#thenewscompany : Between 2019 and 2021, China doubled its number of satellites in orbit from some 250 to 499, while Russia increased its number of orbiting satellites from about 150 in 2019 to 169 last year after a slight dip in 2020, according to a new, unclassified Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report, Challenges to Security in Space: Space Reliance in an Era of Competition and Expansion.The DIA study is a follow-on to an agency study in 2019 of the same topic.
“Between 2019 and 2021 the combined operational space fleets of China and Russia have grown by approximately 70%,” per the report. “This recent and continuing expansion follows a period of growth (2015– 2018) where China and Russia had increased their combined satellite fleets by more than 200%. The drive to modernize and increase capabilities for both countries is reflected in nearly all major space categories — satellite communications, remote sensing, navigation-related, and science and technology demonstration.”
A chart in the report, based on quarterly updates to the Union of Concerned Scientists’ satellite database, indicates that the greatest increase in the number of Chinese and Russian satellites between 2019 and 2021 came in Chinese remote sensing satellites which increased in number by some 150 or more since 2019. The Chinese satellites also include several dozen military satellites in the BeiDou — “Big Dipper” — navigation constellation.
Of the 4,852 satellites by the end of last year, the U.S. had 2,944, while China was in second place with 499, and Russia third with 169.
China and Russia “have observed how we leverage space capabilities in the last few wars we’ve been in,” John Huth, a defense intelligence officer at DIA for space and counterspace, told reporters at an April 12 Pentagon briefing on the report.
China and Russia are “not just creating capabilities,” Huth said. “They have their own space forces so you can read into that what you want. But now you have a space force or space forces, you have capabilities … The intent is to provide that or pull that into the combined arms fight.”
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier said in an Apr. 12 statement that “the loss of space-based communication and navigation services could have a devastating impact on warfighters during a conflict.”
“That’s one of the most serious scenarios anticipated,” he said. “A secure, stable and accessible space domain is crucial as China and Russia’s space-based capabilities and electronic-warfare activities continue to grow.”
No reporter summoned at the Apr. 12 briefing asked Huth or his co-presenter, Kevin Ryder, a senior defense intelligence analyst for space and counterspace, to detail or expound upon the 70% increase in Chinese and Russian satellites since 2019, though reporters did ask Huth and Ryder queries beyond those officials’ intelligence purview, such as what the report portends for space acquisition.
The report and the DIA officials noted the importance of the Moon for possible Chinese and Russian space efforts and the possibility that China could cloak a military Moon mission under the guise of a commercial one.
“China will continue to launch a range of satellites that substantially enhance its ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] capabilities; field advanced communications satellites able to transmit large amounts of data; increase PNT [positioning, navigation, and timing] capabilities; and deploy new weather and oceanographic satellites,” the report said. “China has also developed and probably will continue to develop weapons for use against satellites in orbit to degrade and deny adversary space capabilities.”
On July 27 last year, China conducted the first fractional orbital test launch of a dummy ICBM with a hypersonic glide vehicle — a test that DIA said demonstrated the greatest distance flown, more than 24,000 miles, and the longest flight time, more than an hour and a half, of any Chinese land attack weapon.
“China and Russia value superiority in space,” the new DIA study said. “As a result, they will seek ways to strengthen their space and counterspace programs, and determine ways to better integrate them into their respective militaries.”
Source : Defense Daily.