When looking up at night sky, France may not be the first thing to come to mind. Even so, among NATO nations, the country’s commitment to the idea of space as a military domain could arguably be considered second only to the United States. Today, the country concluded its first military space exercise which lasted from 8 to 12 March. Codenamed “AsterX”, the exercise pays tribute to the French Asterix satellite (rather than the comic book Gaul). Working together with the American Space Force and the German military, the French Space Command held 18 simulated events in its Toulouse headquarters.
The defense of satellites in orbit was a central focus of the exercise. The simulated events considered a variety of scenarios ranging from dangerous solar weather to the use of anti-satellite weapons during a confrontation between to major global powers.
Toulouse, where the exercises were held, is home to the French Space Command and has recently been selected as a the location for the new space-focused NATO center for excellence, despite German bids for hosting the center.
Space warfare is increasingly becoming a central theme for both NATO members and their potential adversaries. Besides France and the US, the UK and Germany have been working on expanding their own space capabilities. NATO partners like Korea and Japan are on the same page as well. A multitude of official military Space strategy papers have already been released by the US, France, UK and others with some plans calling not just for the defense of space assets but also for developing offensive capabilities, with the French plan for anti-satellite lasers being a prominent example.
Meanwhile, the new space race is heating up beyond just the purely military domain. On Tuesday, Russia’s Roscosmos reported that a memorandum was signed by its leader and that of China’s National Space Administration in regards to developing a lunar research station. This concept clearly mirrors similar American plans under the Artemis program.