A recent report issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) warns that two of America’s biggest adversaries in the space race, China and Russia, have the capacity to develop and launch anti-satellite weapons. While the United States has benefited from the volume of innovation in the field of space exploration and utilization, other countries have as well. As the US expands the number of satellites it places into orbit and enhances their communications and navigations systems, other countries have followed suit, with some developing technology that could be used to interfere with the transmission of satellite signals.
Analysts suggest that these anti-satellite weapons could begin functioning with accuracy within the next few years. China in particular has been focusing on counter-space operations, including the launch of anti-satellite missiles. The details of Russia’s space program are notoriously hard to determine, but the intelligence community largely agrees that its capacity for anti-satellite development is equal to or exceeds that of China. Another major concern is the launch of satellites with seemingly peaceful missions, such as inspection, refueling, and repair of other satellites, could also be used as weapons.
Report authors and contributors have been studying the satellite programs of both countries for years. China’s space weapons program includes ground-based missiles, satellite jammers, and lasers used with the express purpose of blinding imaging satellites. Russia had many anti-satellite systems in operation throughout the Cold War. Many experts believe that some of these satellites are once again active.
The report harshly criticized both China and Russia for violating an understanding between all countries that space exploration should be peaceful, collaborative, and done with the purpose of information-gathering and not war mongering. Both countries have maintained publicly that their space programs are meant to be peaceful, but the report’s authors are suspicious of their intent, given the continued development of anti-satellite technology.