, and that will ruin things. - Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

 


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