Space is not free anymore ??

We all heard about the Chinese destruction of their own weather satellite with a guided missile from the ground. While this appeared impressive the details of the technology were not clear for some time. Hitting a fast moving target is very hard, obviously, but if its yours so you know exactly where it is or if the satellite emits a homing signal the destruction via missile is not so impressive.

So far we have been bombarded by the news stories of the thousands of pieces of space debris this demonstration has left behind and the Chinese have promised not to do this again since Space is supposed to be a DMZ (De-Militarized Zone), yeah right you may say, but its a nice sentiment and most nations follow it.

I have also heard countless reports of the difficulty of getting data from the Chinese GNSS network. Aparently Chinese GNSS data is considered secret and it cannot leave the country under threat to any person transporting it! This seems to be a very excesive measure, GNSS data is necessary for internal earth studies and other scientific applications so I cannot see any reason for such secrecy.

So I have connected these two stories after this news story reported by the Washington Times Jan 11, 2008 (Chinese missile debris) in particular this quote from the article: “Beijing also is asserting national sovereignty over all space above Chinese territory, setting up the potential for a future confrontation with the U.S., which operates intelligence and other satellites that pass over China.” and this second quote: “… China fired a laser at a U.S. satellite in December 2006.”

This is really worrying for us GNSS users, a claim over all space over a country is so ridiculous it would be laughable if we did not have missiles destroying satellites! Even water around a country is only property of the country up to 120 miles. Claiming Space and all the GNSS data are worrying trends in my mind. I hope some sense returns to Space use and space based applications. Many satellites fly over all the countries of the world, any basic orbital understanding explains that it is not possible to avoid flying over China!! Certain satellites take measurements, some take pictures and some spy, but clearly the benefit of having satellites is very high they help keep us safe, provide warnings of storms, allow us to navigate, etc, etc. You cannot just ban all satellites over your country … and then take advantage and not share the gathered data!

I hope this is not a taste of what is to come because as I mentioned in a previous blog entry any large scale interference with current L1 navigation messages would damage a growing sector of our economy and many future applications.

Let us hope for some sense in the near future!

Best regards to all!!

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