Researchers in China have created a microwave machine called the “Relativistic Klystron Amplifier (RKA)” that has the potential to jam or destroy satellites in space.
According to Asia Times, Taiwan News, the gadget can create a 5-megawatt wave burst in the Ka-band, a section of the electromagnetic spectrum that is increasingly being exploited for both civil and military reasons. Although it is not strong enough to fire targets out of the sky from the ground, the RKA may be placed on satellites and used to strike enemy assets in orbit by destroying their sensitive electronics.
DEWs are systems that employ focused electromagnetic radiation rather than kinetic energy to harm or destroy enemy equipment and/or troops during a physical confrontation.
Although China claims the RKA is a Directed Energy Weapon (DEW), if deployed at scale, the device may fire beams powerful enough to rip through metallic components travelling at high speeds, according to Taiwan News. Indeed, a Beijing-based space expert warned the media anonymously that this technology might be used as a powerful weapon, calling its capability “overwhelming just to think about.”
Space is becoming a more contentious geopolitical battlefield. This follows recent allegations that China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle in low-orbit space in August of last year.
In response to the announcement, Thomas Karako, a senior scholar at the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), stated in November that the US needed to deploy space-based sensors to counter China’s new missiles, according to Taiwan News.
Furthermore, the ongoing crisis in Ukraine may increase the possibility of space conflict and threaten satellites.
The decades-long collaboration between Russia and Western countries in space may be coming to an end, with the Russian space director recently threatening Moscow with a refusal to correct the course of the International Space Station, which would bring it crashing down to Earth, according to Taiwan News.
Furthermore, Russia destroyed one of its own legacy satellites last year, resulting in a large amount of trash in orbit.