Both China and Russia continue to expand their military space capabilities, further justifying President Trump’s strong emphasis on maintaining US space dominance. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) warned back in January last year that China and Russia both consider space to be “important to modern warfare” and said the U.S. should be prepared.
China is rapidly developing a potentially military lunar presence, while last week Russia tested an anti-satellite missile designed to destroy satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO).
Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, the commander of the USSPACECOM and the U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations, explained in a statement that Russia’s test of a direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile can knock out satellites, reported American Military News (AMN).
AMN further noted that Brian Weeden, at Secure World Foundation, described Russia’s latest anti-satellite missile as a Nudol ballistic missile. He said, “This appears to have been the 9th or 10th test of the Nudol system since 2014, so we know this system has been in development for a while.”
Previously Russia has conducted close satellite passes near U.S. spy satellites, possibly testing their ability for offensive maneuvers. AMN cited TIME Magazine’s report of a January incident when two Russian satellites, dubbed COSMOS 2542 and COSMOS 2543, “drifted their orbits gradually closer to a U.S. classified imaging satellite operated by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).”
These Russian space efforts pose a security threat to U.S. space-based assets of all types. Gen. Raymond said, “Russia’s DA-ASAT test provides yet another example that the threats to U.S. and allied space systems are real, serious and growing,”
Meanwhile the Chinese are growing their new lunar presence after their successful Chang’e-4 mission to the far side of the moon in January 2019. That presence includes both a rover and a lander. Space.com explained that “China does not separate its scientific and military space programs as the U.S. does, with NASA being a strictly civilian agency. Instead, the China National Space Administration is a branch of the Chinese military.”
This is why media reports in October that China was building a spacecraft have some analysts worried that China’s move to human exploration could be a prelude to a militarized lunar presence. However, even their robotic presence raises concern.
Space.com reported that U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., told delegates at the Space Foundation’s State of Space conference in February that he is worried about the security implications if China has a permanent presence on the moon.
They very much have military thoughts in mind when it comes to what they can do with a military presence on the moon, and the ability to see things and track things with the unchanging platforms that no one really has right now,” Lamborn said at the conference, referring to media reports from 2019 that the Chinese may be considering establishing a robotic base at the moon’s south pole.
In response to these Chinese and Russian threats, Gen. Raymond said. “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.” But to do so, Raymond has warned about the need for U.S. space assets to respond to both Russian and Chinese space weapons, “including increasingly sophisticated lasers, anti-satellite weapons and state-of-the-art spacecraft that could cripple U.S. space satellites.”
According to Newsweek, Space Force is doing just that, reportedly “building a stockpile of new systems that are capable of jamming communications satellite signals during orbital conflict.” Last month Space Force confirmed its new system — the Counter Communications System Block 10.2 — was operational. The technology is described as a “transportable space electronic warfare system that reversibly denies adversary satellite communications.”
We can expect much more from the U.S. Space Force, and our other space agencies, including a manned U.S. landing on the moon’s south pole by 2024. This is why President Trump has taken such a forward-thinking position on aggressively developing U.S. space policy, and creating the first US Space Force. Space is a domain the US must dominate.