Asats Are Pandora’s Box

Jim Hackett’s letter, “Obsolete Arguments,” [April 18, p. 18] takes a page out of a familiar political playbook: Charge the other guy with the felony you are committing.

Anti-satellite (Asat) tests were part of the Cold War competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. The last Cold War test of an Asat occurred two decades ago. Today, the United States has never had it so good in space. We have the most to gain if we do not initiate a new round of Asat tests, and we have the most to lose if we open up this Pandora’s box. So who in this debate is using obsolete arguments?

As for the Kinetic Energy anti-satellite weapon (KE-Asat), there is no way to make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear. When one space object is traveling at 10 kilometers per second and another seeks to collide with it, a big mess will be created — whether or not one of the colliding objects is in the shape of a giant Kevlar flyswatter.

Hackett’s assertion that the old KE-Asat design would disrupt another satellite’s activities “without creating large amounts of debris” is false, which is one of the reasons why the Pentagon’s preference is to employ temporary and reversible Asat effects. It is impossible for a KE-Asat to be “specifically designed to avoid creating space debris,” as Hackett argues in his letter.

A direct attack on a satellite, whether by temporary and reversible effects or by kinetic energy, will be a momentous event.

It is unlikely, however, to be an isolated event. We already place heavy burdens on our men and women in uniform. We need to think through in advance what is likely to happen after the first U.S. blow is struck in space.

U.S. advocates of what is euphemistically known as “offensive counter-space” tests and programs have yet to explain how our national and economic security are improved by turning space into a shooting gallery.

Michael Krepon,Washington, DC