The Real Star Wars; June 1999; Scientific American Magazine; by Dupont; 1 Page(s)
Although Democrats and Republicans have moved closer than ever to an agreement on the need for a missile defense system, the real "Star Wars" battle between the parties actually seems to be shaping up in space. At issue is whether the U.S. should develop weapons that can disable objects in orbit, such as communications or imaging satellites that adversaries could use to thwart U.S. military operations.
Politicians agree the Pentagon should protect U.S. satellites from attack and have the ability to destroy orbiting satellites. But they disagree about when to deploy offensive space-control technologies. Many Democrats, as well as the Clinton administration, are convinced that costly antisatellite (ASAT) weapons are not yet justified; besides, the administration argues, jamming satellite transmissions, attacking ground stations and using other methods are better options. Republicans think the threat is ever present and growing. More commercial imaging satellites are put up every year, and more access to sophisticated imagery of any spot on the globe is now available. Had Saddam Hussein enjoyed access to satellite images or communications relays during the Persian Gulf War, space-control proponents say, he might have fought more effectively against allied forces.