The US military formally launched a space force unit in South Korea, a move that will likely enable Washington to better monitor its rivals North Korea, China and Russia.

 

Background

  • In December 2019, the then President Donald Trump officially created a force focused on warfare in space – the US Space Force.
  • It was created to protect US assets in space — especially satellites used for civilian and military navigation, intelligence and communication.
    • A previous Pentagon report said China and Russia had embarked on major efforts to develop technologies that could allow them to disrupt or destroy American and allied satellites in a crisis or conflict.
  • It was created to bring together diverse surveillance assets including space-based satellites in one organisation to manage them effectively.

 

South Korea: the first foreign unit of US space force

  • South Korea has been chosen as the first foreign unit due to following reasons —
    • There is a growing concern over North Korea, which has launched a record number of ballistic missiles in 2022.
    • The militaries of South Korea and the US already have strong ties through their Combined Forces Command.
  • The unit will also help the US to monitor security threats from Russia and China.

 

Space Security

  • Space security deals with the abilities of a country to protect its assets in space — such as the hundreds of satellites used for communication and surveillance.
  • The space landscape is changing rapidly. Terrestrial politics is casting its shadow on outer space.
  • Hence, relevance of space to national security and conventional military operations is increasing day by day.

 

Need for space security –

  • Competition in outer space —
    • Several recent trends are impacting the security and sustainability of outer space activities. These include:
      • the massive growth in the number and diversity of actors operating in outer space, including governments and the private sector;
      • the proliferation of hazardous space debris; and
      • increasing dependence on outer space in the civilian, government and military sectors.
  • Protection of space assets —
    • There exists a possibility of intentional tampering with such assets and the associated ground setup, either by state or non-state actors.
    • While there are no specifically deployed weapons in space yet, there are satellites that could be manoeuvred to act as weapons to disable or destroy the space assets of others.
    • The threat to space assets is directly proportional to degree of nation’s dependence on the assets.
      • Higher the dependence the greater will be threat and the vulnerability.
  • Countries developing counter-space capabilities —
    • The first successful Chinese anti-satellite (ASAT) test took place in January 2007.
    • China’s launch of a rocket from a ship is evidence of growing sophistication of the Chinese military space capabilities.
    • In December 2019, US president announced the creation of US Space force.

Counter-space capabilities of India

  • So far, India’s approach to outer space can be described as purely civilian. India has been developing its space capabilities for peaceful purposes.
    • It should be noted that, India does not have a declared Space Security Policy.
  • However, due to changing landscape, in an effort to deny an adversary advantages, India also started to develop its counter-space capabilities.

 

Steps taken by the Government of India

  • India’s first dedicated military satellite was launched only in 2013.
  • Under the Mission Shakti, in March 2019, India shot down a live Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite in space thereby showing its deterrence capability in space.
    • This was the first Indian demonstration of anti-satellite (ASAT) capability.
    • With this feat, India became the 4th country in the world to have this capability. The other three countries are U.S, Russia and China.
  • The establishment of the new tri-service Defence Space Agency (DSA), based in Bangalore, is an important institutional initiative.
  • To promote R&D in this field, government gave its approval for setting up of a new agency called the Defence Space Research Agency (DSRA).
  • India conducted war game IndSpaceEx to gain a better understanding of the current and emerging challenges in the space security domain.