Commentary by Christopher M. Stone, a senior fellow for space studies at the Mitchell Institute’s Spacepower Advantage Research Center. He previously served as special assistant for space policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon.
Responses to Russian anti-satellite tests should be more about capability than condemnation By Christopher Stone Dec 1, 02:00 AM Objects in space remain in space until otherwise acted upon. That clutter can threaten useful orbits.
Recently, the Russian Federation conducted a successful missile launch that destroyed a defunct Kosmos electronic intelligence satellite. This demonstration of precision targeting by a ground-based anti-satellite weapon was widely decried due to its generation of a debris cloud that crossed paths with the orbit of the International Space Station.
However important the threat to astronauts, cosmonauts and other satellites in low Earth orbit, the fact of the matter is that this event is not the first time such an ASAT demonstration has been made. Since 2007, China and Russia have both demonstrated their kinetic ASAT technologies.
This has been a known problem for more than a decade, and yet the U.S. Space Force and its warfighting counterpart, U.S. Space Command, still lack credible options to deter and defeat ASAT attacks across all orbital regimes. This is a must do; the alternative would be to leave our nation’s vital space assets vulnerable to attacks that would affect nearly every part of our modern way of life.
Unfortunately, the Department of Defense still appears to be stuck in a legacy mindset that is focused more on the impact to other space systems created by the post-attack debris generation rather than the fact that China and Russia can attack our vital space systems at will using their kinetic and non-kinetic weapons.
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