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Space Technology

China Tests Anti-Satellite Laser Weapon 552

Posted by samzenpus
from the the-people's-laser dept.
schnippy writes "U.S. intelligence agencies believe that China has successfully tested an anti-satellite weapon by destroying one of their old weather satellites. The test, if confirmed, would be an order of magnitude more provocative than earlier reports of Chinese blinding lasers being. Arms Control Wonk has a good writeup on what this will mean for U.S. policy."
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China Tests Anti-Satellite Laser Weapon

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  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Thursday January 18, 2007 @08:29AM (#17661622) Homepage
    The USA already has this sort of capability ... so why is China having this procative ?

    Or is it OK for the USA to have it but no one else ? I suppose it depends on who you consider the bad guys. I note that China has invaded fewer countries in the last 50 years than the USA has ... so what is the answer to the question ?

    • by dave420 (699308) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @08:53AM (#17661842)
      The same reason that Iran's nuclear ambitions are deemed provocative. Apparently only the west is allowed anything nuclear or dangerous - everyone else has no right, apparently. And even then the US has a right to everything, and the right to deny whatever it wants to anyone else. "Land of the free" needs to be updated - may I suggest "Land of the free (to dick on everyone else without the burden of a conscience pissing on your parade because the US is always good and right and never does anything bad to everyone else who are just jealous and should be grateful that the US saved everyone's ass in every war ever fought at least that's what's been drilled into everyone's head since being kids)". Pretty catchy, huh? :)
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 18, 2007 @08:54AM (#17661882)
        remember they "won" vietnam

        And north korea!!!

        Now iraq!!! Hey they are 3 for 3!!
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Ah - the good old american mods

          Where its only free speach as long as you spout US progaganda.

          How is it trolling to quote what they teach in US schools (well not north korea, if it weren't for M.A.S.H. most in the US wouldn't even know the north korean war happened)

          Just because the rest of the world finds the USA's rewriting of recent history a joke - not that our countries haven';t done it in the past - its just that it was a lot easier to a few centuaries ago.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I note that China has invaded fewer countries in the last 50 years than the USA has ... so what is the answer to the question ?

      I see you're from the UK. It figures. In the last 50 years, the US has invaded
      Grenada - don't see anyone but Cuba and some Grenadian commies sorry about that one
      Kuwait and Iraq in Gulf War I - nobody sorry about that one either except some now dead or imprisoned Iraqi government officials
      Iraq in Gulf War II - well, nobody seems happy with that, so I understand complaints here.
      So
      • by splutty (43475) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @09:30AM (#17662274)
        Yes Gulf War II was a big disaster. However, if the situation ever stabilizes the Iraqis will have a chance to guide their own lives. China's policy in Tibet is to weaken the local populice by flooding the area with Han Chinese immigrants. I suspect that most Tibetans would like to control their own future if possible but at this point they'd be glad to just not watch as their culture is destroyed in front of their eyes. I don't see that kind of cultural assassination going on in Iraq.

        Sorry.. I normally try to refrain from commenting on these kind of issues, since I'm European, and will be considered someone not knowledgable enough by a lot of people. But... I can't resist this time.

        The US is actually doing *exactly* that in Iraq: Do things our "democratic" way or we'll stay here and keep killing people. You'd see this if you'd actually look at things happening from a distance. The current not-yet-civil war is a direct result of the US removing the one authority figure in charge, and trying to democratize the country. I personally believe that Iraq isn't A> ready B> helped with democracy.

        You can't force two peoples (in this case mainly divided along religious borders) to work together if they don't want to, and haven't in known history. This is simply an enormous mistake in thinking.

        Democracy is what works for *us* (most of the time anyway), but forcing that on other people and countries should not be the way to propagate it, I think.

        Feel free to disagree, but that's my (possibly biased) point of view.
        • by saridder (103936)
          You can't force two peoples (in this case mainly divided along religious borders) to work together if they don't want to, and haven't in known history. This is simply an enormous mistake in thinking.

          Explain Bosnia then. It worked there.
          • by splutty (43475)
            Explain Bosnia then. It worked there.

