Let the satellites’ battles begin!
A team of Chinese military researchers claims to have built and tested an anti-satellite robotic device that is capable of placing a small pack of explosives into a probe’s exhaust nozzle. According to Professor Sun Yunzhong and colleagues from Hunan Defence Industry Polytechnic in Xiangtan, the explosive can produce a “time-controlled, steady explosion”, instead of blowing the whole satellite into pieces. The study was published in the journal Electronic Technology & Software Engineering last month.
The device can easily stay inside the satellite for long periods of time by using a locking mechanism controlled by an electric motor. It can also be reversed to separate the explosive from the target if there is any need for that procedure. The project was funded by the government scheme t develop a new type of warhead for rocket missiles.
The explosive device has been built and tested in a ground facility and the researchers said that it “would have practical value in certain engineering applications” (which translates to blowing up enemy satellites if they feel threatened by it)
China’s first anti-satellite test was conducted in 2007 in which it destroyed a defunct weather satellite with a missile and drew international criticism over the cloud of debris it created. The United States and the former Soviet Union had conducted a large number of similar tests during the Cold War but they put an end to it by the 1980s because of the debris that created hindrance for astronauts and space assets and even increased air pollution.
Therefore, now China’s anti-satellite programme focuses on constructing technology that would produce no or very little debris and can safely be used without harming the environment such as capturing satellite with a net or robotic arms. In addition to space explosives, the Chinese have also developed a number of ground-based weapons that are able to blind or damage a passing satellite with the help of a laser beam. So other countries beware and try not to fly your satellite over China’s border or it could end up in a ditch before reaching the orbit…