BROOMFIELD, Colo. (SWF PR) — Rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) technologies enable a wide range of capabilities to support civil and commercial space activities such as on-orbit inspections, repair, refueling, assembly, and life extension. RPO capabilities can also be used for military and intelligence space activities such as intelligence, surveillance, and offensive weapons such as co-orbital anti-satellites.
While RPO technologies have long been a stable of human spaceflight activities, over the last twenty years robotic RPO capabilities have developed and grown in use, including for national security. While many RPO activities are no directly aggressive or destructive themselves, they can lead to misconceptions or heightened tensions that could negatively impact space security and stability.
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.
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.
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.