The United States is closely monitoring Chinese activities that could threaten its space assets as debris rapidly accumulates in low-Earth orbit, the head of US military space operations said Friday.
General James Dickinson, head of the Space Command, also celebrated the approval by an overwhelming majority of a United Nations resolution so that countries do not carry out direct ascent anti-satellite tests, which create vast fields of space debris that endanger satellites and stations. space.
Of the four countries that have conducted such tests, called ASATs, the United States was the only one to vote in favor. China and Russia rejected the proposal and India abstained.
“We cannot continue to contribute to the debris that we find in space,” Dickinson said in a conference call with journalists in Asia. Most of that debris is in crucial low-Earth orbit, which is now space.” contested, competitive and contested”, he added.
Even small fragments of metal can pose a danger and the number of objects in the area is growing out of control. The US Space Force is tracking more than 48,000 objects in near-Earth orbit, including satellites, telescopes, space stations and pieces of junk of all sizes, up from 25,000 just three years ago, he said. Dickinson.
In 2003, China became the third government to independently put an astronaut into orbit, behind the former Soviet Union and the United States. His program has advanced steadily ever since.
China’s space program drew unusual international criticism after it conducted an unannounced test in 2007 in which it used a missile to blow up one of its inactive satellites, spawning debris that still poses a hazard.
Beijing believes that “space is a very important piece not only for its economy or for the global economic arena, but also for the military arena, so we continue to watch it very closely as it continues to increase its capacity,” Dickinson said.
China’s secretive military program is managed by the ruling Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, which precludes its involvement in the International Space Station or in most cooperative projects with NASA.
With little foreign help, China last month launched the last of three modules from its own orbital outpost, which briefly housed six Chinese astronauts during a regular three-person crew rotation. It also has rovers on the Moon and Mars and plans a manned lunar mission.
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