A Chinese space launch this week ostensibly for peaceful scientific research may actually have been a test of a new Chinese anti-satellite weapon, according to US press reports. China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported the May 13 launch of a high-altitude sounding rocket from southwestern China that was meant to investigate energy ions and magnetic fields in space. However, the mission was actually a test of the so called Dong Ning-2 missile that China could fire to attack a satellite, reported the Washington Free Beacon on May 14, citing US officials. The test reflects a significant advance in Chinese counterspace capabilities, claimed the Beacon. A Reuters report on Wednesday citing a US defense official made similar claims. Asked for comment, Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col Monica Matoush told the Daily Report on Wednesday: “We detected a launch on May 13 from within China. The launch appeared to be on a ballistic trajectory nearly to geosynchronous Earth orbit. We tracked several objects during the flight, but did not observe the insertion of any objects into orbit and no objects associated with this launch remain in space.” China tested an ASAT weapon in 2007 that created thousands of pieces of debris on orbit. The Pentagon’s newly issued 2013 annual report on Chinese military developments states that China is acquiring “a range of technologies” to improve its space and counterspace capabilities.
Unlike nearly every other innovative technology throughout history, Maj. Gen. DeAnna M. Burt believes the space enterprise emerged backward. “Every other domain started with an entrepreneur who built something,” Burt, the special assistant to the Chief of Space Operations, told an audience at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference.