Sale of B.C. satellite company may well speed up prospect of sky wars

In light of the recent malfunction of a U.S. military spy satellite, I share the concerns of those who recently quit MacDonald Dettwiler over the sale of the Richmond-based satellite company to Alliant Techsystems -- a U.S. manufacturer of cluster bombs.


Monty Bassett, Special to The Province
Published: Monday, February 18, 2008

My concern is not just that we are contributing to "the weaponizing of space" or Star Wars. I fear something far more sinister, namely "Sat Wars."
A few years ago, I made a documentary for Discovery Channel about satellites, and MacDonald Dettwiler helped guide me through the maze of satellite technology.

In those days, the company had just launched Canada's first satellite, Radarsat 1. Its mission was to capture images of Earth via radar.
On the drawing boards at that time was Radarsat 11. Initially, it was primarily a higher resolution of version of Radarsat 1. However, it was also rumoured that it had on board service capabilities that were not only useful to Google Earth but also to the U.S. Defence Department.
During the making of my film, three points became clear.
First, we are alarmingly dependent upon satellites in our day-to-day lives -- from weather-forecasting to moving money around the world, to maintaining giant communication networks.
Second, satellites are extremely vulnerable.
In fact, they are such precise and delicate instruments that they can be crippled permanently with an object the size of a golf ball travelling at the speed of a slow putt.
Third, Star Wars was a hot topic at the time, and there was a concern over the weaponizing of space -- and making it a battleground that harboured offensive weapons.
The Defence Department saturated newscasts with promotional material depicting a vast array of technology from unmanned galactic gunships to giant mirrors directing death rays at incoming Russian missiles.
However, the package presented to the public, even to my untrained eyes, seemed rather silly.
After all, shooting moving targets in space is far from an infallible proposition.
But what if the targets are not missiles, but rather satellites?
Since satellites travel in predictable orbits, it is the difference between shooting ducks on the wing and those sitting on a pond.
In short, Star Wars may turn out to have nothing to do with vaporizing ballistic missiles.
Rather, with the MDA sale to an American armaments manufacturer, the U.S. could suddenly have the ability to combine its own cluster-bomb technology with a Canadian-made satellite-delivery system.
Imagine, if you will, a carpet of cluster bombs positioned precisely on a collision course with "enemy" satellites.
Given our civilian dependence upon satellites and their vulnerability, the stakes are huge.
Whoever controls the global satellite system could well control the planet.

Von:, 19.02.2008

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