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Space Force Preparing To Unleash Secretive Spy Satellites To Monitor Chinese Weapons

The U.S. Space Force is preparing to launch a fleet of spy satellites this summer made for monitoring adversaries’ space weapons that can damage U.S. satellites, according to Bloomberg.

The “Silent Barker” constellation of satellites are the first of their kind and would add to existing ground-based and low-orbit tracking capabilities, traveling around the world in geosynchronous orbit at 22,000 miles above the earth, according to Bloomberg, citing analysts and the Space Force. They’re meant to keep watch over Russia and China’s growing arsenal of weapons that can be launched into space to disable high-value American targets as concerns grow over the impact militarized outer space will have on future conflicts.

“This capability enables indications and warnings of threats” and will “provide capabilities to search, detect, and track objects from space for timely threat detection,” the Space Force told Bloomberg in a statement.

Details of the sensitive program trickled out in April after the program was first announced in 2017, according to Breaking Defense. The former Air Force Space Command planned to launch multiple satellites in 2022, but the launch was pushed back while the Space Force took over operations.

In the annual 2023 threat assessment, the U.S. intelligence community warned of China’s “counterspace-weapons” designed to target U.S. and allied satellites.

The [People’s Liberation Army] is fielding new destructive and nondestructive ground and spacebased antisatellite (ASAT) weapons,” including electronic warfare capabilities, laser weapons and missiles developed to destroy objects in space, the assessment said.

China launched an antisatellite missile test in 2007, and a report from Congress’ China watchdog found that Beijing’s People’s Liberation Army is likely stockpiling weapons able to take down U.S. satellites used for gathering intelligence, mapping out attack pathways and communications.

Russia has also expanded its antisatellite program, successfully destroying one of its inoperative satellites in 2021 with a missile made for the purpose, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The satellites “will dramatically increase Space Force’s ability to track on-orbit, adversary satellites that could be maneuvering around or in proximity to our satellites” so the U.S. can “really figure out what is going on up there,” Sarah Mineiro, former lead staffer on the House Armed Services Committee strategic subcommittee that oversees space programs, told the outlet.

Silent Barker will be launched sometime after July and will be announced a month in advance, the National Reconnaissance Office, which is developing the satellites along with the Space Force, told Bloomberg.

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