            Not... Exactly...

            When that actual war was fought, Bosnia didn't actually even exist yet. The reason it 'works' now is because that country was split up in several parts (Servia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Montenegro, and it feels like I'm forgetting one)

            These splits have been mostly made between ethnical group lines, and they're now moderately peacefully living together, although it's not exactly all 'pacified' yet.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hey! (33014)

          You can't force two peoples (in this case mainly divided along religious borders) to work together if they don't want to, and haven't in known history.


          Absolutely you can. However the methods you'd have to use arent "democratic".

          That's why the old Soviet system fell apart. Gorbachev questioned whether the Soviet system had to be quite so heavy handed. The answer turned out to be "yes".
        • by chrysrobyn (106763) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @11:19AM (#17663816)
          Sorry.. I normally try to refrain from commenting on these kind of issues, since I'm European, and will be considered someone not knowledgable enough by a lot of people. But... I can't resist this time.

          As an American who put in over a year overseas, I know our foreign policy reputation at this time. It's not kind. I have been recognized on the streets as an American and confronted on my political beliefs. I'd like to think I gave the "right answer", but I honestly don't know what would have happened a few times if I had expressed support for my president. Let me just let you know, there are many of us (maybe less than 50%, but more than 10%) who believe the French were right in holding off invasion plans and who believe the United Nations was founded in order to prevent another World War II. A seemingly unending bureaucracy it may be, but it's checked by the majority of countries with a last sanity check of the consensus of a diverse group with the most vested interest in a stable world.

          We're fighting to change the political future of our country. It's slow, and it's built upon a mountain of vested interests in large corporations and minimization of energy insecurity.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Calinous (985536)
        OK, Kuwait was not really invaded - the government of Kuwait (in exile at that date) requested help from United Nations (and possibly USA). The UN mandated the liberation of Kuwait, and for the moment the only US troops that might be in Kuwait are observers.
        Don't know about Grenada, Vietnam is free of american troops, South Korea WANTS american troops inside.
        Cuba has a small US garrison inside, in what seem to be not US soil, but more US army and CIA soil.
        Some people in Iraq are happ
    • by phayes (202222)

      The USA already has this sort of capability

      No, the USA HAD this [vought.com] capability in the past but once the cold war threat was over, dismantled it. While we have other systems such as the experimental 747 borne laser [fas.org] that probably has some asat capability, we no longer have any operational ASAT weapons. It's provocative because even though a Chinese sat was targeted, by blowing the sat up into little pieces in uncharted and unpredictable orbits, the test created orbital hasards for everyone else.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by radarjd (931774)
      Or is it OK for the USA to have it but no one else ? I suppose it depends on who you consider the bad guys. I note that China has invaded fewer countries in the last 50 years than the USA has ... so what is the answer to the question ?

      So is your argument that you desire China to have the military strength to counter the US? Or that perhaps you would prefer that China and the US switched places in relative military strength? I think that some people around here have gone so far as actually to desire that

    • Or is it OK for the USA to have it but no one else ?

      Yes. Just like nuclear weapons. And we'll bomb the shit out of you if you say otherwise.

      </sarcasm>

  • from the article:
    "destroying an aging Chinese weather satellite target"

    so it was one of their own satellites. The US didn't own it - whats the problem?

     
    • so it was one of their own satellites. The US didn't own it - whats the problem?

      I suppose you would have the same "what's the problem" attitude if the US started testing nuclear weapons again (on their own soil of course, so its "ok")
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by malkavian (9512)
      The problem is two fold. Initially, it the debris now clogging up the orbit. This will cause damage to other satellites, possibly knocking them out completely (debris is a huge problem in space).
      Secondly, it opens up an arms race in space, with money thrown into space weapons research, testing, and bigger and heavier weaponry.
      I do disagree with some of the conclusions drawn in the article (the author was berating a Short sighted Chinese government for development of space weaponry). The US has quite acti
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Phanatic1a (413374)
        Secondly, it opens up an arms race in space, with money thrown into space weapons research, testing, and bigger and heavier weaponry.

        Why do people keep thinking this is new? It's not. The only new thing is that it's China doing it.

