The US-led military bloc is trying to use commercial satellites to improve intelligence gathering
NATO has announced a new space project aimed at creating a fleet of spy satellites. The initiative, in which the NATO applicants Sweden and Finland also participate, covers not only national but also commercial assets.
The project, called the ‘Alliance Persistent Surveillance from Space’ (APSS), was unveiled on Wednesday, with a total of 16 current member states expected to participate. According to a statement published on NATO’s website, the project will “help streamline data collection, sharing and analysis between NATO Allies and with the NATO command structure.“
Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership in May 2022, although their bids have not yet been accepted by Hungary and Turkey. But despite not being formally included in the military bloc, both Stockholm and Helsinki are already participating in joint projects.
APSS will involve the creation of a “constellation,” called “Aquila”, by national as well as commercial satellites. It is expected “provide essential support to NATO’s military missions and operations.“
The military bloc explained that the APSS comes as part of NATO’s overall space policy adopted back in 2019.
At a meeting in London the same year, member states declared space as a fifth operational domain, alongside air, land, maritime and cyberspace.
NATO has sounded the alarm over Russia and China’s activities in space, claiming it is becoming “more crowded and competitive.“The military bloc laid claim to Moscow and Beijing’s counterspace technology”could limit allies’ access to and freedom to operate in space.“
NATO condemned as “reckless and irresponsible“Russia’s November 2021 anti-satellite missile test, 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 “risk of sudden damage to the country’s security in space and on the ground.“
Russia rejected Western nations’ suggestions at the time that the resulting debris could endanger the astronauts’ lives, noting that “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 in the past.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, meanwhile, laid the blame for the arms race in space outside Washington’s door.
Commenting on NATO’s space strategy last January, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova labeled it “flammable in nature“and”in line with the destructive policies of NATO member states led by the United States.“
“In doing so, the Alliance turns space into a battlefield,Zakharova then warned.