An Overview of Japan’s Counterspace Strategy

Global Counterspace Capabilities:
An Open Source Assessment

Secure World Foundation
April 2020

Full Report

The following excerpts from the report summarize Japan’s counterspace capabilities.

Country Summary

Japan has long been a well-established space actor and its space activities have historically been entirely non-military in nature. In 2008, Japan made a change to its constitution to enable national security-related activities in space and more recently, government officials have begun to publicly speak about developing various counterspace capabilities or developing military SSA capacity.

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An Overview of France’s Counterspace Capabilities

Global Counterspace Capabilities:
An Open Source Assessment

Secure World Foundation
April 2020

Full Report

The following excerpt from the report summarizes France’s counterspace capabilities.

Country Summary

While France has long had a space program, as well as military satellites, it was not until very recently that France had an explicit focus on offensive and defensive counterspace capabilities.

The major change occurred in July 2019 with the release of the first French Space Defense Strategy, which elevated French military space organization and reassigned control of French military satellites from the French space agency to the military.

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An Overview of India’s Counterspace Strategy and ASAT Tests

Global Counterspace Capabilities:
An Open Source Assessment

Secure World Foundation
April 2020

Full Report

The following excerpts from the report summarize India”s growing counterspace programs and its anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons tests in 2019.

Country Summary

India has over five decades of experience with space capabilities, but most of that has been civil in focus. It is only in the past several years that India has started organizationally making way for its military to become active users and creating explicit military space capabilities.

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A Summary of China’s Counterspace Capabilities

China’s 2007 test of its ground-based ASAT missile destroyed one of its own defunct satellites in LEO. The graphic depicts the orbits of trackable debris generated by the test 1 month after the event. The white line represents the International Space Station’s orbit. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Global Counterspace Capabilities:
An Open Source Assessment

Secure World Foundation
April 2020

Full Report

The following excerpt from the report summarizes China’s counterspace capabilities.

The evidence strongly indicates that China has a sustained effort to develop a broad range of counterspace capabilities. China has conducted multiple tests of technologies for rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) in both low earth orbit (LEO) and geosynchronous orbit (GEO) that could lead to a co-orbital ASAT capability.

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A Summary of Russia’s Counterspace Capabilities

In 2009, the defunct Cosmos 2251 satellite and the Iridium 33 satellite collided in Earth’s orbit. A Livermore visualization shows the orbits of the two satellites prior to the collision among the thousands of other satellites in low-Earth orbit. The collision occurred where the two orbital paths cross near the North Pole. (Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

Global Counterspace Capabilities:
An Open Source Assessment

Secure World Foundation
April 2020

Full Report

The following excerpt from the report summarizes Russia’s counterspace capabilities.

There is strong evidence that Russia has embarked on a set of programs over the last decade to regain many of its Cold War-era counterspace capabilities. Since 2010, Russia has been testing technologies for rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) in both low Earth orbit 9LEO) and geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) that could lead to or support a co-orbital anti-satellite (ASAT) capability. Evidence suggests at least two active programs: a new co-orbital ASAT program called Burevestnik that is potentially supported by a surveillance and tracking program called Nivelir.

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Report: Counterspace Capabilities Continue to Proliferate with Growing Implications for Space Security

by Director of Program Planning Brian Weeden and Washington Office Director Victoria Samson
Secure World Foundation

Over the last several years, there has been growing concern from multiple governments over the reliance on vulnerable space capabilities for national security, and the corresponding proliferation of offensive counterspace capabilities that could be used to disrupt, deny the use of, degrade, or destroy space systems.

This in turn has led to increased rhetoric from some countries about the need to prepare for future conflicts on Earth to extend into space, and calls from some corners to increase the development of offensive counterspace capabilities and put in place more aggressive policies and postures.

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Russia Tests Direct-ascent Anti-satellite Missile

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., April 15, 2020 (U.S. Space Command PR) — U.S. Space Command is aware and tracking Russia’s direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile test April 15.

“Russia’s DA-ASAT test provides yet another example that the threats to U.S. and allied space systems are real, serious and growing,” said Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, USSPACECOM commander and U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations. “The United States is ready and committed to deterring aggression and defending the Nation, our allies and U.S. interests from hostile acts in space.”

