Chinese device can destroy satellites from the inside out

As China began conducing anti-satellite weapons tests in 2007, it drew criticism for the large amount of space debris the weapons created, causing the nation to consider other methods. According to a recent article from the South China Morning Post, a team of researchers with the Chinese military claim to have created a weapon that latches on to the inside of a vehicle’s de Laval nozzle, the device used for directing propulsion. The weapon, a bullet-shaped projectile that weights approximately 3.5kg, is packed with explosives strong enough to disable the satellite without creating excess debris.

This technology opens up a new suite of potential attack methods. For one, the device can lay undetected within a vehicle, making precise timing attacks possible. According to the researchers, the attack vector is also harder to detect from other common methods, such as ‘dazzle attacks’, where strong lasers are directed towards sensing equipment. Additionally, the ability to disable a satellite’s propulsion without destroying it completely enables an attacker to harvest data onboard the vehicle or obtain access to the satellite’s specifications and capabilities.

This new weapon continues the trend of rapid advances in anti-satellite warfare internationally. Engineers and policy-makers alike will need to consider the ever-growing breadth of attacks as our reliance on orbital vehicles increases.