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The Military Space

China Shoots Down Another Satellite 221

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-hide-the-goldeneye-in-a-lagrange-point dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It was reported this weekend that China shot down another of its satellites in January this year. 'The website of Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV said the anti-satellite missile test, if confirmed, is likely related to the missile interception test, which occurred at the peak of a dispute between Beijing and Washington on a massive US arms sales deal to Taiwan. During the interception test, US agencies spotted two missiles launched from two locations from the Chinese mainland, colliding outside the atmosphere, a Pentagon spokesperson said.' I guess ballistic trajectories that intersect with orbital ones don't count as 'weapons in space.'"
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China Shoots Down Another Satellite

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  • by NEDHead (1651195) on Monday July 19, 2010 @04:03PM (#32955376)
    in orbit. Great.
  • by nebaz (453974) on Monday July 19, 2010 @04:04PM (#32955386)

    Nice way to make even more space junk. Nice going, China. Are you trying to destroy access to LEO over time?

    • What's up with these guys? I mean, to lose one satellite is just bad luck, but to shoot down two satellites in a row, they've got to really be doing something wrong.
    • by blair1q (305137) on Monday July 19, 2010 @04:24PM (#32955680) Journal

      Not a problem.

      We now have a laser that can zap the junk out of space.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-10682693 [bbc.co.uk]

      But I still say what we really need is this guy:

      http://www.imdb.com/media/rm3025049600/tt0077066 [imdb.com]

    • Re:What the hell? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jpmorgan (517966) on Monday July 19, 2010 @04:32PM (#32955828) Homepage

      The article is unclear, but it sounds more like China tested their ASAT weapon against a launched suborbital target, not an actual satellite as the headline suggests.

      A fast ballistic trajectory that either immediately returns to earth, or returns after a couple of orbits, would be a comparatively responsible way of testing these weapons. A well designed test would have most of the same challenges as firing on an actual satellite, without leaving a semi-permanent debris cloud.

    • "Just testing for research! China still cool!"
  • by DarkFencer (260473) on Monday July 19, 2010 @04:05PM (#32955398)

    Does anyone know how much of an issue the debris from these satellites are? From the perspective of collisions in orbit more so than what happens when it lands (I imagine the parts are small enough that reentry will take care of them).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drpimp (900837)
      Even if it never rains down or enters the atmosphere, it's just as much of a problem just orbiting depending who you ask Debris Cloud [popsci.com]
    • Will the debris be a problem?

      I suppose that depends on where it's going to land. If its not going to hit in China, they might not think its their problem.

    • The title clearly says that they shot said satellite "down." I imagine its remnants will burn up upon reentry.

      Nothing to see here.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jeffmeden (135043)

        It often takes more energy to de-orbit something (so it burns up) than it does to escape-orbit it (so it flies off into space)... A "shoot-down" pretty much always means "we scattered it into several lower and higher orbits". The only hopes for it removing itself from orbit are by atmospheric drag causing it to decay until it falls to earth.

      • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

        That's not really how orbits work. Unlike airplanes, when you blow up a satellite it doesn't all of a sudden fall out of the sky. It's quite unlikely they actually "shot it down".

      • by danlip (737336)

        And of course Slashdot titles and newspaper headlines are always 100% accurate.

        I'm pretty sure "blown apart" would be far more accurate than "shot down".
        The missile is ground based so it would hit the satellite from below, and
        the explosion would go up.

        Maybe if they did it when the orbit was almost entirely decayed it would be
        OK, but the article does not indicate that.

      • by jonbryce (703250)

        Surely they are more likely to shoot it upwards than downwards?

  • God damn it, China! (Score:4, Informative)

    by kurokame (1764228) on Monday July 19, 2010 @04:07PM (#32955418)
    Didn't you make enough bloody space junk the first time? NEO pollution is becoming a serious issue, and this isn't helping anyone.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      What absolute bunk. No doubt you are also a staunch believer in the hoax of global warming. There is absolutely NO credible evidence that the near earth space is "polluted". This is all just bullshit big government propaganda, no doubt intended to form the basis for future MASSIVE rises in taxation to pay for a "cleanup" (likely involving the disappearance of plane fulls of cash into union and left wing paramilitary group pockets).

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        What absolute bunk.

