Global Counterspace Capabilities

 

Current Version:

2021 Executive Summary (English 2021 Full Report

Previous versions:

2020 Executive Summary 2020 Full Report
2020 Executive Summary (Spanish) 2020 Executive Summary (French)
2019 Executive Summary 2019 Full Report
2018 Executive Summary 2018 Full Report

Background

Space security has become an increasingly salient policy issue. 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, 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.

We feel strongly that a more open and public debate on these issues is urgently needed. Space is not the sole domain of militaries and intelligence services. Our global society and economy is increasingly dependent on space capabilities, and a future conflict in space could have massive, long-term negative repercussions that are felt here on Earth. Even testing of these capabilities could have long-lasting negative repercussions for the space environment, and all who operate there. The public should be as aware of the developing threats and risks of different policy options as would be the case for other national security issues in the air, land, and sea domains.

Highlights from the 2021 Report

Overall Global Assessment

China

  • Launch of an experimental Chinese spaceplane and potential deployment of a subsatellite
  • SJ-17 RPO on the geostationary belt with SJ-20 and Chinasat 6B
  • Unverified reports of Chinese counterspace jammers deployed to the India-China border
  • Clarification of the role of the Strategic Support Force in Chinese military space and counterspace operations

Russia

  • More details about the Burevestnik program including an aircraft-carried solid fuel launch vehicle for potentially deploying co-orbital ASATs
  • More details about the Cosmos 2543 RPO of USA 245 and public concerns from senior U.S. military leaders 
  • Deployment of a subsatellite/projectile from Cosmos 2543
  • Two new tests of the Nudol ground-based DA-ASAT system
  • New program called Tobol that is reportedly aimed at protecting Russian satellites from uplink jamming
  • New report of testing of the A-60 airborne laser dazzler against a Japanese satellite
  • Deployment of the Peresvet mobile laser dazzler system to protect Russian mobile ICBMs
  • New Milky Way program to upgrade Russian SSA capabilities with new ground- and space-based telescopes
  • More details about the organic integration of counterspace EW units into Russian Motorised Rifle Brigades

United States

  • Added details about the SAINT satellite inspector and co-orbital ASAT program and the Bold Orion, High Virgo, Project Hi-Ho, Nike Zeus, and Program 437 ground-based DA-ASAT programs that were active in the 1950s and 1960s
  • Added details on OTV-6 of the X-37B, which included a potential satellite deployment and testing of an on-orbit power beaming system
  • New Meadowlands update to the Counter Communications System (CCS)
  • Deployment of GPS M-Code signals and end user terminals
  • Deployment of ORS-5 and TDO-2 satellites for space-based SSA
  • New counterspace and deterrence aspects of the 2020 U.S. National Space Policy
  • Details on the stand-up and organization of the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command
  • Details on space doctrine from the U.S. Space Force Space Capstone Publication and the U.S. Space Command's Commander's Strategic Vision
  • Allied participation in Operation Olympic Defender

France:

  • Development plan for the French Space Command

India

  • More details about the 2019 Indian ASAT test 
  • Indian government official remarks about potential future ASAT tests at higher altitudes
  • New information on Indian directed energy weapons research
  • Operational status of the Indian SSA Control Centre

Iran

  • New Iranian military space launch vehicle, the Qassed
  • Details on the creation of the Iranian Space Command
  • Reports of GPS spoofing near the staff college for the Iranian Army

Japan

  • Successful SM-3 Block 2A intercept test
  • Information on SSA hosted payloads from the United States to be added to future Japanese QZSS satellites
  • Renamed National Space Policy Secretariat
  • Details on the June 2020 Outline of the Basic Plan on Space Policy for Japan

North Korea

  • No significant developments reported

Cyber

  • Conference paper detailing weaknesses in commercial geostationary satellite broadband Internet services

The 2021 report also includes a new appendix with historical tables of ASAT testing in space by country and a revamped appendix of satellite imagery of key launch and test facilities associated with counterspace programs.

For more information or media inquiries, please contact SWF Director of Program Planning Dr. Brian Weeden at bweeden@swfound.org or Washington Office Director Ms. Victoria Samson at vsamson@swfound.org.

Last updated on April 9, 2021