Russia’s missile system is capable of destroying satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) and comes on the heels of Russia’s on-orbit testing the U.S. highlighted in February, namely COSMOS 2542 and COSMOS 2543. These satellites, which behaved similar to previous Russian satellites that exhibited characteristics of a space weapon, conducted maneuvers near a U.S. Government satellite that would be interpreted as irresponsible and potentially threatening in any other domain.

“This test is further proof of Russia’s hypocritical advocacy of outer space arms control proposals designed to restrict the capabilities of the United States while clearly having no intention of halting their counterspace weapons programs,” Raymond said. “Space is critical to all nations and our way of life. The demands on space systems continue in this time of crisis where global logistics, transportation and communication are key to defeating the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is a shared interest and responsibility of all spacefaring nations to create safe, stable and operationally sustainable conditions for space activities, including commercial, civil and national security activities,” Raymond concluded.

DIA: China Has Ground-based ASAT Missile, Likely Working on Laser Weapon

China’s 2007 test of its ground-based ASAT missile destroyed one of its own defunct satellites in LEO. The graphic depicts the orbits of trackable debris generated by the test 1 month after the event. The white line represents the International Space Station’s orbit. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Challenges to Security in Space
Defense Intelligence Agency
February 2019

Full Report (PDF)

Excerpt on China

China’s Military Strategy

In 2015, Beijing directed the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to be able to win “informatized local wars” with an emphasis on “maritime military struggle.” Chinese military strategy documents also emphasize the growing importance of offensive air, long-distance mobility, and space and cyberspace operations. China expects that its future wars mostly will be fought outside its borders and will involve conflict in the maritime domain. China promulgated this through its most recent update to its “military strategic guidelines,” the top-level directives that Beijing uses to define concepts, assess threats, and set priorities for planning, force posture, and modernization. The PLA uses “informatized” warfare to describe the process of acquiring, transmitting, processing, and using information to conduct joint military operations across the domains of land, sea, air, space, cyberspace, and the electromagnetic spectrum during a conflict. PLA writings highlight the benefit of near-real-time shared awareness of the battlefield in enabling quick, unified effort to seize tactical opportunities.

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DIA: Russia Sees Reliance on Space as U.S. Military’s Achilles’ Heel

Russia has focused on maintaining its own military and civil satellites on orbit and selling launch services commercially. Russia usually launches small satellites as multiple payloads on heavier rockets but sometimes uses the Rokot light-lift vehicle to launch smaller payloads into LEO. Russia’s heavy-lift vehicles are mostly used for launching into GEO or HEO. The developmental Energia SLV, designed to boost the Russian space shuttle into orbit, was discontinued in the 1980s and revived in 2016 to support proposed lunar missions. (Visualization: DIA, D3 Design)

Challenges to Security in Space
Defense Intelligence Agency
February 2019

Full Report (PDF)

Excerpts on Russia

Strategy, Doctrine, and Intent

Russian military doctrine and authoritative writings clearly articulate that Russia views space as a warfighting domain and that achieving supremacy in space will be a decisive factor in winning future conflicts. Russian military thinkers believe the importance of space will continue to expand because of the growing role of precision weapons and satellite-supported information networks in all types of conflict. Meanwhile, Russia regularly expresses concern over the weaponization of space and is pursuing legal, binding space arms control agreements to curb what it sees as U.S. weaponization of outer space.

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Report: China Making Rapid Progress on Anti-Satellite Systems

China has developed a number of weapons designed to jam and destroy enemy satellites in the event of a war while publicly opposing weapons in space, according to a new Pentagon report.

“In addition to the development of directed energy weapons and satellite jammers, China is also developing direct-ascent and co-orbital kinetic kill capabilities and has probably made progress on the anti-satellite missile system it tested in July 2014,” the report stated. “China is employing more sophisticated satellite operations and is probably testing dual-use technologies in space that could be applied to counterspace missions.

The claims come in a document from the Secretary of Defense titled, “Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2018.”

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U.S. Expresses Concerns About Russian “Inspector” Satellite, Space Lasers & ASATs

Soyuz-2.1v on launch pad (Credit: Russian Ministry of Defence)

The United States said this week that a Russian satellite launched last year is exhibiting “very abnormal behavior” in orbit, suggesting that it is a weapons system rather than a “space apparatus inspector” as claimed by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

“In October of last year the Russian Ministry of Defense deployed a space object they claimed was a ‘space apparatus inspector,'” said Yleem D.S. Poblete, assistant secretary at the U.S. Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance. “But its behavior on-orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities, including other Russian inspection satellite activities.”

