Defense ministers from the 30 NATO member states plan to announce the building of a new space center on Thursday, reported dpa and the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Sunday.
According to the reports, it will join with the NATO air force high command in Ramstein, in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, and would serve above all as a coordination center for space observation.
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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that he expected members states to agree to the plan, before the meeting on Thursday. He also warned against a “militarization of space,” following up on similar comments late last year. While NATO had “no intention to put weapons in space,” Stoltenberg had said: “We need to ensure our missions and operations have the right support.”
The center would gather information about possible threats to satellites. It is also likely that the space center would be further developed into a command center for defensive measures.
According to information acquired by dpa, NATO is also planning on developing a type of think tank for space activities. Two possible locations to base this are the German town of Kalkar in North Rhine-Westphalia, or Toulouse in France.
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Concerns over attacks against satellites have grown as our daily reliance on them increases. An attack against certain satellites could cause considerable damage on the ground.
The proposal would enable NATO to ask allies to provide satellite communications or images to assist in operations. It has also prompted more intensive discussions within the alliance about which types of attacks from or in space might trigger NATO’s collective defense pact, Article 5.
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French President Emmanuel Macron said in July 2019 that space was a “new area of confrontation” and announced the plan to build a military space command center.
Around 2,400 satellites orbit the Earth with 60% belonging to the 30 NATO member states or companies located there. On top of that there are half a million bits of space junk which also pose a threat.
Military forces are also reliant on satellites for communication, navigation and surveillance.
Alongside the USA, other countries such as Russia, China and India have developed their space capabilities in recent years. Russia has carried out various tests for anti-satellite rockets, while India followed its successful satellite launch with a successful anti-satellite rocket launch.