It is very hard to imagine how the military forces and the world’s economy would operate without unfettered access to services provided by satellites.
“The existence of counterspace capabilities is not new, but the circumstances surrounding them are,” says the 2022 edition of the Secure World Foundation’s “Global Counterspace Capabilities: An Open Source Assessment.”
“Today there are increased incentives for development, and potential use, of offensive counterspace capabilities. There are also greater potential consequences from their widespread use that could have global repercussions well beyond the military, as huge parts of the global economy and society are increasingly reliant on space applications,” the report says.
Director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation and one of the report’s editors, Brian Weeden, said the broad theme this year is “proliferation.” Previously only a handful of nations had space weapons. “We just keep adding more countries every year,” Weeden said. Based on open-source information, this year’s report details the counter space capabilities of India, the United States, Russia, North Korea, China, Australia, South Korea, France, Iran, Japan, and the UK.
A separate report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Space Threat Assessment 2022, also uses open-source information to track the developments of counter-space weapons that threaten United States national security interests in space.
This is a new era where space has become the “domain in which every interest of an adversary or competitor is affected,” Gordon noted.
She added – that China was once an afterthought in the space race. This past year China launched the most satellites of any nation, “demonstrated its intention to project hard and soft power through the growth in on-orbit military support capabilities, and grabbed our attention and imagination with its counter space demonstrations ranging from hypersonic missile launches to co-orbital rendezvous with other satellites.”
Russia, the earliest innovator in space, “re-grabbed our attention with its direct-ascent anti-satellite test that created a threatening debris field as well as apparent GPS jamming in Ukraine that showed how counterspace is being integrated into combined operations,” Gordon said.
“The proliferation of international and commercial vehicles on orbit, while presaging a new era of space use for every aspect of governmental, business, and societal advance, will demand attention on the responsible use of space as a shared environment.”
Weeden said that of all the weapons that could be used to take down satellites, the most concerning today is because they are relatively easy to pull off, as seen in the February 24 attack against Viasat’s KA-SAT.