Imagine that a country, or multiple countries, decided to start destroying orbiting satellites with missiles. Blowing up a satellite would create thousands of pieces of space debris, meaning that all satellites are threatened. In the worst case scenario, the new debris starts running into other satellites to create a chain reaction. This video helps to understand the problem:
Now China has announced that it is deploying satellite-destroying missiles:
The Type 055 is equipped with a dual-band radar system that has anti-stealth and anti-satellite capabilities in low-Earth orbit, China Central Television (CCTV) reported over the weekend. The anti-satellite capability in particular has prompted discussions among military observers. Some of the advanced radar systems produced by modern technologies can detect low-Earth orbit aircraft, which often circulate the Earth at an altitude of 300 to 500 kilometers, Wang Ya’nan, a Chinese aviation and space expert and the chief editor of Beijing-based Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times on Sunday. If the radar system has a high enough performance, it can not only detect, but also track the satellites, Wang said, noting that this means the radar can then guide weapons to attack the satellites.
As these capabilities proliferate, it could then become a “who has more to lose” situation. If a small country with no satellites in orbit wants to create havoc, it can start blowing up satellites with impunity.