Counter-Laser Technology Prompts Worries of Military Buildup in Space

May 30, 2008 08:59 AM
by Josh Katz
The U.S. military is working on new technology to locate lasers originating from the ground meant to blind American spy satellites.

30-Second Summary

Last year, the U.S. Air Force asked military contractors to develop a technology that could “sense and attribute” ground-based lasers designed to render spy satellites ineffective. The Self Awareness/Space Situation Awareness (SASSA), as it is called, may contribute to the “militarization of space,” argues magazine New Scientist.

“It's a defensive step but one that assumes an attack,” says military analyst Rob Hewson. “It is a baby step in the preparation for fighting in space.”

Chinese-American bilateral relations have been strained of late over use of extraterrestrial military technology.

In 2006, the Bush administration released reports stating China had used lasers to blind American spy satellites.

Friction continued in January 2007 when China announced it had shot down one of its own nonoperational weather satellites. The move provoked worldwide condemnation, not only because of the debris released into space but also out of trepidation surrounding a potential space arms race.

Despite criticizing China, America shot down a satellite of its own in February 2008. The U.S. government defended its actions, saying that the aging equipment would have released toxic gas upon crashing to Earth.

An article in Scientific American explains the consequences of an arms race in space: “The nations of Earth must soon decide whether it is possible to sustain the predominantly peaceful human space exploration that has already lasted half a century. The likely alternative would be unacceptable to all.”

Headline Link: ‘Pentagon Wants Laser Attack Warnings for Satellites’

Background: U.S.-Chinese tensions over space technology policy

China blinds U.S. satellites with lasers, according to government report
January 2007: China destroys own satellite
February 2008: U.S. shoots down own satellite
Recent developments on the space arms race in China and Japan

Analysis: The potential for an arms race in space


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