        If you're looking at a global warming analogy, you'd probably be better to look at the numerous calls for 'global asteroid defence' against a threat which would almost certainly cost vastly less than the cost of trying to defend against it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by c6gunner (950153)

          If you're looking at a global warming analogy, you'd probably be better to look at the numerous calls for 'global asteroid defence' against a threat which would almost certainly cost vastly less than the cost of trying to defend against it.

          Well, yeah, technically you're right - an asteroid causing the extinction of the human species would cost nothing at all, so the cost of trying to defend against it would certainly be vastly higher. Good thinking!

          • by 0123456 (636235)

            Well, yeah, technically you're right - an asteroid causing the extinction of the human species would cost nothing at all, so the cost of trying to defend against it would certainly be vastly higher. Good thinking!

            Exactly: in the real world the odds of such an impact are minute over forseeable human timescales, so spending trillions of dollars to 'defend' against it would be insane. Even the odds of losing a city in that time are tiny, so spending billions would probably be a waste too.

            But the 'true believes' demand we should spend vast amounts of money now to try to stop something that's unlikely to occur in the next few million years. And probably own shares in 'Asteroid Stoppers, Inc'.

            • by c6gunner (950153)

              Apparently you missed the sarcasm/humour.

              Anyway, you're underestimating the odds, massively overstating the costs, and completely ignoring the fringe benefits. Of course, I suppose it depends on who you're referring to when you talk about "true believers", and on what kind of an approach they're proposing. Safe to say there are many reasonable steps we can take to work towards preventing such a disaster, and there are some actions which would be unreasonable overreactions. Just like with climate change.

    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday July 19, 2010 @04:23PM (#32955656) Homepage Journal

      Actually I believe that this test didn't contribute to that.
      It sounds as if the intercept was at sub orbital speeds. IE it was a missile interception test.
      Frankly this was miss titled big time.
      Not that it is a good thing but it may not be as bad as you think.

      • IE it was a missile interception test.

        I think it goes without saying it must have failed to intercept any missiles, especially IE 6.

    • China is by far the heaviest polluter on the planet. Not only have they surpassed America in terms of CO2, but they surpassed America in ALL other forms of pollution around 2000. How? Because they have little to no pollution controls. And where they put it, as required by treaties, they regularly just turn them off due to the loss of efficiencies. Heck, if CHina's economy slows down to 5% as expected, then around 2019, they will have emitted 1/2 of ALL CO2 that has ever been emitted by man. And if they do n
      • China is by far the heaviest polluter on the planet.

        I know CO2 isn't the only pollutant. But don't downplay the role of the US.

        China: 6.5 Billion metric tons. (22.30% of world)
        USA : 5.8 Billion metric tons (19.91% of world)

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions [wikipedia.org]

        • Doing emissions by nation or by population is worthless. As I pointed out above, we really need to be on emissions predicated on land mass (which is relatively invariant and easy to monitor). Doing per capitia will lead to nations lying about capita, as well as other issues. Also by giving every nation the right to emit the same amount of CO2 on a LAND MASS, then allows them to figure that if they are undergoing a population boom, that they have to be more efficient. Right now, China's emissions is climbing
      • by hedwards (940851)
        That's not entirely accurate, close, but not quite. You do have to consider the amount of production they engage in for the benefit of the developed world. It's still embarrassingly bad, but not quite as bad as you suggest. But the other thing is that China actually has quite a few environmental regulations on the books, they just tend not to be enforced. For instance it's illegal to melt down electronics without proper precautions, but it still happens. Same goes for most of the other practices that leads
    • by gtall (79522)

      Hmmm...seems the Chinese think it is helping them. Now, why would that be?

  • by kamukwam (652361) on Monday July 19, 2010 @04:07PM (#32955420) Journal
    They always want to be the best in everything. Now it seems that the Chinese are trying to become the country with the most objects in earth orbit.
  • by mlts (1038732) * on Monday July 19, 2010 @04:12PM (#32955506)

    With China trying to show off what it can do, what happens if they get enough fast moving junk in the orbit levels that it starts hitting other objects... which will promptly start speeding off in other directions, essentially causing a chain reason, tearing up anything in orbit at that level, eventually making an almost impenetrable barrier of fast moving stuff, blocking any chances at anything going into space for the next several hundreds years?

