Jeremy Hsu of Imaginova penned an article for Space News: “Space Arms Race Heats up Overnight.” A few choice bits (my emphases):
“It was an unfortunate choice by the United States that seems to have been unnecessary. The fact is that satellites fall from space all the time and the risk of it was fairly minimal,” said Stephen Young, the senior analyst in Washington, D.C., for the Union of Concerned Scientist’s Global Security Program. “But the implications of the satellite shootdown could be very severe. We’re talking about a potential arms race in space.”
“It’s a step backward in terms of weaponization of space because whatever the U.S. government’s official stance is, the world perception is that this was an ASAT test,” said Phil Smith, assistant director for Research and Planning for the Secure World Foundation.
“This is obviously being hailed as a victory both politically, because the [U.S.] administration can claim there was no loss of life, and technically because it worked,” said Theresa Hitchens, Center for Defense Information director. “It helped the [U.S.] Navy demonstrate the capabilities of its missile defense system.”
“Since China did their ASAT [anti-satellite] test and got into political hot water, there’s been debate in China about whether to go forward,” Hitchens said. “This would seem to give PLA [People's Liberation Army] hardliners more ammunition for their argument, and also gives other nations the signal that it’s okay if you test this technology if it’s done safely.”
Another expert saw China’s internal debate differently, even as China asked for more information about the U.S. satellite shootdown.
“Their concern is not whether they should continue with their military space program,” said Everett Dolman, a professor of comparative military studies at Maxwell Air Force Base.
Dolman added that much of the international outcry over China’s test was over the large debris field left in orbit by the Chinese satellite’s destruction, and so the Chinese were likely discussing how to prevent such international condemnation in future tests. He sees the continuing weaponization of space as almost a certainty, particularly as the U.S. and China continue jockeying to maintain and increase their global power.
“If there is going to be a big conflict between the U.S. and China, it’s likely the first salvoes will be in space because the security needs of the U.S. and China are incompatible there,” Dolman said.
At least one expert saw the demonstration as a crucial step by the U.S. to ensure its military and political dominance if a space arms race becomes inevitable.
“This was in my view a very positive move by the U.S. for stability,” said Dolman. “The fact that you’re using a Navy ship and a fairly standard weapon to do this is really ratcheting up the technology curve.”