Keeping the strategic consequences of blowing up an actual satellite as technology demonstration aside, I want to assess it from a purely scientific/technological standpoint.
To demonstrate the success of a developed A-SAT missile, what could be the alternative way(s) of testing, other than blowing up a real satellite?
For instance, I think a missile launched towards a parametric/specific target corridor in space with 'in-the-loop' simulated target tracking, could be used to see if systems performed well. It might have it's limitations, but I'm trying to see how close we can come to the test objectives achieved by blowing up a satellite, without actually blowing up one.
Is there a rationale behind choice of impact testing (boom!) with a physical target over other methods? If so, how significant is the advantage for the former?