    Is there any way to slow the junk down so it hits atmosphere and burns up?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sir_Lewk (967686)

      The term for this sort of scenario is Kessler Syndrome [wikipedia.org], and if China keeps this up it might become a quite likely.

    • by Jeng (926980)

      Push against it with a laser to either send it into the atmosphere to burn up or out of orbit.

      At least that has been my suggestion. Seems the simplest.

      Not one that would be powerful enough to knock out existing satellites, but just enough to push around space junk.

    • by jpmorgan (517966)

      Radiation pressure. Put a bunch of satellites up with big lasers and give everything it sees a retrograde zap. Bonus points if you put out enough wattage to cause ablation.

    • Is there any way to slow the junk down so it hits atmosphere and burns up?

      Either space or ground based lasers with enough power to ablate debris in order to slow it's orbit until it's dragged into the atmosphere. Plenty of power on Earth and space for optics.

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Monday July 19, 2010 @04:15PM (#32955560)
    This is part of developing the technology to take out GPS and other communication satellites in case of a confrontation with the U.S.A. . Much of the U.S. war fighting capability is highly dependent on GPS and satellite based communication. The Chinese military is preparing to fight a war against the U.S. (this is completely independent of whether or not they are planning to fight such a war). The scary part of this is that even if current planners have no intention of ever fighting a war against the U.S. history has shown that when military and political leaders believe that they are in a position to win such a war they often choose to wage it even if a rational analysis says that it is a bad idea (see World War I).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 0123456 (636235)

      The scary part of this is that even if current planners have no intention of ever fighting a war against the U.S. history has shown that when military and political leaders believe that they are in a position to win such a war they often choose to wage it even if a rational analysis says that it is a bad idea (see World War I).

      The Germans would easily have captured France in WWI if they'd been rational; it was the irrational changes to their highly rational war plan that led to disaster on the Western Front. IMHO the Chinese military seem far more rational than the US military at this time... they have a clear idea of who their opponents are and they're developing the most effective methods of defeating them.

      • by Jeng (926980)

        they have a clear idea of who their opponents are and they're developing the most effective methods of defeating them

        That they do. Subs to counter the US and a billion man army to counter Russia.

        • by Ironsides (739422)

          That they do. Subs to counter the US and a billion man army to conquer Russia.

          Fixed that for you.

          • by Jeng (926980)

            I think the last thing China wants is more people to govern.

            • by Ironsides (739422)
              I never said they would leave the indigenous population there. All the want is the breathing room after all.
              • by gtall (79522)

                Bingo! Siberia is rich prize that would soooooo much richer if it were...depopulated...from those pesky non-Hans. Shades of Tibet? The Han think very long term...centuries. What is Russia willing to risk to keep Siberia?

      • the Chinese military seem far more rational than the US military at this time...

        thats ok, they can have France....
    • by jgtg32a (1173373)

      Very true but for some reason I'd like to think that the US gov is a bit smarter than that, and maybe some of those top secret satellites can be turned into a back up GPS with the push of a button.

    • Much of the U.S. war fighting capability is highly dependent on GPS and satellite based communication.

      [Citation needed]. Everything I've seen suggests that the military is capable of running without GPS, and they've worked to maintain that ability, just it will be slower and less accurate. Jam GPS and more civilians will die, but the target will be hit anyway. Besides, our most important deterrence weapon against the Chinese is the ICBM, and that definitely does not need GPS.

      The important thing here seems to be that they are actively trying to build a defense against our ICBMs, if it was a ballistic mi

      • by gtall (79522)

        Deterrence? Against what, precisely? The little saw-off runts running the political jail and the Peoples Republican Army have aspirations to show their dicks are not as small as we believe. Taiwan is next...among others. Will the U.S. threaten nuclear war to defend Taiwan? I think not. And if that China takes Taiwan, the pacifist element in Japan will be hard pressed to restrain that country from going nuclear. S. Korea has already demonstrated an exploration of nuclear potential. Vietnam, Malaysia, Indones

  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Monday July 19, 2010 @04:32PM (#32955822)

    The story, on a Chinese website (.cn domain) is reporting that the US is reporting that China shot down the satellite. I'm not sure how reliable any of this really is.

