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Scientists decry China satellite-killer

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- News that China had tested an anti-satellite missile brought a sharp objection from the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists.

The anti-war group called on Beijing to drop its research into space-based weaponry and declared that space should be reserved for peaceful purposes.

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The organization said the test had, in fact, created a debris field that posed a threat to other satellites, not just the defunct Chinese spacecraft reportedly shattered by the Jan. 11 test.

"At the very high speeds these debris particles would have, particles as small as 1 millimeter can be very destructive," the USC said in a statement Thursday, "While shielding on satellites can help protect against small particles, most satellites do not carry such shielding. Moreover, shielding is not effective against debris larger than about 1 centimeter in size."

One centimeter is less than half an inch.

The organization said the test occurred at an altitude of 850 kilometers (528 miles), dangerously close to the 900-kilometer (559 miles) altitude where large numbers of civilian satellites are in orbit.

The reported test was a significant development in the military use of space, which has thus far been a safe haven for increasingly sophisticated intelligence and communications satellites. Analysts have warned that knocking out such satellites could seriously handicap U.S. military capabilities.

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