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Safran’s commitment to satellite protection and space situational awareness: closer look at the AsterX military space exercise

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“Without mastery of space, there can be no strategic or military sovereignty,” stated French President Emmanuel Macron at the European Space Summit in Toulouse on February 16. And this is exactly the goal set out by AsterX, a space threat simulation exercise, the second edition of which was carried out from February 24 to March 4, 2022, at the Cité de l’Espace (space center) in Toulouse. A look back at a European operation unlike no other.

Space Military Head

AsterX, a simulated space war

Led by the French Space Command, AsterX aims to apply and test various operational processes in the field of Space Situational Awareness, and test its capacity to respond to emergency situations.

Representatives from various French Space Command units, the French Space Agency (CNES) and several industrial partners, including Safran, took part in AsterX from February 24 to March 4, 2022. The fictional yet likely scenario for this military space exercise was based on a fully-simulated geopolitical conflict between armed forces. The “space fighters” were required to identify threats, the details of which were revealed on a daily basis in order to simulate, as closely as possible, a real crisis.

Space surveillance plays a central role in collective sovereignty. For the first time ever, AsterX has brought together EU member states, notably the German and Italian space surveillance centers, in order to strengthen ties in the space sector.

AsterX Exercise Headquarters
The AsterX exercice headquarter.

The WeTrack Solution

L'exercice AsterX

WeTrack, a space surveillance solution unlike no other in the world

With the rise of threats (debris, intentional approach, jamming, cyber attacks, interference, etc.), space situational awareness has become vital for nations seeking to protect their economic and strategic interests.

The WeTrack solution from Safran Data Systems contributes to the security of French space activities by providing a detailed overview of the global space situation, and allows to monitor the airspace around French satellites and those of our allies.

Based on a worldwide network of fully-automated radio frequency sensors, WeTrack ensures highly-accurate continuous tracking of all satellites in geostationary orbit, and is capable of detecting any satellite maneuver in real time, by day or by night, regardless of weather conditions. Additionally, by interfacing with other sensors (optical, radar, laser), WeTrack provides a comprehensive view of space. Currently, this service covers more than 300 satellites.

Thanks to the AsterX exercise, we can confirm that our technology continues to meet the expectations of our customers, even in crisis situations, and we can test operational concepts involving sensor use: WeTrack’s display and control interface being one of the service’s added values.

And, in response to growing market needs and the challenges of new civil and military customers, Safran Data Systems is accelerating the development of its service for low and medium Earth orbits.

Ready for space traffic management

Space Traffic Management is currently one the biggest challenges in the space sector. As such, in his speech on the European space strategy, French President Emmanuel Macron stated: “The challenge is also to make space a place for protecting a common good by promoting standards and regulations. In this regard, the management of space traffic is one of our priorities,” adding that “Space cannot be a lawless zone. We have too many interests at play at the economic, sovereign, the continuity of the operation of many of our public services and military levels.” Over the last ten years, entry into space has been increasingly facilitated and has led to the creation of a new El Dorado. This relatively uncontrolled territory represents a unique opportunity for governmental and private stakeholders seeking profit, which, in turn, leads to an equally great need for nations to protect themselves from potential threats. There are therefore high expectations to develop adequate space surveillance solutions. WeTrack’s technology is perfectly dual-use and has already shown great potential for civilian applications.

The AsterX exercise’s name is a nod to the first French satellite, A-1, also called Astérix, which was launched into orbit on November 26, 1965, by the Diamant-A rocket from Hammaguir, a village in the Algerian desert. Eight years after the Soviet Union’s Sputnik, and seven after USA’s Explorer, France became the world’s third space power, thus allowing Europe to join the race.

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