With the AsterX 2023 exercise, France continues to prepare its space defense

Eric Bottlaender

Space specialist

March 01, 2023 at 3:00 p.m.


CSO-3 spy satellite © CNES/Airbus DS

One of the assets of French space, exercise or not: a CSO optical observation satellite © CNES / Air Force and Space

Gathered in Toulouse, the soldiers of the Air Force and Space face for three weeks a series of threats related to the space field. This complex simulation takes into account new challenges such as cyberattacks, including with international partners.

Until March 10, general alert!

Toulouse here, hands up!

Toulouse continues to gain momentum. With the planned installation in 2025 of the Space Command, but also the NATO Center of Excellence for Space (COE), the military is connected to activities in orbit from the Pink City. And like every year since 2021, France is organizing its major space exercise, AsterX. A reference to the little Gaul, certainly, but also a real challenge prepared all year round to give a hard time to its 200 participants.

Those busy are soldiers from the Air and Space Forces, but also partners from other branches, because AsterX will take place this year in parallel with Orion, a joint exercise involving 7 000 soldiers in the south of France. We also find on the Toulouse technical platform industrialists and several foreign partners of NATO, German, Belgian, Italian, American…

Lots of strengths, lots of threats

But then, what are our soldiers fighting against? AsterX places them in “ a realistic and complex simulated environment, to deal with the emergence of ever more numerous and varied threats “, according to the Space Command. Spying on our assets on the ground or in orbit, interception of signals, approaching our critical satellites (or those of our allies), blinding or intervention on our sensors… There is no shortage of scenarios.

Indeed, we can forget it, because they are discreet, but the French satellites are at the forefront for national defense, and there are many of them! Ground observation with Pléiades and CSO, electronic interception with Ceres, encrypted transmissions with Syracuse: these capabilities must be used effectively in all contexts. Without forgetting the protection of French and European civilian assets, such as meteorological satellites or telecommunications operators. This fleet should be preserved as much as possible, even before our future “area defense” satellites (they will arrive at the end of the decade) are active.

Satellites France Ceres trio © Airbus DS/DGA

The trio of Ceres satellites, an asset in the defense game © CNES / Air Force and Space

Cerberus versus cyber

New threats are also emerging. On the day of the invasion of Ukraine, a satellite of the operator Viasat had been the victim of a cyberattack. This is one of the 23 events that AsterX participants will have to face this year: we have to stick to the news!

Low orbit in particular is increasingly at the center of the issues, between the threats posed by debris, the strong strategic competition around connectivity constellations, the presence of small orbital shuttles (China, in particular, has one in flight currently) and “spy” satellites, the possibilities are numerous… And there is no magic potion.

Source : Toulouse News

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