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16 Feb, 2023 10:49

NATO reveals new space fleet

The US-led military bloc will use commercial satellites to improve intelligence gathering
NATO reveals new space fleet

NATO has announced a new space project that aims to create a fleet of spy satellites. The initiative, which includes NATO applicants Sweden and Finland, involves not only national but commercial assets.

The project, which is called ‘Alliance Persistent Surveillance from Space’ (APSS), was unveiled on Wednesday, with a total of 16 current member states expected to chip in. According to a statement published on NATO’s website, the project will “help streamline data collection, sharing and analysis among NATO Allies and with the NATO command structure.

Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership in May of 2022, though their bids have yet to be approved by Hungary and Türkiye. However, despite not being formally admitted into the military bloc, both Stockholm and Helsinki are already participating in joint projects.

APSS will entail the creation of a “constellation,” named ‘Aquila’, of national as well as commercial satellites. It is expected to “provide essential support to NATO’s military missions and operations.

The military bloc explained that APSS comes as part of NATO’s Overarching Space Policy adopted back in 2019.

At a meeting in London that same year, member states declared space a fifth operational domain, alongside air, land, maritime, and cyberspace.

NATO has raised the alarm over the activities of Russia and China in space, arguing that it is becoming “more crowded and competitive.” The military bloc claimed Moscow’s and Beijing’s counter-space technologies “could restrict Allies’ access to, and freedom to operate in space.

NATO condemned as “reckless and irresponsible” Russia’s anti-satellite missile test in November of 2021, when a rocket hit and destroyed an inoperable Soviet-era satellite.

Moscow described the test as a way to strengthen its defense capabilities and prevent the “possibility of sudden damage to the country’s security in the space sphere and on the ground.

Russia rejected Western nations’ suggestions at the time that the resulting debris could endanger the life of astronauts, noting that the “fragments did not represent and will not pose a threat to orbital stations.” The Russian Defense Ministry also pointed out that the US, China, and India had conducted similar tests before.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, meanwhile, laid the blame for the arms race in space at Washington’s doorstep.

Commenting on NATO’s space strategy last January, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova branded it “incendiary in nature” and “in line with the destructive policies of NATO member states led by the United States.

By doing so, the alliance turns space into a battlefield,” Zakharova warned at the time.

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