The Chinese have developed a microwave machine called the Relativistic Klystron Amplifier (RKA) that could jam satellites in space. Taiwan News reported that the device can produce a 5-megawatt wave burst in the Ka-band, an area of the electromagnetic spectrum increasingly used for both civil and military purposes.
Despite not having the power to shoot targets from the ground, the RKA can be mounted on satellites, which can then be used to attack enemy assets in space by burning out their sensitive electronics. During a physical conflict, directed energy weapons (DEW) are used to damage or destroy enemy equipment and/or personnel using concentrated electromagnetic energy, as opposed to kinetic energy. Taiwan News reported that even if China denies that the RKA is a Directed Energy Weapon (DEW), the system would be able to fire beams powerful enough to consume metallic materials at high speeds.
Beijing-based space scientists told the media anonymously that such technology could be used as a weapon, saying the power is ‘overwhelming’. Space is becoming a more hotly contested geopolitical arena. In August last year, China test-flew a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle in low-orbit space.
The Chinese military’s new missiles have prompted Thomas Karako, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), to call on the US to deploy space-based sensors in response, according to Taiwan News. As a result of the recent conflict in Ukraine, there could also be a greater risk of conflict in space, putting satellites at risk.
Taiwan News reports that the collaboration between Russia and Western nations in space may be ending fast, with the Russian space director recently saying that Moscow may not correct the course of the International Space Station, which would bring it crashing to earth. Moreover, last year, Russia destroyed one of its own legacy satellites, creating mass debris in space.