war of l'space

The war will take place in space. It may have already begun...

On Saturday, July 13, before an audience of high-ranking military officials gathered at the Hôtel de Brienne, President Emmanuel Macron announced the creation of a new army corps dedicated to space. A major space command will be created next September within the French Air Force, which will become the French Air and Space Army.
At a time when we are about to commemorate man's first steps on the moon, when rockets are rushing through the gates of space, when our society depends more than ever on satellite networks and when precious resources are being discovered in the stars, this presidential announcement does not bode well. Is space, hitherto the neutral terrain of humanity, about to become the new battleground?
Po ensure the development and strengthening of our space capabilities, a major space command will be created next September. "within the Air Force, which..." will eventually become the French Air and Space Forces. "said the Head of State at the traditional reception given by the Ministry of Armed Forces on the eve of the parade on the Champs-Élysées.
Describing the space as " a real national security issue, because of the conflict that it raises. ", Emmanuel Macron had assured last year that he wanted to give France "a space defence strategy« . This one is now ready," he said on Saturday 13 July.
The new space and military doctrine proposed to me by the minister (from the armies of Florence Parly, editor's note), which I have approved, will ensure our defense from and through space... ", he said. « We will strengthen our space situational awareness, better protect our satellites, including actively ", he assured by saying that " the necessary new investments will be decided "Florence Parly will soon announce in more detail the concrete translation of the presidential strategic orientations.

Space, a highly strategic theatre

Espionage, jamming, cyber attacks, anti-satellite weapons... Space, which is indispensable for military operations, has become a field of confrontation between nations, challenging France to build up its capabilities in this highly strategic and increasingly militarized theater. The world's largest space powers - the United States, China and Russia - have been engaged for several years in a race for the domination of space.
Almost a year ago, President Trump said at a meeting of the National Space Council: " I call on the Department of Defense and the Pentagon to immediately begin the process to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. ». The Americans are sensitive to the threat posed by China, Russia and other powers with their anti-satellite weapons. Secret services are convinced that Moscow and Beijing have already developed space missiles and weapons of satellite destruction. The threat is great because our hyper-technological societies depend to a large extent on satellites: for communication, observation, meteorology, science, GPS, etc. The threat is great because our hyper-technological societies depend to a large extent on satellites: for communication, observation, meteorology, science, GPS and so on. However, a satellite that navigates in space is, by its very nature, fragile and unarmed.

READ IN UP' : Donald Trump's America wants a space army. Issues and dangers.

The big traffic jam

The American predictions were far from fanciful. Indeed, in March 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi bragged on television about the successful launch of a missile into an orbiting satellite. India, too, thus entered the very closed club of nations capable of waging war from space. The problem is that the Indian missile did destroy the target satellite but it did so by flying it puzzle-like into space. Hundreds of pieces of debris, travelling at the sidereal speed of 7.8 km per second, threatened the astronauts of the international space station. When you consider that a 10 cm piece of debris can cause critical damage, you can understand the anger of the world's major space agencies.

READ IN UP' : Oops! India sends a missile to destroy a satellite and endangers the space station...

All the more so as the space is becoming the site of a major traffic jam. Never have so many rockets carrying satellites been launched into orbit. It is no longer just government agencies such as NASA or ESA that are sending rockets. Private players have rushed into this juicy market, including billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. This led Donald Trump to give up: " Billionaires love rockets. ». For once, he's not exaggerating.

Space Force

It is in this context that we must understand France's decision to acquire its own space army. France is indeed considering placing weapons in space in order to be able to exercise its right to self-defence in the event of aggression. « Placing a weapon in space for non-aggressive purposes is not in itself prohibited, according to our reading of the Outer Space Treaty.", General Michel Friedling, who heads the Joint Space Command (CIE), told AFP during a Senate hearing last February, adding that it is rather "...". the use that is made of it (which) may be prohibited".
To put it plainly: France, while refusing to embark on a space arms race, could, according to ". the UN principle of the right to self-defence", equip itself with self-defence systems, thus giving itself the capacity to react in the event of aggression from another object in orbit.
This new capability could take several forms. Either via equipment on board future satellites, such as directed energy weapons (lasers), microwave beams or electromagnetic pulse weapons, or via an agile space drone capable of spending several months in low orbits for sensitive operations.
The French Military Programming Act 2019-2025 provides for a budget of 3.6 billion euros for defence space. It is intended in particular to finance the renewal of France's CSO observation and communication satellites (Syracuse), to launch three electromagnetic listening satellites (CERES) into orbit and to modernise the GRAVES space surveillance radar.
At the Paris Air Show last June, Florence Parly announced that France would launch studies on the next generation of military optical observation and electromagnetic intelligence satellites. One of the programmes, called "Iris", will be the successor to the CSO optical observation satellites dedicated to defence and security, the first of which was launched into orbit last December. The other programme, called "Céleste", is intended to succeed the CERES electromagnetic intelligence satellites (ROEM).

