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China Eyes Anti-Satellite System

Space platforms have become crucial in today's conflicts
by Cheng Ho
Hong Kong - Jan. 8, 2001
China is quietly developing an antisatellite (ASAT) system which has recently completed ground testing, a local newspaper reported last Friday (Jan. 5).

Sing Tao newspaper quoted unnamed Chinese sources that planning was underway to conduct testing of the ASAT system in space soon.

The Small Satellite Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST) developed and built the ASAT system, codenamed "parasitic satellite". China will become the third nation after U.S. and Russia to possess an ASAT system.

These sources said that to ensure winning a portion of future high tech wars, the Chinese military branch secretly developed an "asymmetric combat" capability which would strike key areas of the adversary if necessary to disable its combat system. A key component of the "asymmetric combat" capability is a reliable "parasitic satellite" ASAT system.

In the Chinese ASAT system, a nanometer-sized "parasitic satellite" is deployed and attached to the enemy's satellite. During a conflict, commands are sent to the "parasitic satellite" which will interfere or destroy the host satellite.

The novel ASAT system can be used against many types of satellites such as comsats, early warning sats, navsats, and recon sats in different orbits; military or civilian satellites; a single satellite or a satellite constellation; space-based laser systems; and even space stations.

There are three components to the ASAT system: "parasitic" satellites, a carrier ("mother") satellite and launcher, and a ground control system. Since the "parasitic satellites" reside with their hosts and are only activated during a conflict, their volumes and masses must be very small to conceal their existence and avoid interfering the normal operation of the host satellites.

Each "parasitic satellite" contains nanometer-sized components: solar panels, batteries, computers, CCD cameras, communications and propulsion systems, auxiliary equipment, and combat systems. As these components utilize microelectronics, and micromechanical and microelectrical technologies, the "parasitic satellites" weigh several kilograms to tens of kg; with some as light as several hundred grams.

Ground testing has shown that "parasitic satellites" are very effective and efficient in their operations. When a "parasitic satellite" is properly deployed, in less than a minute it would disable or destroy the host satellite system.

The cost of building a "parasitic satellite" is 0.1 to 1 percent of a typical satellite, thus its deployment is highly cost effective. When China's new reusuable two-stage launchers become available in the near future, the deployment cost of "parasitic satellites" will be lowered further.

According to the sources, Beijing's decision to develop and deploy the ASAT system has both long-term and short-term strategic objectives. The long-term objectives are to establish a strategic balance among the larger nations, and to break up the monopoly on utilization of space that large space systems of the superpowers are holding; thus weakening their capabilities in information warfare.

In the short-term China would strengthen its capabilities in controlling the usage of space globally, and change drastically the Chinese-American military balance so that U.S. would not intervene easily in the event of a conflict in the Taiwan Strait and at the Chinese perimeter.

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First Chinese Navsat In Operation
by Cheng Ho
Hong Kong - Nov. 22, 2000
China's newly launched, and the first, navigation positioning satellite Beidou Navigation Test Satellite-1 (BNTS-1; "Beidou" means "Northern Dipper", a reference to the celestial constellation) was reported to be functioning nominally, Wen Wei Po said two weeks ago. However, China has not officially released any details of the satellite and its orbit.

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