In their letter, “Kill the KE-Asat” [April 4, page 34], Michael Krepon and Michael Katz-Hyman raise the old issue of space debris as a reason to kill the U.S. Army’s KE-Asat program. But from the beginning of the program 16 years ago the KE-Asat was designed to mitigate space debris.
It originally had a long sail that would extend once in space, like a giant flyswatter, to strike a satellite with enough force to disrupt its activities, but not enough to create large amounts of debris. But in recent years, the program has evolved to avoid an impact in space.
The current effort is to produce a maneuverable space vehicle that can approach a hostile satellite and temporarily disrupt its operation without destroying it, thereby creating no debris at all. Some technologies under review will allow reversibility, so that a satellite’s optics might be obscured or its signal blocked temporarily, and then restored later.
The KE-Asat is specifically designed to avoid creating space debris, yet opponents continue to raise that as a reason to kill the program. What they really oppose is the concept of weapons in space, the current cause celebre of arms control advocates.
But in this space age our military should have the ability to temporarily block the operation of a satellite that is tracking, targeting or otherwise threatening U.S. forces in the field. The development and testing of the KE-Asat should be completed.
James T. Hackett, San Diego, CA