The space is turning into the next frontier for the high-end confrontations between nations. And in this new battlefield, the ability to target enemy satellites has become a big priority.
Recently, documents from the Discord Leak have shed light on this theme, and I wrote about it here on TGP. You can read more in Space War: Chinese Plan To Disrupt Enemy Satellites’ Comms in the Event of Conflict.
But this is far from pure speculation, but rather a reality that’s literally orbiting above our heads. Fears have been arising that the Chinese have developed a self-propelled, highly maneuverable Spaceplane that can be used to do precisely that.
“Private space services company LeoLabs says its data shows a Chinese reusable space vehicle, believed to be a miniature spaceplane design, docked with or otherwise captured a separate object on multiple occasions during its recent 276-day-long stint in orbit. A highly maneuverable space vehicle with this kind of capability could be used to surveil, disrupt and outright attack an opponent’s space-based assets, as well as retrieve or otherwise interact with friendly ones.”
In a post from LeoLabs on Twitter:
“Since its launch on 4 August 2022, we observed multiple large maneuvers raising the object’s altitude — as well as repeated deployments, formation flying, and docking of a sub-satellite Object J (NORAD ID 54218).”
The mysterious space vehicle landed back on Earth on Monday May 8th, in a mission that’s shrouded in mystery as is always the case in the Chinese space program.
While some applications such as on-orbit inspection, refueling, and servicing are relatively innocuous, a space vehicle with the ability to get close to objects in orbit ‘is inherently capable of acting as a weapon’ – a ‘killer satellite’.
“A docking or capture capability on China’s reusable space vehicle could indicate the presence of robotics arms or other protrusions that could be used to attempt to damage or destroy an opposing satellite. The space vehicle could be equipped with other kinds of offensive capabilities to pair with this, including electronic warfare systems or the ability to launch some kind of projectile.”
Space Force is dealing with ‘reversible attacks’ on U.S. government satellites ‘every single day’ .
Space Force’s Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David Thompson, on The Washington Post: “Both China and Russia are regularly attacking U.S. satellites with non-kinetic means, including lasers, radio frequency jammers, and cyber attacks.”