The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon’s science wing, is growing a brand new sort of satellite tv for pc that may restore, refuel, and improve different satellites in excessive orbit.

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“The expertise that allows you to intently method a satellite tv for pc with out that satellite tv for pc’s cooperation can be utilized both to restore satellites that aren’t working or to intervene with them,” Dr. Laura Grego, an area knowledgeable with the Massachusetts-based Union of Concerned Scientists, informed me.

The United States, China, and Russia have all developed so-called “inspection satellites” that may maneuver near different spacecraft in low orbits and study them for malfunctions. NASA can be engaged on a low-orbit servicing satellite tv for pc.

These low-orbit satellites are controversial. “You can most likely equip them with lasers, possibly put some explosives on them,” Anatoly Zak, an unbiased knowledgeable on the Russian house program, informed me. “If [one] comes very near some navy satellite tv for pc, it most likely can do some hurt.”

The Trump administration is keenly conscious of the potential for orbital sabotage. “Any dangerous interference with or an assault upon essential parts of our house structure that straight impacts this important U.S. curiosity can be met with a deliberate response at a time, place, method and area of our selecting,” the administration warned in its new nationwide safety technique.

Combine such a satellite tv for pc’s inspection functionality with the power to bodily manipulate one other satellite tv for pc and place this servicer in geosynchronous orbit the place dear spacecraft are neatly lined up, and you have the makings of a strong orbital weapon, one that might encourage a brand new arms race in house.

“If one in all these service satellites will get near a Chinese satellite tv for pc with out warning, or heaven forfend, unintentionally runs into one throughout a time of excessive tensions, that might clearly not be an excellent factor,” Hitchens warned. “The US, if it deploys service satellites, must be upfront about the place they’re and what they’re doing.”

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