The Washington Post reported on December 8 that the U.S. is closely monitoring Chinese activities that could endanger American space assets as debris rapidly builds up in low Earth orbit.

Beijing has always lagged in a field dominated by the U.S. and Russia. However, it has made substantial strides in recent years that have frightened the U.S. and other Western countries. It specially conducted an unannounced anti-satellite missile test in 2007, creating debris that posed a hazard in space.

U.S. Army General James H. Dickinson, commander of U.S. Space Command, told reporters on a teleconference from Hawaii that such ASAT, or anti-satellite, tests congested space with debris. The vast fields of space debris endanger satellites and space stations.

Dickinson showed that Space Command was tracking over 48,000 objects in near-Earth orbit, including satellites, telescopes, space stations, and pieces of debris of all sizes. This figure was up from 25,000 just 3 years ago.

Dickinson said, referring to China, they “build capabilities that, really quite frankly, hold most of our assets at risk in the space domain.” 

He added, “space is a very important piece to not only their economic or the global economic environment, but also the military environment, so we continue to watch that very closely as they continue to increase capabilities.”

China claims that its space program serves peaceful purposes.

Dickinson said, “I’m seriously focused on our pacing challenge, China.” 

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