Wade has a great “article”:http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2007_03/ChinaSatellite.asp in the new _ACT_ about the Chinese ASAT test. It comes complete with a box titled “The USSR’s Past Anti-Satellite Testing.”
Here’s the lead:
bq. The Soviet Union pursued anti-satellite (ASAT) programs for decades but apparently never smashed a satellite into bits as China did recently and the United States did in 1985.
Given what he told me, Wade should do a story just about the research he did for the piece.
Anyway, the rest is below:
Before instituting a moratorium on ASAT test launches in August 1983, the Kremlin conducted at least 20 ASAT tests beginning in 1968. The Soviet tests involved the use of interceptor vehicles with explosives designed to detonate near their intended target.
None of the Soviet tests resulted in a target’s complete destruction. Indeed, *Nicholas Johnson, NASA’s chief expert on orbital debris, told Arms Control Today Feb. 24 that “only one Soviet ASAT target ever released debris as a result of an ASAT engagement.” He reported that four pieces of debris were detected from a November 1968 test.*
Nevertheless, Johnson noted that even though targets were not obliterated, *the tests were not necessarily failures. “In [the November 1968 test] and other successful engagements, the target satellite might well have been ‘destroyed’ from an operational viewpoint,” he stated.*
The Pentagon assessed the Soviet Union as first attaining an operational ASAT capability in 1971. The now-disbanded congressional Office of Technology Assessment reported in an extensive September 1985 report on ASAT systems that “Soviet ASAT capabilities threaten U.S. military capabilities to some extent now and potentially to a much greater extent in the future.”
*Moscow continued to investigate ASAT systems, allegedly including lasers, after its 1983 test moratorium, but it is uncertain how extensive and productive those efforts were and what Russia’s exact ASAT capabilities are today.*