US Space Command Commander Army General James Dickinson has said that any Chinese space activity that may be harmful to US assets would be thoroughly monitored. China’s expanding presence and activities in low Earth orbit has led to a significant rise of trash, which has prompted this action.
Three astronauts from China’s space programme were temporarily stationed aboard the Tiangong Space Station last month after its last three modules were launched last month. Without much assistance from other nations, China constructed its own space station. Photograph courtesy of Space.com
The resolution that nations should not undertake direct-ascent antisatellite experiments that generate massive fields of space debris that imperil satellites and space stations was passed by a large majority at the United Nations, which General Dickinson hailed as a victory.
The United States was the lone supporter out of the four nations that have performed such ASAT tests; China, Russia, and India all voted against the resolution. General Dickinson warned that much of this junk is located in the increasingly “congested, competitive, and disputed” space around Earth.
More than 48,000 satellites, telescopes, space stations, and debris of varying sizes are being monitored by the United States Space Command, up from 25,000 only three years ago.
Unannounced in 2007, the Chinese space programme deployed a missile to blow up a decommissioned Chinese satellite, leaving debris that continues to pose a threat to this day.
General Dickinson has warned that the United States would keep a careful eye on China’s space programme as the country continues to build up its military capabilities. “Beijing feels that space is a very significant element to not just their economy or the global economic environment,” he added.
The People’s Liberation Army, the military branch of China’s governing Communist Party, is responsible for the country’s space programme, and it built its own space station in the hopes that other countries would leave the International Space Station (ISS) before it is decommissioned in 2031.
Three astronauts from China’s space programme were temporarily stationed aboard the Tiangong Space Station last month after its last three modules were launched last month. China constructed its own space station with little outside assistance.
Since tensions between the United States and China are already high due to issues like Taiwan, the South China Sea, commerce, and technology, space is quickly becoming a new potential flash point. Furthermore, the Pentagon issued its annual China security assessment this week, stating concerns that Beijing will have 1,500 nuclear weapons by 2035 with no explanation of their intended purpose.
The majority of American assets in space are in danger because China “continues to create capabilities that, truly very simply,” as Dickinson put it.
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