Assuring Space Support Despite ASATs

A year ago, China destroyed one of its own satellites in a test of an anti-satellite system (ASAT). This test prompted sharp commentary and numerous recommendations on how to react. A year later the direction of the U.S. response remains shrouded in the mists of classified programs and secret information. Nevertheless, the public defense budget offers some glimpses of priorities at the highest level.  Creation of a major force program and increased funding for situational awareness activities were the main priorities expressed in the FY 2008 defense appropriations bill.

In a new Policy Outlook, Dr. Robert Butterworth, President of Aries Analytics and a Fellow at the George Marshall Institute, summarizes the responses available to the U.S. and concludes that providing supplemental capability to meet surging needs and to replace lost or failed sensors ranks as a foremost priority amongst those options.

He goes on to outline how this supplemental capability might be provided. Each of the options will require trade-offs between cost, capability, and speed of response. Butterworth argues: “Within each option there are competing priorities; in pursuit of rapid augmentation, for example, one can find demands for new industrial practices, common aero vehicles, reusable upper stages, and new launch site developments. But if priorities are set by military needs, surely an initial operational capability takes precedence.”

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