    • by steelfood (895457)

      It's like taking a bit fo news, spinning it 180 using the propoganda machine, then spinning it 180 again with another propoganda machine.

  • by quatin (1589389) on Monday July 19, 2010 @04:35PM (#32955870)

    Apparently people have completely missed the point of this article. Space junk, yes it's a problem, but did no one grasp the importance that one nation is capable of SHOOTING DOWN SATELLITES?!?

    It's obviously aimed at countering US ballistic missile technology that we're selling to Taiwan. Perhaps not to intercept the missiles, but to destroy US GPS satellites so the US missiles won't track. This is just as important as ballistic missile interception program. There's going to be another arms race to have satellites that can "counter" incoming missiles and missiles that can counter the counter on the satellite.

    Lastly, can we please stop arming other countries. It always backfires and we end up getting shot by the same bullets we gave out.

    • by aepervius (535155)
      We aren't too excited, because the USA had this tech (destroying satellite) for some time. If anything it re-establish the BOP which is good thing for peace.
    • by glwtta (532858) on Monday July 19, 2010 @05:01PM (#32956268) Homepage
      Perhaps not to intercept the missiles, but to destroy US GPS satellites so the US missiles won't track.

      GPS satellites are at 20,000 km - if the Chinese could hit those, that would really be something!

      All the satellites shot down so far have been well under 1,000 km.
      • by sznupi (719324)

        I'd venture a guess they could, if they wanted to - China also has some decent medium lift launch systems.

        That it would be not so elegant / unraveling slowly / max few targets at a time / impractical is another issue...

    • by T Murphy (1054674)
      Arming countries in the cold war days of course backfired on us because we subscribed to "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" type of logic (over generalization, but you get the idea), in addition to letting despots control that weaponry. Taiwan is a stable democracy (assuming fistfights in congress remain rare), and unlike most countries we've armed in the past, we probably will declare war in defense of Taiwan should they be attacked. The better equipped Taiwan is to deter an attack, the less we have to w
      • by sznupi (719324)

        You say it like "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" approach is no longer the case.

        Pakistan?

        PS. Calling Taiwan a stable democracy is going a bit too far. They ceased to be authoritarian later than my place (late EU memberstate, formerly behind the Iron Curtain); you almost seem to have fallen yourself under "the enemy of..." And what about claimed sovereignity of Taiwan over China?

    • That was a wildly exciting rant you just gave us there, but this technology is clearly not aimed at countering US ballistic missile technology we're selling to Taiwan by destroying GPS satellites. A ballistic missile doesn't use GPS to track. After the initial launch, it does nothing but fall through the air. For more information (and you really need to educate yourself, the amount of clueless propaganda you are spouting is sad), check out Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

      The missile is only guided during the relatively brief initial powered phase of flight and its course is subsequently governed by the laws of orbital mechanics and ballistics.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        That article just describes basic concept, modern missiles can be slightly different. For one, mobile platforms do use GPS or GPS-like systems to pinpoint the position of the launch.

        MIRVs make trajectories not purely ballistic, with crossrange of warheads from one missile on the order of dozens of km at least; warheads perhaps use aerodynamic lift to change terminal trajectory, too. And upcoming gen of MIRVs supposedly has much higher maneuverability (thank "the Shield" for that...)

    • Perhaps not to intercept the missiles, but to destroy US GPS satellites so the US missiles won't track.

      The US does not use GPS guidance in its weapons. US weapon systems are based on ultra-precise inertial navigation that are not dependent on GPS. Some accept GPS corrections within the very small margin of error for inertial guidance but that does not really matter for most missiles since terminal guidance is optical or radar. At worst, loss of GPS would be an inconvenience for the military; they've known

    • but did no one grasp the importance that one nation is capable of SHOOTING DOWN SATELLITES?!?

      Meanwhile the US is perfecting it's capabilities at maneuvering one unmanned orbital object around a second unmanned orbital object and, possibly, docking the two. The US has been able to shoot down satellites for a long time. It's really not that hard, especially if you just use a cheap "buckshot" payload approach. Now, intelligently maneuvering around other orbital objects without a remote controller present, and being able to dock with them, that's the newest, latest and greatest game changing ability i

  • Who cares? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Honestly, the only people who benefit from this China-US military hype are the huge suppliers of military equipment. China and the US will never fight against each other. They are joined at the hip, about as much as California and, say, Idaho are. China needs the US, the US needs China. Stop buying into the paranoid, tinfoil-hat ladden, slashdot reactionary ultra-hyped bullshit that they're feeding you.

