RUSSIAN and Chinese space weapons could “unleash havoc” in a satellite attack which could cost the UK some £1billion a day, experts have warned.
It is feared an orbital onslaught could shut down hospitals, crash the economy, knock out communications, and cause mass blackouts.
Space tech is becoming a new arms race as nations roll out anti-satellite weapons, ground-based lasers and GPS jammers which experts say all pose a “significant threat” to the West.
Leading boffins painted a bleak picture to The Sun Online of a devastating attack involving these devices which have stepped from the pages of science fiction.
The warning comes as the US and UK yesterday accused Russia of launching another anti-satellite missile – the third of its kind in 2020 .
And it follows China staking its claim to the stars by planting a flag on the moon as a spy chief warned the Communist regime is the “greatest threat” facing the UK.
Experts told The Sun Online our day-to-day needs are now so incredibly reliant on satellites – but these orbital relays are very vulnerable to attack.
Power supplies, hospitals, businesses and transport networks could be disrupted as satellites are lost leaving those under attack both literally and figuratively in the dark.
British military chiefs have previously warned there could be an attack from space within the next two years – something which has also been dubbed a potential “Pearl Harbor in space” for the US.
Allen Antrobus, a military space expert at Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage, Herts, told The Sun Online he “absolutely” believed there was an increased threat of an attack in space.
His warnings echo those of other experts who fear that Britain is at risk of “an economic blackout of frightening proportions”.
Space industry body UKspace admitted firms have very little ability to defend key data and infrastructure should the West come under attack from space.
The financial cost of this kind of disruption is incalculable
Nick Shave, chairman of UKspace, said: “Even a short, temporary disruption to satellite data would unleash havoc, causing almost £1billion of damage each day.
“It is no exaggeration to say that if satellite services were to be disrupted even temporarily, complete economic havoc would be unleashed, with business-critical internet services and mobile telephones being lost, not to mention the disruption socially.
“The financial cost of this kind of disruption is incalculable.”
Mr Shave added that data beamed from satellites is also “critical for relaying data to hospitals to combat Covid-19”.
Mr Antrobus agreed that “anti-satellite tests could have grave consequences for the UK space sector but also the wider UK economy”.
He told The Sun Online that Russia and China are taking a more “military angle” towards the West’s spacecraft which are “becoming a potential target for adversary nations”.
Millions of pounds of global financial transactions and essential synchronisation of everything from utilities to mobile phone systems rely on networks in space.
An attack could also wreak a devastating impact on position, navigation and timing data by causing GPS mayhem.
Mr Antrobus said: “We have seen an increase in activity by both Russia and China over the the past six to ten years that is worrying.”
Asked about potential threats, he explained, “the indications are for more tests in space and using ground-based lasers by Russia and China.”
This includes “firing lasers at satellites”, or jamming our GPS as “the Russians are very good at electronic warfare,” the expert added.
US space command officials yesterday accused Russia of launching another anti-satellite missile – saying it launched a weapon designed to destroy small satellites in orbit.
US Army general James Dickinson said: “Russia has made space a warfighting domain by testing space-based and ground-based weapons intended to target and destroy satellites.
“This fact is inconsistent with Moscow’s public claims that Russia seeks to prevent conflict in space. Space is critical to all nations.”
UK defence space chief Air Vice Marshal Harvey Smyth added: “Russia has again fired an anti satellite missile into Space: this behaviour is deeply concerning.
“Consequences of miscalculations and accidents have the potential to be catastrophic.”
China is known to have been carrying out anti-satellite weapons tests since as early as 2007.
It launched a weapon into low earth orbit and destroyed a derelict weather satellite, creating the largest debris field in orbit in the process.
The Communist regime is also developing high powered lasers which have the ability to blind GPS satellite.
And in September this year, China launched a mysterious reusable space plane which is feared to potentially have military applications.
The craft landed after spending two days in orbit, but China insisted it was a “peaceful mission”.
Jean Deville, a space analyst told The New Scientist: “There [are] undeniable military uses for a space plane.
“China has shown a strong interest in developing these technologies.”
His fears echo those voiced at November’s Defence Space conference.
Gen Sir Patrick Sanders, Commander Strategic Command, which leads in the cyber domain for defence, said it was vital that the UK “protects and defends our capabilities in and from space”.
Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, meanwhile accused Britain’s “adversaries” of seeking to weaponise space – and said satellites and their support infrastructure are “significant targets”.
Angus Lapsley, the head of Ministry of Defence’s strategic policy department, told the conference: “There will probably be an incident at some point in the next couple of years.”
When this happens, “our public and parliament will have a kind of eureka moment, when they see that actually competition in space can have real-world impacts on civilian infrastructure and civilian life,” he said.
Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, head of the RAF, agreed that Russia and China “threaten the peaceful use of space”.
He warned the UK’s online conference that while wars won’t be started in space, they could likely be “won or lost” among the stars.
Terrifying space weapons of the future
Here are three of the scariest…
Rods from God
- A strange but utterly terrifying weapon has been dubbed “rods from the God” and is based on the concept of creating man-made meteorites that can be guided towards the enemy.
- Instead of using rocks rods the size of telephone poles are deployed.
- These would be made out of tungsten — a rare metal that can stand the intense heat generated by entering Earth’s atmosphere.
- One satellite fires the rods towards the Earth’s atmosphere while the other steers them to a target on the ground.
- Reaching speeds of 7000mph they hit the ground with the force of a small nuclear weapon — but crucially creating no radiation fall out.
- As bizarre as it sounds, a US Congressional report recently revealed the military has been pushing ahead with the kinetic space weapons.
Molten metal cannons
- This intriguing idea is being developed by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
- It is called the Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munition or MAHEM.
- This game changing rail-gun can fire a jet of molten metal, hurled through space at several hundred miles per second by the most powerful electromagnets ever built.
- The molten metal can then morph into an aerodynamic slug during flight and pierce through another spacecraft or satellite and a munition explodes inside.
Space force ships
- Already the United States is powering head with its spacecraft, although China is busy developing one of their own.
- The top secret American XS-1 under development by DARPA.
- It can travel ten times the speed of sound and launch missiles.
- Meanwhile an unmanned craft is currently being developed in the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Centre in Mianyang, Sichuan province, which is also known as Base 29.
In late November, we reported how Russia tested a terrifying new 9,000mph “star wars” ballistic missile capable of destroying US satellites in space.
The rocket was launched from the Sary-Shagan test site in Kazakhstan and wiped out a dummy target, according to the Kremlin.
Also, between July 2017 and December 2019, a Chinese satellite, SJ-17, made a serious of mysterious movements – but Beijing have not admitted what it is up to.
Scarily, these movements took the orbital craft past the UK Ministry of Defence’s Skynet 5A satellite.
Skynet 5 is the most recent generation of the Skynet family of commercially managed military communications satellites.
Mr Antrobus and fellow defence experts are keen for the UK to create a national space operations centre.
This would both monitor further weapons tests, and the risk from space debris.
“At the moment, we still are falling a little bit behind other nations in having a proper plan,” he added.
Source: The Sun