Arguably the fastest rising power in space, China has made rapid progress in developing both its space and counterspace capabilities. The country has tested direct-ascent ASAT weapons, on-orbit robotics, and remote proximity operations. Reports indicate that China is also developing and testing directed-energy and jamming technologies.
Russia’s space and counterspace capabilities suffered after the fall of the Soviet Union, but it has since made significant progress rebuilding both programs.
While North Korea’s space and counterspace capabilities are limited, it has made substantial progress developing its missile, jamming, and cyber capabilities. North Korea’s missile technology clearly aligns with its strive to become a nuclear power; its jamming and cyberattack capabilities tend to be more accessible and lower-tech than some counterspace weapons.
Iran’s pursuit of space and counterspace capabilities is a more recent development and is tied in many ways to its ballistic missile programs. However, Iran has previously used advanced jamming against commercial satellites and are reportedly further developing their cyber capabilities, as well.
Other actors, including allies, adversaries, and non-state, are developing or using counterspace weapons.
Space Threat Assessment 2018 evaluates open-source information on counterspace activities of adversaries, allies, and non-state actors. Counterspace weapon development from some adversaries is of serious concern and require immediate attention from policymakers.
Several countries and non-state actors are developing, or have already developed, counterspace weapons that could be used against vulnerable U.S. space assets. This report assesses open-source information and provides a succinct view into what space and counterspace assets China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and other actors are developing.
While there’s no guarantee that all adversaries can or will be deterred from attacking space systems, every effort should be made to raise the costs and reduce the benefits of doing so.
Space Threat Assessment 2018 analyzes the open-source information available on the counterspace capabilities of other countries that can threaten U.S. space systems.
Read Todd Harrison’s full testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on “Space Warfighting Readiness: Policies, Authorities, and Capabilities.”