December 01, 2016

Status of the Arms Race in Space

China and Russia have deployed anti-satellite capability. Russia has deployed what could be multiple kamikaze satellites such as "Kosmos 2499" -- designed to sidle up to American satellites and then, if ordered, disable or destroy them.

A technical adviser at the Secure World Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to space sustainability, pointed out earlier this year that the Kosmos 2499 platform bares an incredible resemblance to the Cold War era Russian Naryad, which was an anti-satellite weapon system shelved in the 1980s by the communist nation.

China has launched the "Shiyan" -- equipped with a grappling arm for damaging satellites.

China’s Shiyan satellites were launched in 2013. Three were launched together and proceeded to engage in orbital corrections, followed by more dramatic maneuvers and finally a rendezvous with a completely different type of Chinese satellite using a prototype manipulator arm. China claimed that these satellites, as well as the others they’ve launched since, were designed for use capturing and studying orbiting debris, but China’s unwillingness to reveal research about the missions with the international community has raised eyebrows and concerns among U.S. officials.

In 2007, China destroyed one of its own – an aging Fengyun-1C weather satellite – via an anti-satellite test.

Gen. John Hyten, head of US Strategic Command, warned that adversaries will soon be able to threaten US satellites in every orbital regime. "We have very good surveillance and intelligence capabilities, so we can see the threats that are being built," said Hyten. "So we're developing capabilities to defend ourselves. It's really that simple."

The US depends on space more than any other nation. In a nightmare scenario, as adversaries launch a massive cyber attack on key infrastructure and disable and destroy our satellites in space, televisions would go blank, mobile networks silent, and the Internet would slow and then stop.

Dependent on time stamps from GPS satellites, everything from stock markets to bank transactions to traffic lights and railroad switches would freeze. Airline pilots would lose contact with the ground, unsure of their position and without weather data to steer around storms.
World leaders couldn't communicate across continents. In the US military, pilots would lose contact with armed drones over the Middle East. Smart bombs would become dumb. Missiles would sit immobile in their silos. The US could lose early warning of nuclear attacks for parts of the Earth.

The US Air Force Space Command was created in 1982 when Earth's orbit was less contested, and today has some 38,000 employees, an annual budget of nearly $8.9 billion, and 134 locations around the globe. The broader Pentagon space budget is $22 billion.

The X-37 is operated by the United States Air Force for orbital spaceflight missions intended to demonstrate reusable space technologies.[4] It is a 120%-scaled derivative of the earlier Boeing X-40.

The X-37 began as a NASA project in 1999, before being transferred to the U.S. Department of Defense in 2004. It conducted its first flight as a drop test on 7 April 2006, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The spaceplane's first orbital mission, USA-212, was launched on 22 April 2010 using an Atlas V rocket. Its successful return to Earth on 3 December 2010 was the first test of the vehicle's heat shield and hypersonic aerodynamic handling. A second X-37 was launched on 5 March 2011, with the mission designation USA-226; it returned to Earth on 16 June 2012. A third X-37 mission, USA-240, launched on 11 December 2012 and landed at Vandenberg AFB on 17 October 2014. The fourth X-37 mission, USA-261, launched on 20 May 2015 and is in progress.

The X-37 is the smallest and lightest orbital spaceplane flown to date; with a launch mass of around 11,000 pounds (5,000 kg), it is approximately a quarter the size of the Space Shuttle orbiter

The X-37B is probably used used as a spy satellite or to deliver weapons from space

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