(CNBC) — A sequel to "Star Wars" may arrive sooner than anyone expects, as China funnels vast resources into an outer space program that may stoke new tensions with the United States.
The country plans to launch more than 20 space missions in 2016, making the year ahead the busiest ever for the nation's rapidly growing space program. After successfully launching 19 missions in 2015, the People's Republic plans a range of civilian and military missions that will test new rockets, launch a space laboratory, hone China's manned spaceflight capability and loft new satellites into orbit — all while furthering plans to bring a habitable space station online by 2022 and put Chinese astronauts on the moon in the mid-2020s.
At the same time, the Asian colossus is investing in anti-satellite technologies that would destroy or disable space-based assets in the event of conflict. Considering the fact that the U.S. relies upon satellites for a lot of its intelligence collection and communication, it's a worrisome trend.
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