        The USA successfully tested an anti-satellite missile [astronautix.com] over twenty years ago. And when I mean "successfully tested," I mean we did just what the Chinese did here: destroyed an actual satellite in actual orbit around the actual earth. And it wasn't something like NMD, where we h
    • Because the US depends heavily on satalites for things like GPS and if China decides to start popping holes in Satalites nothing short of a full scale invasion (Read : USA can't win this in their wildest dreams, least of all after pissing off the Arabic areas of this planet) will stop them.

      Starting to see the issue here?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by dave420 (699308)
      That is a mere triviality of a reason. Just look at recent history regarding the US's foreign policy in action. Iraq hadn't done anything directly to the US, yet they were ripe for invasion. Not doing anything to the US doesn't guarantee a country's freedom from being fucked with by the US. China, just by demonstrating it could take out a US spy satellite - note they don't even have to do it - makes them a massive risk to the US, which means they're "fair game" for a more bitchy one-sided, unfair foreig
  • LASER weapon? (Score:5, Informative)

    by hasmael (993654) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @08:32AM (#17661650)
    From TFA: " ...weather satellite target with a kinetic kill vehicle launched on board a ballistic missile"

    That doesn't sound like a LASER weapon.

    • and neither the article, nor the writeup here, claim that it is.
      • The headline claims it's a laser weapon. Note to self: Pay more attention to headlines before replying to article criticisms.

        Of course, the reason I stopped paying attention to the headlines here is that they often have litle relation to what's discussed in the article...

    • by jjeffries (17675)
      The "vehicle" in question was a shark with... oh, you know...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jesus_666 (702802)
      Maybe LASER stands for "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Rockets". An exploding warhead certainly ought to make the surrounding area a bit brighter...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by kalirion (728907)
      The LASER malfunctioned, so they renamed it "kinetic kill vehicle" and threw it at the satellite.
  • not a laser (Score:5, Informative)

    by kae_verens (523642) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @08:33AM (#17661660) Homepage
    from the article: "destroying an aging Chinese weather satellite target with a kinetic kill vehicle launched on board a ballistic missile."

    Lasers are not kinetic weapons. They are light-based.

    The topic-writer appears to have been confused by the article mentioning that an earlier test used a laser to temporarily brighten a satellite.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Eudial (590661)

      from the article: "destroying an aging Chinese weather satellite target with a kinetic kill vehicle launched on board a ballistic missile."

      Lasers are not kinetic weapons. They are light-based.

      The topic-writer appears to have been confused by the article mentioning that an earlier test used a laser to temporarily brighten a satellite.


      Well, technically, photons have kinetic energy too (even though they have no mass): E=hf.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by chord.wav (599850)
      They've got it wrong. They've attached the shark to the laser instead of the opposite. Hence the "kinetic kill vehicle". I still can't explain the missile, though.
  • Just what we need. More junk clogging up our orbit.
  • Sounds like our massive nuclear stockpile [google.com] isn't going to be reduced anytime soon, especially in light of this news.
  • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @08:53AM (#17661852)
    I'd say that it will mean:
    1. Bigger budgets for space weapons research.
    2. Bigger budgets for everything else that is even remotely connected to space weapons research.
    3. Bigger budgets for intelligence gathering.
    4. It might take a little wind out of the war on terror due to budget reshuffling.
    5. Conservative ideologists, demagogues and fanatics of all denominations will pop up on every TV channel to talk about the new red peril.
    6. Left wing ideologists, demagogues and fanatics of all denominations will pop up on every TV channel to play the new red peril down.
    7. If we are lucky points 5 and 6 will result in an unscheduled yet entertaining amateur boxing match on live TV.
    8. Yet another rant on the O'Reilly Factor.
    9. The list goes on.... and on......
  • chill out (Score:2, Insightful)

    i find the reaction among american media sources stunning, Its as tho the chinese premier had taken a shit in the white house garden. American military spending approaches 500 billion dollars a year. Chinese military spending verges on 90 billion. While it was irresponsible for the chinese to have endangered orbital vehicles, it is nowhere near the chest beating call to war that some of the linked articles have made it out to be.
  • Interesting timing (Score:2, Informative)

    by blowdart (31458)
    As Northrop Grumman has just opened a factory [informationweek.com] for high energy laser weapons in Redondo Beach, California. Admittedly they're aiming to shoot down ballistic missles and systems to protect buildings and areas.
  • Mr President, we MUST not allow an A-SAT gap!

