Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ground-Based Lasers Could Interfere With Orbiting Satellites

In October 2006, the military affairs journal Jane's Intelligence Weekly reported that U.S. Army officials detected a "sudden decline" in the effectiveness of some its spy satellites throughout the fall as they passed over China. Before receiving an explanation from the Chinese military, initial fears were that the country had intentionally aimed ground-based lasers at the U.S. satellites to temporally disrupt their ability to collect information, or worse, materially damage them. Was this a hostile attempt by the Chinese to test its laser anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, obstructing U.S. military reconnaissance missions in Low Earth Orbit?Probably not, said a pair of military affairs experts at a recent AAAS co-sponsored briefing. More likely, they said, the Chinese may have been trying to glean details of the satellites orbital path or, perhaps, conducting a test to see if we could detect their laser against our spy satellites. But the case does raise questions about protecting satellites in orbit. In 2000, DOD established the Laser Clearinghouse Program, which was designed to protect satellites against accidental lasing which could damage or disrupt satellites. Based at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the program requires all U.S. government organizations, including the U.S. military, to register their lasers which might damage satellites. A similar program could be considered for implementation world-wide to safely manage all peaceful laser firings into space. (10/15)

(Source: Space Daily)


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