China develops laser weapon that could destroy satellites in space
Researchers in China have developed a microwave machine “Relativistic Klystron Amplifier (RKA)”, that could jam or destroy satellites in space.
The device can generate a wave burst measuring 5-megawatts in the Ka-band, a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum increasingly used for both civil and military purposes, citing Asia Times, Taiwan News reported.
Although not powerful enough to shoot targets out of the sky from the ground, the RKA can be mounted onto satellites, which could then be used to attack enemy assets in space by burning out their sensitive electronics.
Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) are systems that use concentrated electromagnetic energy rather than kinetic energy to damage or destroy enemy equipment and/or personnel in a physical conflict.
Although China denies the RKA is a Directed Energy Weapon (DEW), if the system were built at scale, it could send beams strong enough to rip through metallic materials moving at speed, reported Taiwan News.
In fact, a Beijing-based space scientist told the media anonymously this tech could function as a high-powered weapon, saying its power was “overwhelming just to think about.”
Space is becoming an increasingly hotly contested geopolitical arena. This comes after recent revelations China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle that flew through low-orbit space in August last year.
Responding to the news in November, Thomas Karako, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said the US needs to deploy space-based sensors to counter the Chinese military’s new missiles, reported Taiwan News.
Moreover, the recent conflict in Ukraine could also birth a greater risk of conflict in space and endanger satellites.
The collaboration Russia and Western countries enjoyed in space for decades may be ending fast with the Russian space director recently threatening Moscow might decline to correct the course of the International Space Station, which would bring it crashing down to earth, reported Taiwan News.
In addition, last year Russia destroyed one of its own legacy satellites which created mass debris in space.