Chinese scientists recently stated that they have been developing a new technology that could protect satellites from attack by 9 microwave weapons. This could give China an edge in case of a potential outbreak of space warfare and help cement China’s position as one of the major space rulers.
Dangers of microwave attacks on satellites in the future
Many countries are secretly developing more and more weapons as a safeguard against potential threats, and these include all kinds of instruments, including technological, nuclear and biological weapons all alike. A good example is some of the DEW (Direct Energy Weapons) class ranged weapons, which damage its target using highly focused energy, like lasers, microwaves, particle beams and sound beams. High-power microwave weapons can disable many kinds electronic equipment.
Using an antenna to transmit an intense energy beam at a target in orbit, such as a satellite, they can generate an electrical surge strong enough to possibly take it out of action by passing though as electrical current that would travel into a satellite’s wiring.
According to Chinese research engineer Li Wendong from CAST(China Association for Science and Technology),“The electromagnetic pulses that enter the satellite will be concentrated in extremely small, weak areas with high energy density.
They create a huge amount of heat in a short time, and they will burn the semiconductors and integrated circuits in the electronic equipment.”
What is this technology? How does it work?
CAST (China Academy of Space Technology) developed a system to secure a satellite’s circuits in order to prevent similar threats to their satellites. The gadget is meant to detect any unexpected increases in conductive electrical current and absorb the damaging energy before it may affect the satellite’s key components.
They believe the gadget might also enable a satellite resist attacks from space-based microwave weapons by employing the strongest beam available from up to 30 kilometres distant, similar to previous spacecraft using such technology.
According to their findings, it might not only let a satellite survive a microwave attack, but also continue to function. They claimed that ground testing of the system had been finished, and that elements of it were already being used by some vital space assets.
Testing of the anti-microwave device by China
The researchers put its apparatus to the test by simulating microwave strikes of various intensities. To damage or jam a protected satellite, they discovered that a weapon would need a 1 gigawatt output and a 30-meter (98-foot) broad antenna.
The most powerful ground-based high-power microwave weapons, capable of producing hundreds of megawatts of power, might even be used to fire down a guided missile or cause a helicopter to lose control.
Adding another device to a satellite’s circuitry might affect its performance, and the gadget itself could burn out in high-radiation environments. Li’s team claimed to have solved these flaws throughout their testing phase, without going into detail.
Other possible uses of the device on satellites
CAST’s team predicts that their innovative technology will be employed on the majority of China’s future satellite launches. They also said that in the case of electromagnetic warfare, this may assist a satellite in maintaining contact.
That is, if weapons are used to transmit electromagnetic pulses over a wide spectrum of radio frequencies to overwhelm the satellite’s transmitter and disrupt wartime communications, or even if they are used to generate signals similar to those sent by ground control to cause confusion, it falls under this category.
According to the study team, the gadget has been tested to allow a satellite to communicate in a frequency range that is too vast to be jammed and to jump channels at an undetectable speed, and it may also be used to identify and filter out bogus signals.
Future prospects in case of a space struggle
CAST’s Li Wendong, a research engineer, also said that their technique would not be useful indefinitely as countries made advancements in microwave weaponry. The US military, for example, aims to deploy directed-energy weapons – including high-power microwave weapons – on the ground and in space by 2025, with some claimed to be capable of generating several gigawatts of microwave pulses.
The Russian military is already employing high-power microwave weapons, although nothing is known about them. Chinese scientists have recently announced the development of a megawatt laser that could be installed on a spacecraft and used to target shock waves.
Each country would continue to progress accordingly and develop better countermeasures against threats in the future, and China and their scientific community aims to keep up in the space race by establishing dominance and showing commitment towards progress. This makes the current uncertain future of space “an increasingly complex situation for security and defence in space”.
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