First French military exercise started in space to test ability and proficiency to protect its satellites. Drills are conducting in light of increasing competition between world powers in Earth orbit.
Michel Friedling, head of French newly formed space command, called the exercise a “stress test of our systems“. He said it was “a first for the French army and even a first in Europe“.
The exercise, code-named “AsterX” in reference to France’s first Asterix satellite in 1965. It simulates observations of potentially dangerous space objects and satellite threats.
“There are a number of events that cause crises or threats to our space infrastructure, but not only that,” Friedling told reporters. Space Command Headquarters located in Toulouse, southwest France.
The new US space forces and the German space agency are taking part in the French military exercise. The exercises started on Monday and will run through Friday.
France’s space command was announced in 2019 and will have 500 men by 2025.
“Our allies and opponents are militarizing space … we must act,” Defense Secretary Florence Parley said at the time.
She said, “France plans to develop new anti-satellite laser weapons and surveillance capabilities to fill gaps with rivals China, Russia and the United States.”
Investment in the space program should reach 4.3 billion euros ($5 billion) over the 2019-2025 budget period – a fraction of US or Chinese spending.
In year of 2018, France accused Russia of trying to intercept transmissions from a Franco-Italian satellite. That setellite used by the armies of the two countries for secure and reliable communications.
The Russian satellite Louch-Olymp is said to have approached the Athena-Fidus satellite in what French authorities have called an “act of espionage”.