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Antisatellite (ASAT) Measures And Countermeasures

A newly declassified 1983 report by the CIA offers still-valuable insights into ASAT measures and countermeasures that could still work today.

The report outlined the defensive options available to the Soviets:

Most of the Soviet satellites that were targets for the ASM-135 were capable of maneuvering. Only one type of target, designated the ELINT-3 (for “electronic intelligence”), was not. But as the report noted, the satellites were designed for limited maneuvering only for operational purposes and maneuvering to defend themselves would quickly use up propellant.

The report noted that the Soviets might also increase their number of satellites before and during a conflict. This would be expensive for them. Some satellites could also be stored in high orbits.

Decoys that radiate in the infrared were a possible way to defend against the American ASAT (flares are a common defense used by aircraft against heat-seeking missiles).

The final defensive option identified by the report was an escort satellite that could defend a high-value satellite with lasers or nuclear or nonnuclear missiles. Defending low-altitude satellites would be difficult because there would be little time for warning, acquisition tracking, and engagement of the ASAT coming up to kill the target.

(Via SpaceReview)

The only fighter pilot in history to shoot down a satellite:

I’d point out that John Brunner mentions pirate satellites sanded (from "S and D", Search and Destroy) out of orbit in The Shockwave Rider (1975).

Another possible technology that could be used for ASAT purposes is the DARPA effort MAYHEM (MAgneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munition) program, which uses self-forging penetrators (SFP) that could conceivably be used against satellites.

MAYHEM is essentially an Arthur C. Clarke idea: the stiletto Beam from his 1955 novel Earthlight.

See also Leaked USAF Report Targets European GPS Satellites and Debris Cloud From Chinese ASAT A Menace To Space Lanes.

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