At a Glance:
- Roscosmos chief reacts to US de-compartmentalising civilian and military elements.
- US Space Command publishes its strategic vision and justifies militarisation of space.
- US functionaries seek review of US Space Force acquisitions.
- Russia launches new ELINT satellite in the country’s first orbital launch of 2021.
- Russian commercial space enterprise enters space tourism sector.
- A documentary and a podcast discussing the history and efficiency of Russian space programme.
The Great Game for Space:
Roscosmos Chief lambastes US Plans to Militarise the Moon
The US military is reportedly working with NASA to protect US “commercial missions” including the ones exploring sources of water and minerals on the moon.
Rogozin responded to these developments by tweeting “The militarization of the Moon and lunar exploration is unacceptable”
The Pentagon also has an interest in studying options to extend the service life of US satellites in “Cislunar space” i.e. the area between the Earth and the Moon.
Attaching specialist military personnel (responsible for operating these satellites) as crew and assets including sensor arrays to previously purely civilian missions under NASA’s Artemis programme (meant to return humans to the moon) may allow the Pentagon to more actively study these options.
It will be interesting to observe the reaction of the Russian Ministry of Defence to this development in the coming days.
US Space Command Publishes Strategic Vision; Justifies Militarisation of Space
The document is a key piece of literature which elaborates on the US’s threat perception in and from orbit.
The document has the usual lexicon setting language. It reiterates the common perspective on how the space domain is irreplaceable for both civilian and military applications. It also employs terms such as “inherent right of self-defense” and “deliberate response” to signal deterrence.
The document also comments on the overall proliferation of private space enterprises in recent years, including the sheer number of satellites in orbit.
“Today there are 2,000 operational satellites in orbit. Projections for an additional 107,000 commercial licence requests for orbital satellites in the next decade”.
The document also reiterates US concerns about how adversarial powers, namely, China and Russia, and their aggressive pursuit of counterspace capability is the biggest worry. This is apparent from the quote below:
“The United States faces rapidly growing threats to our space capabilities. To achieve their strategic objectives the PRC and Russia are aggressively developing, have deployed, and stand ready to use counter-space weapons specifically designed to hold U.S. and allied space capabilities at risk. The growth of Chinese and Russian counter-space arsenals presents an immediate and serious threat to U.S., allied, and partner space activities.“
The document defines the “Mission” and features a section “How we Win” detailing the role of USSPACECOM in the US military’s joint forces structure.
“Achieving space superiority sets the conditions to win in conflict across all domains. To win against increasingly capable competitors, United States Space Command provides space combat power by fully integrating offensive and defensive operations alongside our long-standing allies and partners.”
As apparent from the above quote, the document justifies the militarisation of space citing the perceived threat to US’s critical space assets from Russian and Chinese presence and their alleged counterspace capabilities.
“Like all nations, we have the inherent right of self-defense. Purposeful or harmful interference with these interests will be met with a deliberate response at a time and place of our choosing.”
As apparent from the above quotes, the text comments on the need for a combined, coordinated response by all the relevant branches of the US Government, its armed forces, and allies.
It is interesting to note that some members from the US House Armed Services Committee have spoken about the need for a detailed review and reform of US Space Force acquisitions.
“Lawmakers are concerned that Space Force programs are not keeping up with rapid advances in commercial space technology and the service is not modernizing fast enough. More than a year since the Space Force was established, Congress has yet to hear from the Space Force on a new approach for buying future systems.”
-Rep. Jim Cooper, (D-Tenn.) chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee
Nominated Pentagon official Kathleen Hicks, who is to be incharge of “budgetary and financial responsibility” in her role as Deputy Defence Secretary, has also hinted at the need for a review of the US Department of Defence space acquisition programme and its defence industry suppliers.
New Launches Gear and Plans:
Russian Aerospace Forces Launch New Surveillance Satellite
In the first orbital launch for the country in 2021,the Russian Military has blasted off another Electronic Intelligence Satellite onboard a Soyuz-2.1b spacecraft.
The satellite falls in the “Semi-Classified” category as its launch has been widely reported but its exact mission or position in orbit is not disclosed.
The Satellite is part of the Russian military’s “Liana” constellation of surveillance satellites. It is capable of supplying Moscow and its forces with credible space based electronic intelligence. This includes intercepting transmissions from other satellites and spacecraft it rendezvouses with, tapping into communications carried by other satellites, as well as recording electro magnetic signatures coming from any location on Earth.
Roscosmos Commercial Arm will Sell Seats on Soyuz Missions
In a bid to compete with the rapid privatisation of the space industry around the world, the commercial arm of the Russian state space enterprise Glavkosmos, may be looking to offer space tourists a ride onboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecrafts.
This will, according to a report, comprise for the moment, dedicated commercial Soyuz flights. However, in the future this might be extended to “routine Russian government missions” for resupply and crew upkeep flights to the International Space Station(ISS).
The Soyuz MS-23 is the latest planned mission under this programme, with a launch window sometime towards the end of 2022.
The Russians have previously sold seats onboard their spacecraft in conjunction with an American company called Space Adventures. However, the renewed competition from western private giants and state space agencies alike, forces Roscosmos to create its own distinct roster of clients.
It is interesting to note that Roscosmos and Russian state media, “Channel One” are also planning to beat Hollywood and NASA in the race to film a movie onboard the ISS.
Space in Media:
- A great documentary produced by the BBC: Covers the Russian space programme and its achievements – Sets the record straight on how the Russian space programme has pioneered the way for human space exploration. The prevalent US narrative about having won the space race by being the first country to send humans to the moon ignores the Soviet Cosmonauts and their achievements in the first-ever manned space flight, first successful space walk, first ever successful probes landed on Venus, and many others.
- A podcast discussing the Russian space programme – Discusses some very interesting history, including the Space Rocket Factory in St. Petersburg that was established in 1927.
Interesting Publications and Resources:
- Full text of the USSPACECOM strategic vision document.
- A video explaining the provisions for space activities in the latest Union Budget for the Republic of India.
- Two interesting articles examining the place of India’s space industry in the global space economy.
- Newsletter covering the world space ecosystem, the latest issue talks about the Brazilian Space Programme and their launch of Amazonia-1 in co-operation with ISRO.