Space is a place of wonder, discovery, […]» place of science, certainly, for communications, no doubt, but a place also for conflicts, rivalries, the war… “It is with these words that Florence Parly, Minister of the armed forces, asked the first milestone in ‘space of defence strategy’ this Friday a trip to Toulouse in the offices of the Cnes (national Center for space studies) . It is an order of Emmanuel Macron placed last July soon as Donald Trump announced the creation for 2020 a “space force”.

Florence Parly has to make its copy by the end of the year. “A major issue and a top priority, the Minister said. For some time, while our neighbors were changing in part the nature of space, what have we done? Not much. Not quite, anyway. […] We are not protected against these threats. »

But what threats are we talking about? What is this war of the stars mentioned repeatedly by Florence Parly this Friday? Xavier Pasco, Director of the Foundation for strategic research, where he coordinates the research concerning space, answered questions for 20 Minutes.

“Space becomes a theatre of confrontation…”. “At what does refer exactly Florence Parly?

It refers to the fact that relations were strained over the last decade between the Russia, China and the United States. These major space countries test their ability to protect their satellites and disable those of the neighbor. This political tension has increased after January 2007 when China has managed to destroy one of its satellites in low orbit (altitude of 800 km, orbit classic for an Earth observation satellite) with a missile launched from the ground . Only Russia and the United States were managed until then. Steps have been initiated to strengthen the rules of conduct in space, but they failed. The Russians and Chinese wanted a treaty in good and due form when the Americans want a simple code of conduct.

No diplomatic agreement, we look into a dog of earthenware. This is not a war in the proper sense of the term. Destroy an enemy satellite in orbit would in any case take the risk that a piece of debris damaged in turn one of your satellites [is the Kessler syndrome]. On the other hand, maneuvers are currently asking questions. We see, for example, more and more satellites to approach others unless we know their true intentions. Florence Parly spoke this Friday the attempt of a Russian on a Franco-Italian satellite satellite spying that allows secure military communications. This is an example. But what exactly does Louch-Olymp. Trying to capture communications? Is unclear too.

What’s the point of dominating space? What is in a logic of conquest of space or is it primarily to protect activities on Earth?

There is not yet of territorial issues in space. In perhaps 50 years if you live space as people on Earth. But they are still distant horizons. Indeed, the priority is to better protect its satellites more indispensable for the successful implementation of actions on Earth. Especially in the military field. Major military powers rely more and more on their satellites to conduct external operations. They allow to observe the situation, track enemy movements, communicate when interventions take place in remote areas and protect the forces involved on the ground… The conflicts of the last ten years also massively use unmanned missiles there still using insured GPS technology by satellites. More these satellites become crucial and more military tend to consider them as targets of choice for the enemy.

How then is this war? In space or essentially from the Earth?

There are three components. The first is the observation of the space. A space power must know what happens, it’s a strategic information. This requires to be equipped with radar or even in telescopes for objects to geostationary orbit [at 36,000 km from Earth]. The major spacefaring nations are also putting into orbit satellites of space surveillance, i.e. that monitor other satellites. The France should still work on this component.

A second point is the passive protection of its satellites. You can’t do much if we just break it to you, but it is possible at least to strengthen the electronic protection of your satellite. It is expected that there is increased use of directed energy weapons in the future. Lasers, high-power microwaves, electromagnetic jammers.

Finally, the third component is more offensive: it is to invest in these techniques of neutralization of satellites. Americans have for example a research program dedicated to this question: Offensive counterspace.

Is it high time that the France establish a space defence strategy?

The France is a space power. Currently, she has the military satellites orbiting. It is therefore normal that she gets a space defence strategy. She must protect its space assets. The challenge by investing in this sector is to show that it is able to defend itself, to identify the assailant… It is already a way to deter external attacks. The France part either of zero in matter. She is one of the few countries to have means of surveillance of the low via including serious radar and operational orbit referred to by Florence Parly since 2005. On the other hand, it invests much less than the United States, China and the Russia in space defense. It’s logical. She does not have the same financial capacity and fewer satellites also that these three countries. To date, she also sought above all to promote the collective security of the space and to avoid any escalation.

This strategy could be expanded if it was carried out at the European level but it does not exist to this day. There is finally only three countries to have military satellites. France especially, the Germany and the Italy. It’s always complicated, therefore, to convince the other Member States that it is in their interest to invest in space defense. The France particularly wishes to push the European Union to invest in surveillance systems of the space through the proliferation of speed cameras.