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China Enjoyed Stellar Year in Space

Yutu rolls out onto the moon. (Credit: CNSA)
Yutu rolls out onto the moon. (Credit: CNSA)

China had a highly successful year in space in 2013, sending a second crew to live aboard the Tiangong-1 space station in June and becoming only the third nation to successfully soft land a spacecraft on the moon in December. As the year ended, the Yutu rover had completed its first exploration of the lunar surface and had entered a hibernation period for a long lunar night.

With increasingly sophisticated spacecraft, a reliable stable of Long March launch vehicles, and ambitious plans for the future, China has made itself a major player in the international space arena as space agencies in the United States and Europe face budgetary pressures and Russia struggles to revive a once formidable space program.

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The Space Review: Skylon, Shuttles and Area 51

In The Space Review this week….

Skylon: ready for takeoff?
The British Skylon RLV concept has received some recent attention after an ESA study found no showstoppers with its design. Jeff Foust explores the work on Skylon performed to date and identifies some challenges, both engineering and business, that it has yet to overcome.

The irreplaceable Space Shuttle
After next month’s launch of Atlantis, the Space Shuttle program will come to an end. Taylor Dinerman looks back on what the shuttle did and did not achieve.

Hubble in the crosshairs
Is Russian developing an airborne laser anti-satellite weapon? Dwayne Day examines the history of a curious Russian aircraft that may be fitted with a laser, and its implications for a potential ASAT arms race.

Roswell that ends well, part 2
Dwayne Day follows up on a critique of a new book about Area 51 with an analysis of the research that went into that book, and the flaws associated with it.











The Space Review Looks at CCDev, Seed Corn and Chinese ASATs

Boeing's proposed commercial capsule.
Artist's conception of Boeing's commercial crew module. (Credit: Boeing)

This week in The Space Review….

Funding the seed corn of advanced space technology
The final NASA fiscal year 2011 funding bill provided no explicit funding for space technology activities, a key element of the agency’s future plans. Lou Friedman says that without such investment, it will become increasingly difficult to make new advances in robotic or human space exploration.

Commercial crew’s final four
Last week NASA announced that four companies would share nearly $270 million in commercial crew development awards, the next step in efforts to develop commercial vehicles to carry astronauts to orbit. Jeff Foust reports on the outcome of the competition and whether there’s room for other companies to compete later in the program.

Fifty years of piloted spaceflight: Where are we going?
It’s clear to many that, half a century after the era of human spaceflight began, we have fallen fall short of our early dreams for the exploration and settlement of space. Claude Lafleur take a look at what went wrong.

Paul Allen’s past (and future) in space
While best known for co-founding Microsoft, Paul Allen is known in the space community for funding development of SpaceShipOne. Jeff Foust discusses some insights about that effort Allen reveals in a new book, and his potential to return to the commercial space field.

An exercise in the Art of War: China’s National Defense white paper, outer space, and the PPWT
China continues to press for a treaty banning the placement of weapons in outer space, even while developing its own ASAT capability. Michael Listner examines what may be at the root of Chinese strategy regarding space weaponization.











Space Review: The Destroy Everything Edition

A Titan rocket explodes just after liftoff. (Credit: USAF)
A Titan rocket explodes just after liftoff. Not a good day for the Air Force. (Credit: USAF)

This week in The Space Review

  • HLV! HLV! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Say it again! That is basically Lou Friedman’s view of the job creating, budget busting heavy-lift vehicle that Congress has thrust upon a reluctant NASA.
  • Todd Neff looks at the vastly over budget and behind schedule James Webb Space Telescope, which threatens to scuttle and delay other valuable projects.
  • Jeff Foust reports on some the measures the US and other countries can take to make sure orbital debris, satellite collisions, and anti-satellite weapons don’t destroy space as a useful place to visit and do work.
  • Jeff Foust reviews a book by an astronomer who helped to obliterate Pluto’s status as a planet.
  • Dwayne Day continues his look at the long-since-canceled and little mourned TV show “Defying Gravity,” ABC’s valiant effort to wipe out the space science fiction genre once and for all.