Pentagon Planning to Shoot Down Rogue Satellite

Wired’s Danger Room has the scoop and links galore. As Danger Room notes, a key question is: Will China view this as a response to their January 2007 anti-satellite test?

A related question: How might this affect recent joint Russian and Chinese efforts to restrict the deployment of weapons in space. WPR contributor Richard Weitz recently examined those Russian-Chinese initiatives. Here’s an excerpt:

The publication of an unclassified version of the new U.S. National Space Policy in October 2006 evoked deep concern in Moscow and Beijing. Although the policy acknowledges the value of international cooperation in space and the right of “free passage” for all countries’ satellites and other space-based objects, the text reaffirms the administration’s intent to protect U.S. space capabilities by all available means.

In response, the Russian and Chinese governments have launched several multilateral disarmament initiatives to prevent the militarization of space — most visibly at the Conference on Disarmament but also in the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in Vienna. Their representatives have circulated several joint working papers aimed at negotiating a treaty on the “Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space” that would seek to ban all weapons in space.

In addition to these diplomatic initiatives, Moscow and Beijing have issued broad threats intended to dissuade the United States from actually deploying (as opposed to merely researching) weapons in space. For instance, in June 2005 then Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov threatened “adequate retaliatory measures” against any country that deployed spaced-based weapons. When the new U.S. space policy was first announced in September 2006, Vladimir Popovkin, the commander of Russian Space Forces, argued that Russia “must be ready to take adequate offensive and defensive measures” if other countries were to develop and deploy space-based weapons.

Whereas most other governments criticized China’s anti-satellite (ASAT) test in January 2007, Russian officials chose to chastise the United States for blocking progress on outer space arms control negotiations. The Russian reaction was unusually low-key given that Beijing’s decision to conduct its first ASAT test represented a sharp escalation in the hitherto low-key competition between China, Russia, and the United States over the use of outer space. The test represented the first anti-satellite interception attempt by any country in over two decades and the first use of a ground-based missile to destroy an orbiting satellite.

UPDATE: See “Spy Satellite’s Scheduled Destruction Raises Concerns About Diplomatic Fallout” for more.