How to Blow Up a Satelliteby Noah Shachtman, m.wired.com
November 19th 2007
Ever since the Chinese wasted one of their satellites in January, more and more U.S. military officials have been freaking out about how to protect America’s eyes and ears above the sky — and talking more openly about taking down hostile orbiters, too.
counterspace systems‘ that would warn of impending threats to U.S.
satellites, destroy or defend against attackers, and interrupt enemy satellites," the Washington Post notes.
This month’s Discover looks at "eight ways to kill a satellite" — from space nukes to hack attacks — and ranks "the threat level of each."
The magazine declares "an interceptor launched from
Earth, guided to its target by a ground-based laser or radar system" to be "the gravest threat."
That, I’m not so sure about. Most of the smart folks I’ve talked to about this think satellites’ biggest vulnerability comes from the orbiters’ "need for constant housekeeping from the ground," as MSNBC puts it. Those orders from back here on Earth are eminently spoofable.
"The best ASAT [anti-satellite device] is not a weapon that detonates next to an enemy satellite," said William E. Burrows, a journalism professor at New York University who is also the author of "Deep Black," a book on spy satellites. "Instead, it would be a signal that would tell the satellite to take the rest of the afternoon off."
Since 2004, the U.S. Air Force has had in its arsenal a series of radio frequency jammers, to interfere with satellite operations. Three or four times a year, small groups of junior officers gather at an Air Force Research
Laboratory facility in New Mexico to figure out how to take American satellites off-line using nothing more than sweet talk and off-the-shelf gear.
* Air Force Wants Control of Space
* Return of the Killer Satellite Weapons
* America’s Subtle Sat-Killers
* Boeing’s Jam-Proof Sats
* Libya Caught Jamming Sat-Phones
* Satellite-Killer Story Implodes
* Space Wars: Chinese Sat-Killer Sparks U.S. Turf Battle
* U.S. Knew Sat-Killer Was Coming
* The Sat-Killing Space Nuke