Spacelift Washington: Chinese and Russian space researchers designing anti-satellite systems; Who will direct the future of U.S. space policy?

By frank_sietzen
February 8, 2001
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Spacelift Washington

Spacelift Washingon Archive

Chinese and Russian Anti-Satellite Projects

China and Russia have accelerated their military space programs in the past year and are increasing research into anti-satellite technologies and jamming capabilities. This warning was given in a rare open Congressional hearing Wednesday by the heads of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency. The session marked the first time in recent years that warnings about military space threats were delivered by senior U.S. intelligence officials in an unclassified setting.

DIA director Vice Admiral Thomas R. Wilson, and CIA director George Tenet warned the Senate Intelligence Committee that the two states-as well as other, third world nations not named in the open session- are developing what Wilson described as anti-satellite technologies. “Future adversaries will be able to employ a wide variety of means to disrupt, degrade, or defeat portions of the U.S. space support system”, Wilson said in prepared testimony. Tenet described space weapons as a growing area receiving foreign attention. “Our adversaries well understand U.S. strategic dependence on access to space, ” Tenet said. The DCI described increased efforts at blocking such access. Russian military space programs aimed at what Wilson described as ‘counterspace’ technologies were particularly worrisome, the two leaders said, because it seemed to signal a more hostile relationship with Russian Federation chief Vladimir Putin. The Putin government recently created a new military space force and tasked it with development of both commercial and defense-related satellites and related technology.

While Wilson and Tenet were warning of the growing threat, U.S. military leaders were telling an Air Force aerospace power symposium across the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia of their planning to meet the rising hostile developments. The senior leaders of the Air Force predicted that the weaponization of space was more a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’.

Who is going to direct the future of U.S. space policy?

The Air Force is preparing for a Space Advisory Council the Bush administration is developing to be comprised of industry and academic advisors, flanking a Senior Interagency Group for Space at the National Security Council. Such new policy constructs are to be announced in about 60 days. The SAC is to have a three-year sunset clause, and is aimed at helping the new administration craft long range U.S. space goals. Look for it and not a space council to shape space issues between now and the Bush re-election campaign in 2004. How to defend the U.S. commercial satellite fleet upon which the Pentagon relies more and more heavily each year? And should such defenses be active or passive? More on the ideas behind milspace planning in a series of columns next week.

On Spacelift Washington next week

The FAA sees commercial space transportation as a $61 billion annual business involving 497,000 jobs … details of their latest report.

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Have information about space transportation? Email the editor at sietzen@erols.com