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Home > News > Report

China flexes its missile muscle

Rediff International Affairs Bureau | January 19, 2007 11:59 IST

In what is being called a first, China has successfully test-fired an anti-satellite missile from the ground. Fired from the Xichang spaceport in west-central China, the missile destroyed an old Chinese weather satellite called Fengyun-1C.

During the Cold War, both the Soviet Union and the United States had tested anti-satellite weapons, but they either involved co-orbiting the satellite or air-launched missiles. All ground-to-satellite tests before this have failed.

The last American anti-satellite missile test was conducted in 1985.

The Chinese test was carried out on January 11, and reported first in Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine. The report was confirmed by American National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Analysts believe US President George W Bush's formation of the new National Space Policy last year -- a first in ten years -- is prompted by China's growing military space might.

The Fengyun 1-C was believed to be at the kind of distance from earth most American spy satellites are. In September 2006, Defence News reported China was training ground-based lasers at American spy satellites.

'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,' Johndroe was quoted as having said. 'We and other countries have expressed our concern regarding this action to the Chinese.'

Other countries that have voiced concert at the Chinese test include Canada and Australia.

Some analysts have pointed at debris from the Fengyun 1-C being a possible safety risk for other satellites orbiting earth.