China shoots down weather satellite with ballistic missile

Thursday, January 18, 2007

China has shot down one of their old weather satellites with a ballistic missile and the United States is concerned about the test.

"The US believes China's development and testing of such weapons is inconsistent with the spirit of cooperation that both countries aspire to in the civil space area. We and other countries have expressed our concern to the Chinese," said a spokesman for the National Security Council, Gordon Johndroe.

The Feng Yun 1C polar orbit weather satellite was hit by a medium-range, ground based ballistic missile approximately 537 miles above the Earth's surface. The missile used a "kinetic impact" to destroy the satellite, said Johndroe. Both the satellite and the missile were launched from the Xichang Space Center in Sichuan Province; the satellite in 1999, and the missile on January 11 this year.

Officials in the U.S. are now concerned that debris from the test could cause problems for civilian and/or military satellites. It is estimated that at least 40,000 pieces of debris are now floating around in space as the result of the test, and the pieces range anywhere from 1–10 cm. The pieces of the satellite and missile could stay in Earth's orbit for several decades.

When the test happened, the U.S. stated that communication with one of its spy satellites was lost, but thus far no evidence has turned up to suggest the loss of communication was directly related to China's test.

The test took place on January 11, 2007 and this is the first such test to occur in over 20 years. The U.S. last tested an anti-satellite system back on September 13, 1985

Australia and Canada have both stated concerns about the test and South Korea, Japan, and the United Kingdom are all expected to voice their concerns over the test.