Jeff Kueter’s “China’s Space Ambitions–And Ours,” the lead article in the latest issue of The New Atlantis, is well worth a read. This past January, China used a missile to destroy one of its own satellites–increasing the total amount of manmade debris in orbit by a phenomenal 10 percent. You’ll read about that here, but this article goes way beyond the specifics of China’s space plans. It’s really a kind of primer on the emerging age of militarized space.
During the Cold War, space satellites were a stabilizing force–insuring sufficient transparency to allow the “balance of terror” to work. But now space satellites are integrated with weapons systems that target and destroy enemy forces. Our superior war-fighting capability now depends upon space, and that makes us uniquely vulnerable to satellite attack. And with civilian life itself increasingly dependent on navigation and communications satellites, even a small-scale anti-satellite attack could seriously disrupt our domestic economy. Technology makes us powerful and vulnerable at the same time.
There’s much that’s new here, yet Kueter’s article also unmistakably reminds us of the dynamics and dilemmas of the Cold War arms race. (And Kueter reveals NRO’s top-secret role in space warfare. Kathryn may be able to ban any link between NRO and Star Trek, but NRO is obviously connected to star wars.) So if you’re up for a short course on space war, check out Jeff Kueter’s “China’s Space Ambitions–And Ours.”