    Besides, the US can out-nuke them any day if they really needed to. :)

    • by Asic Eng (193332)
      War against the US is not the point - at least not for a long time. They have (among others) territorial claims:

      When North Korea torpedoed a South Korean vessel, the US and South Korea wanted to hold a joined naval exercise - a rather measured response to an unprovoked attack. But of course China can't let the chance pass to interfere. They are aiming to expand both their military influence and their territory. It's important to them that neighboring countries will not have th

  • Russia can shoot down the moon!

  • Not surprising (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Monday July 19, 2010 @04:49PM (#32956070) Journal
    China says one thing, but does others. Quite honestly, the leadership there sees themselves in a cold war with the west, and are trying to take advantage of the west's not wanting to be in one.

    The problem is that China has a VERY active space weapons program and will not give it up. If you look closely at what they are working on, it should be obvious that it is not about defense, but about an offense. They are
    1. working on a ground based laser designed to take out western sats to try and stop GPS and communications.
    2. Working on interceptors designed to take out incoming missiles.
    3. Building nuke-powered Boomers/attack sub at a rate of 1-2 EACH.
    4. Getting ready to launch multiple space stations. The first one will allow civilians on-board, but the second on, are expected to be military only. There is ZERO need for a military to have a manned space station, EXCEPT as a way of hiding weapons as a prelude to an attack.

    Heck, even the agreement to get FTA and WTA required them to open their money in 2004, quit dumping, quit subsidizing, and drop trade barriers. Yet, they fixed their money against the dollar, they dump more than ever, subsidies have actually gone up (vs 1999), though trade barriers have shifted all around.

    China is positioning themselves for a hot war.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kramulous (977841)

      What? And the US hasn't been giving the rest of the world the big 'FUCK YOU' for the last fifty years. Doing pretty much whatever they like.

      It's the same old shit for us. Just another country compensating by trying to show how powerful they are. Actually, it's kinda refreshing that there is another 'sustainable' player.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Nysul (1816168)
      China can't get into any sort of extremely unprovoked unpopular war (such as one with the US) because it would be devastating to their economy. Most of the Americas and Europe would embargo them. It seems to me globalization is a good deterrent to a world war, in economic uncertainty most countries can't afford to give up 20% of anything. The only way it makes sense to me is if they were seriously provoked or they lost something of such great value that the economic ramifications would be worth it.
      • In a hot war, citizens do not care as much about the economy. After all, you can blame the problems on the other side.
    • China is positioning themselves for a hot war.

      ...is one interpretation. Another is that because they are way behind the us in terms of tech, both deployed and under development, they are trying to make up quality with quantity. And they are arming like mad, because they are way behind in the race.
    • by superdana (1211758) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @12:09AM (#32960248)
      Building nuke-powered Boomers/attack sub at a rate of 1-2 EACH.

      Oh no! At that rate, they'll have more than fifty by next!
  • That's what we need. Satellites should be outfitted with pooper scoopers and plastic bags. They should be required by international law to clean up after themselves, and toss the plastic bag at the sun afterwards.

    Or maybe one of those "cleanup the side of the road" community walks . . . except in space.

    This all sounds silly, but maybe we do need some kinda of special cleanup satellite. It would probably be a great opportunity for the international space community to cooperate, as on the ISS . . . ?

  • by MrEricSir (398214)

    So is this what that "UFO" was that everyone was talking about the other day?

  • Not News: China shoots down a satellite using ICBM scale hardware (the speculative fiction and barely, if at all, relevant details padding TFA not withstanding).

    News: US shoots down a satellite using a missile built from off the shelf components,
    News: launched from a fighter jet,
    News: 25 years ago. OK, not strictly 'news' but darn sure puts perspective on China's 'accomplishment' as well as the DoD FUD poured over it to try to make it sound newsworthy.

    No offense meant to the poster. It's good to keep track

  • The fact that China will continue their space based weapons, and more importantly, they will continue to purposely pollute space with their tests.
  • The satellite it's still there, you guys are holding it wrong.

Air is water with holes in it.

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