China Cops to Sat Kill; Mysteries Remain

So Beijing has finally owned up to blasting one of their satellites out of orbit -- althogh a foreign ministry spokesperson says that "the test is not targeted at any country and will not threaten any country."china_satellite.jpgBut space-tracker Sven Grahn, over on the FPSPACE list, is wondering why the Chinese bothered to hit the sat in the first place. After all, he notes, Beijing didn't have to destroy its orbiter, in order to prove its satellite-killer worked.

The Chinese could have put up a a target satellite with a miss-distance indicator and then launched the ground-based interceptor to fly really close without destroying the target. But who would have noticed? US intelligence perhaps - but what could the US have said? "A Chinese missile came very close to a Chinese satellite!" So what would the general public say? They could say: "just another unsubstantiated accusation from the Pentagon!" The Chinese would not want to announce such a test. To prove that it was effective they would have had to release test data. They also want to keep up appearances that they only want to use space for peaceful purposes.So, the Chinese decide to really hit a satellite and create a huge cloud of debris. The U.S. detects the intercept and releases the [debris information], provid[ing] the general public with hard evidence that the test really occurred. This raised the credibility of the U.S. And the Chinese are happy because the message they wanted to send to the world has gotten out - loud and clear.
This sort of subterfuge is one of several reasons why Joe Buff thinks that the anti-satellite (ASAT) test wasn't just some rogue operation -- it was authorized from the top. President Hu Jintao "is head of state, commander in chief, and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party all rolled into one," Buff reminds us. "The People's Liberation Army makes sure that the CCP stays in total control of the nation. The General Political Department of the PLA [People's Liberation Army] has commissars everywhere who make sure the armed forces stay absolutely loyal to the Party. So no way was Mr. Hu clueless on any front in this ASAT brouhaha."This isn't China's only space controversy, long-time satellite-watcher Peter Brown notes in a fascinating piece for the Washington Times. "The loss of another Chinese satellite in early November is causing headaches as well, something that China would prefer to keep quiet."
This involved a spanking new Chinese communications satellite, the largest ever built to date by China. Known as Sinosat-2, it was launched on October 29 and weighed more than 5 tons. In a matter of days, however, any celebrating ended rather abruptly. Sinosat-2 suffered a complete failure and soon was hurtling back into the earth's atmosphere...Despite initial reports that Sinosat-2 was experiencing problems, Chinese space officials elected to remain silent for two weeks or more -- until late November -- until accounts of this Chinese satellite in distress began appearing in the Asian press...Why was China reluctant to admit that Sinosat-2 was in serious trouble? First, this satellite represented China's first flight of its new Dongfanghong or DFH-4 spacecraft bus. Second, Sinosat-2 was the first of a new generation of jamming-resistant satellites created by China after satellite broadcasts were jammed in 2002. These incidents were characterized by the Chinese government as deliberate acts of sabotage carried out by the outlawed Falun Gong involving a satellite known as Sinosat-1.
ALSO:* China Tests Satellite Killer?* China Space Attack: Unstoppable* Beijing's Next-Gen Sat Strike* Satellite Killer's Big Impact* Why Did China Smack the Sat?* Who Ordered the Satellite Strike?
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