    So what happens if you put mirrors on your satellite? I don't know much about optics. Even if it's a powerful laser (from the head of a shark?), wouldn't it just bounce off a reflective surface?
    • by cowscows (103644)
      There's no such thing as a perfect mirror, so a big enough laser would still burn through it. Also, there are other ways to take out satellites besides lasers. But even if lasers were your concern, and you had a perfect mirror, how would you implement it and still have a useful satellite? The mirror would need to protect the satellite from every angle reachable from earth, and once you do that, then how does the satellite point any spy equipment or whatever at the earth through that mirror shield? How would
  • first the story that the baiji, the blind chinese river dolphin, has gone extinct

    now the announcement that the chinese have an advanced laser weapon

    there's only one obvious conclusion: the extinction news was a lie, a cover up...

    it isn't sharks with frickin' laser beams they're building, it's a top secret corp of dolphins with frickin' laser beams!

    that's a very clever twist, but i see through your cynical machinations beijing
  • > Although this idiotic move by the Chinese government will demonstrate why we don't want hit-to-kill ASAT testing in orbit--that will be a long-term recognition. In the short-term, the Chinese will simply not be credible partners in efforts to keep space peaceful. Moreover, other countries could follow suit with their own anti-satellite programs, including the United States.

    ---

    This statement made me smile. This is a very nice piece of propaganda. Who talks about peaceful space in the time when every oth
  • Title: China Tests Anti-Satellite Laser Weapon

    First Paragraph of TFA:

    U. S. intelligence agencies believe China performed a successful anti-satellite (asat) weapons test at more than 500 mi. altitude Jan. 11 destroying an aging Chinese weather satellite target with a kinetic kill vehicle launched on board a ballistic missile.

  • The article says nothing about a laser. I have no idea why the heading on this slashdot story has the word laser in it. The article clearly states it's a kinetic energy weapon (ie it's like a big bullet, cannonball, etc).
  • Can the editors please consider actually RTFA before approving posts and headlines?

    The satellite weapon referred to in the article is a kinetic kill vehicle which is clearly not a laser...
  • by LiquidNitrogen (864075) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @10:59AM (#17663504)
    China just need to put all the dollars they have accumulated in market and boom!!! it would affect US economy more than if they a war instead.
  • Lasers? (Score:3, Informative)

    by PeterChenoweth (603694) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @12:12PM (#17664588)
    I know this is Slashdot, but did anyone read the article? There is no mention that this is a laser based system at all. To quote, "destroying an aging Chinese weather satellite target with a kinetic kill vehicle launched on board a ballistic missile." That's not a laser, that's a high speed rocket launced from a larger missile. This isn't some laser based ground weapon, it sounds quite similar to the system that the U.S. has that is almost deployed for attempting to knock down ICBM's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-ballistic_missil e [wikipedia.org] , just applied to taking out a satellite instead of an incomming missile.
  • by Vaystrem (761) on Thursday January 18, 2007 @01:46PM (#17666250)
    Seriously - did anyone even read the story?

    "U. S. intelligence agencies believe China performed a successful anti-satellite (asat) weapons test at more than 500 mi. altitude Jan. 11 destroying an aging Chinese weather satellite target with a kinetic kill vehicle launched on board a ballistic missile."

    The only time a laser is mentioned in the entire article is

    "Neither the Office of the U. S. Secretary of Defense nor Air Force Space Command would comment on the attack, which followed by several months the alleged illumination of a U. S. military spacecraft by a Chinese ground based laser."

    So the only laser involved here is one that is capable of illuminating, target painting, targets - not destroying them. The title is more than a little misleading - can we get an adjustment on it perhaps? Something like "Chinese successfully test anti-satellite weapon"?

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