China Readies Military Space Station
China is aggressively accelerating the pace of its manned space program by developing a 17,000 lb. man-tended military space laboratory planned for launch by late 2010. The mission will coincide with a halt in U.S. manned flight with phase-out of the shuttle.
The project is being led by the General Armaments Department of the People's Liberation Army, and gives the Chinese two separate station development programs.
Shenzhou 8, the first mission to the outpost in early 2011 will be flown unmanned to test robotic docking systems. Subsequent missions will be manned to utilize the new pressurized module capabilities of the Tiangong outpost.
Importantly, China is openly acknowledging that the new Tiangong outpost will involve military space operations and technology development.
Also the fact it has been given a No. 1 numerical designation indicates that China may build more than one such military space laboratory in the coming years.
"The People's Liberation Army's General Armament Department aims to finish systems for the Tiangong-1 mission this year," says an official Chinese government statement on the new project. Work on a ground prototype is nearly finished.
It doesn't take a whole lot of imagination to dream up the havoc that taking out the GPS satellite system and a few choice communications & reconnaissance satellites will create in a shooting war. Take all this into account with President Obama's campaign pledge to "not weaponize space" and "slow development of future combat systems" and it's really starting to look like ceding this new arms race to the Chinese is a supremely bad idea.
What's even better is the Chinese are virtually rubbing our faces in it.
You know how sometimes you hear a campaign promise and actually hope the candidate is lying about it? This is one of those times.