Space Pearl Harbour

 " The major space powers are improving their capabilities and developing systems for conducting actions in space. ", hammered General Friedling. By acquiring extra-atmospheric capabilities, the armies of the countries concerned hope not only to act in space, but also to reduce the effectiveness of enemy armies on land, at sea and in the air. This is a prospect that the Bush Administration had already mentioned as early as 2001. a Pearl Harbor space hazard». In the event of a conflict involving spacefaring nations, " it's plausible that any introduction to the subject will be made up there. "explained at the end of 2018 to the Point Colonel Vinçotte, space expert at the Air Defence and Air Operations Command.

READ IN UP' : Is peace in space threatened?

Yet space, since 1967, has already been protected by a international treaty...initiated in the middle of the Cold War by John Kennedy. This text establishes the principle of non-appropriation and prohibition of weapons of mass destruction in orbit. Other treaties, five in all, have since followed. But none of them envisage the use of offensive methods to cause destruction or interference through satellites. No text has imagined what is possible today in the field of space warfare. Professor Dale Stephens, one of the leading experts on the subject, says: "The use of offensive methods to cause destruction or interference through satellites has not been imagined in any text. anti-satellite missiles, directed energy weapons (including lasers), electronic warfare (exploitation of an adversary's radio emissions), cyberwarfare and certain dual-use technologies, such as in-orbit infrastructure for satellite maintenance. "
The damage caused by such military interventions could be extremely serious for the economy and functioning of the targeted States. A single figure illustrates this dependence on space technology: 6 to 7 % of GDP of Western countries today depends on GPS satellite navigation.
So when China demonstrated in 2007 its ability to destroy one of its old satellites with a ground-launched interceptor missile, the world's military shuddered. More recently, Russia launched its Kosmos 2499 satellite in complete secrecy. It has the particularity of moving in its orbit to get close to the debris of a drifting rocket. It is only a short step from there to fuelling suspicions of a "satellite killer" experiment.

Space Rush

A theatre of military operations, space is also a theatre of industrial ambitions. Our solar system is filled with millions of asteroids, rocky worlds ranging in size from a few metres to hundreds of kilometres in diameter. The majority of asteroids are found in what astronomers call the Asteroid Belt, located between the planets Mars and Jupiter. Many of these objects are remnants of the early formation of the Solar System. Some of the asteroids are rich in rare and precious metals. Iron is found in abundance, but also rare minerals that the high-tech industry is particularly fond of: cobalt, titanium, antimony, tungsten, thorium, silicon...

READ IN UP' : The U.S. Senate votes for the commercial exploitation of space. Welcome to the Space Wild West...

On these pieces of rock wandering through space we could find everything we need to build space stations, to transform the water in them into liquid oxygen and hydrogen, the fuel for spaceships. And then absolute fantasy, you find gold.
Those asteroids are a fortune. The iron in asteroid 16 Psyllis alone is worth about 10 quintillion dollars. This number tells you nothing; it is normal because it is written with an impressive number of zeros: 10,000,000,000,000,000 $. How do the scientists - in this case NASA - have they come up with that assessment? They estimated to within a few kilos that this asteroid contained 17,000,000,000,000,000 m3 of iron (17 million km3). At €80 a ton, do the math.
According to NASA, if we were able to extract all the minerals from the asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, we could write a cheque for $100 billion to every human being living on Earth! Unfortunately, this calculation is only theoretical, because even if these astronomical sums of money were proven, there is little chance that the manna would be redistributed so generously... But we can still dream.
Still, lust is stirred. Government space agencies are joined by a myriad of private companies, some of which, like billionaire Elon Musk's Space X, have just proved their ability to send giant rockets into space and bring them back to Earth. Space has become the new Eldorado where the issue of resource appropriation is turning heads.
In the face of these challenges and dangers, the idea of a military force from outer space is the most obvious. And the hypothesis of space warfare is no longer a subject of science fiction. And yet...
On July 23rd, the young muse of the high school students, climate prophet Greta Thunberg, will come to speak at the French National Assembly and will meet probably the President of the Republic. The latter will tell him that by creating a force up there, in space, he wants to protect his fellow citizens and ensure a safe and serene future for future generations. She will reply that he is no doubt right, but that the most urgent war is being waged here below, with his feet on Earth, our only planet.

Anything to add? Say it as a comment.


Why not enjoy unlimited reading of UP'? Subscribe from €1.90 per week.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Proxima b
Previous article

To reach the nearest exoplanet, you will have to travel (almost) at the speed of light.

Next article

Live from the Sea of Tranquillity

Latest articles from ESPACE



Already registered? I'm connecting

Register and read three articles for free. Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date with the latest news.

→ Register for free to continue reading.



You have received 3 free articles to discover UP'.

Enjoy unlimited access to our content!

From $1.99 per week only.