An Updated History of Anti-Satellite Weapons

, senior scientist | March 1, 2012, 8:02 pm EDT
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            Lasers used in an adaptive optics system at Starfire Optical Range

We’ve just released an updated edition of A History of Anti-Satellite Programs. The paper describes the major motivations and milestones in the development of anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, from the years of the first satellites to the present day.

The act of destroying a satellite can damage the space environment by creating a dangerous amount of space debris. What’s more, the impairment or loss of a satellite, such as one used for reconnaissance, can quickly escalate a conflict or generate other unpredictable and dangerous consequences. And short of an actual attack on a satellite, even the targeting of satellites or the construction of space-based weapons could precipitate an arms race with its own damaging and far-reaching consequences.

To better understand these risks, it’s important to assess the historical developments that have led to the development of and restrictions on ASAT technology.

Some of the other, more technical, ASAT resources on the Global Security Program’s site include Space Debris from Anti-satellite Weapons, ASAT Capabilities of US Missile Defense Systems, and a technical Overview of Interfering with Satellite Systems from The Physics of Space Security

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