Satellite exploding in Earth orbit

The Satellite War

The story in "Rock Hopper" takes place several years after an armed conflict that is referred to as "The Satellite War". We don't get to know much about it, other that in the long forgotten spoils of war, our main character finds an unexpected opportunity. We're also told about how Russia, China and the US during the war, tried to destroy each other's satellites in order to gain near-space superiority. This may seem like some crazy idea I came up with, but the truth is it's starting to get really close to reality.

This threat became concrete for a large audience when Donald Trump during his presidency announced the creation of a new military branch in 2019, the Space Force. I remember when I watched this cringe fest when he revealed the flag with the logotype - clearly ripped off from Star Trek. Trump, just incoherently blabbering on as usual, surrounded by chosen minions - all stiff with terror - as he fires off his instant fake smile for the cameras.

Now, of course Trump did all he could to take credit for the creation of the Space Force, but the US had spent decades trying to figure out how to defend itself from attacks in and from space. Actually, the US was way behind other space nations like China who shot down a weather satellite in 2007(1), and India that did something similar in 2019(1). At the same time France called for it's own space high command in 2019(2). Russia started launching anti-satellite missiles in 2020(3), so things have been heating up lately(4).

So far, space nations had only been shooting down their own satellites, just to prove that their prowess in space was something to be reckoned with. But in February 2023, the US shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon over US territory(5), which is probably the first publicly known incident of this kind between these countries. It's unclear what the purpose and capability of this balloon was, but I think it's a very cunning way to test and record the capability of the US military to shoot down high altitude objects. Maybe next time the object is a hostile satellite, and we're off to the races...

View from a US Air Force U-2 looking down on the Chinese balloon before it was downed with a missile from a US Air Force F-22
View from a US Air Force U-2 looking down at the Chinese balloon before it was downed by a US Air Force F-22
(Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense)