Secure World Foundation Releases 2022 Global Counterspace Capabilities: An Open Source Assessment

BROOMFIELD, Colo. (SWF PR) — The Secure World Foundation (SWF) is proud to announce the release of its annual report, “Global Counterspace Capabilities: An Open Source Assessment.” Edited by SWF Director of Program Planning Brian Weeden and Washington Office Director Victoria Samson, this report compiles and assesses publicly available information on the counterspace capabilities being developed by multiple countries across five categories: direct-ascent, co-orbital, electronic warfare, directed energy, and cyber. It assesses the current and near-term future capabilities for each country, along with their potential military utility. 

The full 2022 report and the Executive Summary, along with previous year’s editions, can be found at:  http://www.swfound.org/counterspace

Translations of the 2022 Executive Summary into French, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese will be available in May.

On Wednesday, April 20, 2022, from 09:00 – 10:30 EDT, SWF will co-host a hybrid event with experts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to discuss their respective 2022 reports. More information about the event and RSVP can be found here: https://www.csis.org/events/tracking-developments-counterspace-weapons.

This is the fifth annual edition of the report, which is released in tandem with a similar report by CSIS. The 2022 edition of the report adds new developments through February 2022, adds three new countries to the report (Australia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom), and reorganizes the report to highlight those countries that have created orbital debris through counterspace testing.

Biden Administration Publishes Space Priorites Framework

Taken by NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, this picture shows Earth’s limb, or horizon, from the International Space Station as it orbits above the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile. (Credits: NASA)

UNITED STATES SPACE PRIORITIES FRAMEWORK
The White House
December 2021

UNITED STATES SPACE PRIORITIES FRAMEWORK

Space activities are essential to our way of life. They advance our understanding of the Earth, the universe, and humanity; enable U.S. national security; create good jobs and economic opportunity; enhance our health and well-being; and inspire us to pursue our dreams. Space capabilities provide critical data, products, and services that drive innovation in the United States and around the world. Access to and use of space is a vital national interest.

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An Overview of North Korea’s Counterspace Strategy and Space Program

Unha-3 rocket on the launch pad.

Global Counterspace Capabilities:
An Open Source Assessment

Secure World Foundation
April 2020

Full Report

The following excerpts from the report summarize North Korea’s counterspace strategy and its launch vehicle and satellite programs.

NORTH KOREA

North Korea has no demonstrated capability to mount kinetic attacks on U.S. space assets: neither a direct ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) nor a co-orbital system. In its official statements, North Korea has never mentioned anti-satellite operations or intent, suggesting that there is no clear doctrine in Pyongyang’s thinking at this point.

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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 U.S. Counterspace Capabilities

Global Counterspace Capabilities:
An Open Source Assessment

Secure World Foundation
April 2020

Full Report

The following excerpt from the report summarizes U.S. counterspace capabilities.

The United States has conducted multiple tests of technologies for rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) in both low Earth orbit (LEO) and geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO), along with tracking, targeting, and intercept technologies that could lead to a co-orbital anti-satellite (ASAT) capability.

These tests and demonstrations were conducted for other non-offensive missions, such as missile defense, on-orbit inspections, and satellite servicing, and the United States does not have an acknowledged program to develop co-orbital capabilities. However, the United States possesses the technological capability to develop a co-orbital capability in a short period of time if it chooses to.

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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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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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