On January 11, 2007, with no warning, China’s military fired a ballistic missile at one of the country’s weather satellites and blew it to bits. China’s first test of an antisatellite weapon made a mess: tens of thousands of metal shards now litter low-Earth orbit, where the International Space Station, other crewed missions and about half of all operational satellites fly.
Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center, a global peace and security think tank, explains that the code of conduct is modeled on cold war measures such as the Incidents at Sea Agreement between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, which in 1972 established rules for military forces operating in close proximity. Another U.S.–Soviet Union pact, signed in 1989, set expectations for troops using laser range finders, as well as radio channels that could jam other frequencies, actions that could easily be interpreted as hostile.
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