At the height of the Cold War in the late 1950s, all international communications were either sent through undersea cables or bounced off of the natural ionosphere. The United States military was concerned that the Soviets (or others) might cut those cables, forcing the unpredictable ionosphere to be the only means of communication with overseas forces. The Space Age had just begun, and the communications satellites we rely on today existed only in the sketches of futurists. Nevertheless, the US Military looked to space to help solve their communications weakness. Their solution was to create an artificial ionosphere. In May 1963, the US Air Force launched 480 million tiny copper needles that briefly created a ring encircling the entire globe. They called it Project West Ford. The engineers behind the project hoped that it would serve as a prototype for two more permanent rings that would forever guarantee their ability to communicate across the globe.
This was a dangerous, reckless and irresponsible action on the part of China and well deserving of the condemnation it is receiving.
P.S. General Peng has his own web page. On it, he links to a post by a self-described PLA soldier who describes the test as a slap in America’s face to get the US back to the negotiating table on a space demilitarization treaty. Some text with translation: http://chinamatters.blogspot.com/2007/01/view-from-inside-pla-on-chinas-anti.html
Expensive new U.S. spy satellite not working: sources
Thu Jan 11, 2007 4:39pm ET
By Andrea Shalal-Esa – Exclusive
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. officials are unable to communicate with an expensive experimental U.S. spy satellite launched last year by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), a defense official and another source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.