Satellite, Satellite, Burning Bright

SATELLITE, SATELLITE, BURNING BRIGHT….So what’s the deal on that spy satellite we’re shooting down? Noah Shachtman talked today to a “veteran space security specialist” who said he was pretty skeptical of the official story playing up the danger from the satellite’s hydrazine fuel tank. Rather, his guess is that we’ve been itching to do this ever since the Chinese shot down a satellite of their own last year, and this is just a convenient excuse:

My real concern is that this is simply a knee-jerk reaction made by the Administration in response to the purported threat by the Chinese. Since the April 2007 ASAT [anti-satellite] test, there have been rumors and whispers going around that the Administration and like-minded individuals are looking for more sticks (instead of carrots) to use against China. While this “shoot down” is not a direct action against China, it would be a clear signal that the US can possess an active ASAT capability at any time if it so desires. That is a serious development as the previous US ASAT system using F-15s was mothballed in the 1980’s.

There are many significant political ramifications that would happen as a result of this. The US has been berating the Chinese on their ASAT test but now demonstrate that it is okay as long as it occurs at a low enough altitude to prevent long-lasting debris and can “save lives”. This is close to an implied “ok” for the US and other nations to conduct more ASAT tests, which could open another arms race.

There’s more at the link. It’s all very mysterious.