More Nations On Orbit, More Concern

Both China and Russia are actively engaged in building counter-space weapons that could target US assets, said US Strategic Command boss Adm. Cecil Haney during a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event in Washington, D.C., Feb. 6. In 2014, the Joint Space Operations Center informed more than 8,000 owners and operators of satellites of so-called “close conjunctions”—or near collisions of orbital objects—logged 121 “collision avoidance maneuvers,” including three involving the International Space Station, and logged around 23 collision warnings a day, Haney said. “These trends will grow as more countries develop indigenous capabilities,” he added, noting countries as diverse as India, Japan, Vietnam and others are pursuing space access. China and Russia, in particular, however, are working to take away the United States’ advantage in space, said Haney. “Both countries have acknowledged they have developed or are developing counter-space capabilities,” he said. Just in the last two years, China has demonstrated “hit-to-kill,” anti-satellite technology at least twice, Haney said. And in May 2014, Russia launched an “interesting object,” along with three military communications satellites, which some observers believe to be some kind of space-based weapon. Initially believed to be debris, “Object E,” also known as 2014-28E, has STRATCOM’s attention, Haney said, as it made some “very curious non debris maneuvers.”