The U.S. Department of Defense is working with the intelligence community to develop a plan in the event of a Chinese or Russian attack on American space satellites. The plan, which includes the opening of a new operations center, coincides with the news that NASA is at work on an effort to fend off an asteroid with nuclear weapons.
“We are going to develop the tactics, techniques, procedures, rules of the road that would allow us … to fight the architecture and protect it while it’s under attack,” U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said at the GEOINT intelligence conference this week, as quoted by Defense One.
“The ugly reality that we all must now face is that if an adversary were able to take space away from us, our ability to project decisive power across transoceanic distances and overmatch adversaries in theaters once we get there…would be critically weakened,” Work said.
The new operations center, based at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Virginia, will track spy and military satellites and enable the Defense Department to “double down” on geospatial intelligence, Work said. It would also increase the military’s ability to track what’s happening in foreign war zones, as Work alluded to the social media activity of Russian soldiers in Ukraine last year.
But the satellite coordination center is just the beginning of the government's space defense plan. NASA has been busy putting together its own unrelated plan to decimate asteroids with nuclear weapons originally meant for international warfare. Another plan hinged on the idea that a nuclear weapon could somehow be dropped into the center of an asteroid, then detonated from within. It’s not clear whether a nuke would be powerful enough to destroy an asteroid, but detonating one above an asteroid might be enough to save humanity.
“A very modest change in the asteroid’s motion (only a few millimeters per second), acting over several years, can cause the asteroid to miss the Earth entirely,” NASA said in a statement. “However, the trick is to gently nudge the asteroid out of harm’s way and not to blow it up. The latter option, though popular in the movies, only creates a bigger problem when all the pieces encounter Earth.”