Two U.S. satellites pwned in '07, '08; new report blames China

In 2007 China shot down one of its satellites; anti-sat warfare is so much more convenient from home


"If executed successfully, such interference has the potential to pose numerous threats, particularly if achieved against satellites with more sensitive functions," the report read. "For example, access to a satellite’s controls could allow an attacker to damage or destroy the satellite. The attacker could also deny or degrade as well as forge or otherwise manipulate the satellite’s transmission. A high level of access could reveal the satellite’s capabilities or information, such as imagery, gained through its sensors. Opportunities may also exist to reconnoiter or compromise other terrestrial or space-based networks used by the satellite." – U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Nov. 16, 2011.

The report couldn't pin blame for the attacks on China, but did say the techniques involved were consistent with those seen in other attacks the Dept. of Defense has blamed on China.

They're also consistent with the Chinese effort to weaponize space by developing missiles and other systems to destroy or interfere with U.S. satellites, and to support satellite-guided weapons such as a long-range missile that can correct its own course using GPS to attack targets at sea.

The report is unusually specific in its recommendations that the U.S. needs a "show of force deterrence" against the power of China's growing satellite- and anti-satellite capabilities.

It also recommends the Pentagon start training exercises based on the assumption someone else has taken over or destroyed the satellites on which many military systems depend, and broaden its own anti-satellite capabilities to defend against threats from attackers who can apparently weaken another country's conquest of space without leaving their own cubicles.

Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

Photo Credit: 

NASA: Terra EOS satellite (artist's rendering)

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