Category Asian Space Race: Rhetoric or Reality?

Asian Space Race: Rhetoric or Reality?

Space discipline has attracted the attention of many for more than six decades. I first got allured to space science and astronomy as a student of Physics. Subsequently, as a part of my profession as an aviation meteorologist over a decade and half, I was the user of space technologies. For a decade or so, while working in a policy think tank on international relations and security issues, I am trying to juxtapose the theme of strategic technologies on a security domain. This book is an attempt to contextualise these efforts to develop an explicit idea.

This book attempts to describe the current state of space programmes of various Asian states. It provides a summary of their programmes and highlights their major contributions. This work also deliberates about the strategic significance of various Asian space programmes. It is an attempt to find a connection between technology, interests, strategic relevance and power with regard to Asia’s space agenda.

I owe my gratitude to the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) and my previous and present Directors General Mr N S Sisodia and Dr Arvind Gupta for encouraging me to undertake research on this subject. The IDSA library, a large storehouse of information I have ever came across, made my job simpler. I would like to thank particularly Mr Pitambar Datt and Mr Mukesh Kumar Jha for all the assistance provided to me in obtaining various material and data. Over the years, I have been interacting with various policy makers and academicians both within and outside India. I am grateful to them for many useful discussions.

Lastly, my gratitude to my parents and wife Pramada and son Nipun for their support. The contents of this manuscript reflect my own personal views.

Pakistan’s Space Capabilities

South Asia is the region of immense richness and diversity with great cultural heritage. Over centuries, it had developed trade and cultural links with the rest of the world. In the twentieth century, the region was destabilised by the cold war machinations, and in the twenty-first century, the region is facing the second Afghan War. The region is famous because of the India-Pakistan rivalry, and the US dilemma is taking Pakistan’s help to fight the global war against terrorism. In this region, mainly affected by boundary wars and internal conflicts, India is found emerging as an island of prosperity. India is the only spacefaring nation from this region. This chapter and next chapter discuss the space agendas of two important states within the region, namely, Pakistan and India.

Investments in space technologies for states like Pakistan need to be viewed at the backdrop of strategic realities of the region. Military parity with India has been an obsession of many Pakistani rulers in the past. Because of its strategic intimacy with global powers like the US and China, to an extent, Pakistan has succeeded in procuring some of state-of-the-art technologies in military hardware to match India. Presently, Pakistan has, to a certain degree, achieved missile prowess and, most importantly, a nuclear weapon possessor status. Such achievements were possible only because it could, either overtly or covertly, borrow these technologies from other states. But, at the same time, the strategic vision shown by the Pakistani leadership for ‘managing’ these technologies should be commended.

Based on current trends in acquisition of new weapon technologies by Pakistan, it could be safely concluded that it is investing in the revolution in military affairs (RMA). Interestingly, Pakistan has made limited progress in space technology field. Compared to India’s space programme, Pakistan’s space programme seems diminutive. In the present RMA era, when space is regarded as the fourth dimension of warfare, what is the Pakistan’s standing in the field of space technologies and other related technologies? This chapter attempts to address these questions. It

This chapter is an updated version (with few additions) of Ajey Lele, Pakistan’s Space Capabilities, Air Power, New Delhi, Spring 2005, pp. 129-148.

A. Lele, Asian Space Race: Rhetoric or Reality?, DOI 10.1007/978-81-322-0733-7_4, © Springer India 2013

is argued that in near future Pakistan may not go all out for the development of indigenous space technologies and may depend more on joint collaborations with countries like China and also on commercially available satellite-derived products.

Pakistan has unique security considerations. It is a state which appears to be always under the perpetual threat of conflict in some form or other. The state appears to have developed somewhat lopsided security policies. It continues to suffer from terrorism within but at the same is using terrorism as tool (covertly) to address differences with its both western and eastern neighbours. Post 9/11, the most wanted global fugitive Osama bin Laden was found staying in this country for many years, and finally, the US had to launch a secret mission on Pakistani soil to eliminate him (without taking the Pakistani government into confidence). There are concerns at global levels about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear assets. In spite of threat from terrorism within and knowing fully well that its adversary India has no territorial ambitions, still Pakistan is making significant investments in its conventional security infrastructure and also covertly developing asymmetric strategies. Because of such peculiar security milieu, this chapter attempts of undertake the analysis of Pakistan’s space programme bit differently than the treatment given in other chapters to understand the space discourse of other states within the region. This chapter attempts to understand the Pakistan’s space investments mainly at the backdrop of the defence connotations of such investments.

Space Investments: Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia a humid tropical region is located around the equator and also has various geographic contrasts too. Since the sixteenth century, the region has been under European and Japanese colonisation for many decades. Various countries in the region regained their independent existence approximately four to five decades ago. The region, in general, has been characterised by high economic growth and closer regional integration.

In space arena, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam have made important investments. They are mainly focusing towards the communica­tions, control of resources and educational aspects of space technologies. Varying degrees of investments are being made by these and few other states within the region mainly depending on their science and technology support and economic situation. Some of them are just in the process of starting their space programmes, while some have been making investments for long. Various states in the region are fully aware that they being the late starters they should attempt to reinvent the wheel but derive benefits from the already developed technologies. They are found using various commercially available space applications and also making an attempt to obtain dedicated satellites services for themselves by launching their own satellites with the help of other spacefaring nations. States like the USA are found helping many in the region. It has already launched satellites for Vietnam and has sealed deals with Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines backed by loan guarantees. China has promised to build and launch a communications satellite for Laos. India has helped Indonesia to launch their satellite.

Various states in the region are found making both bilateral and multilateral agreements in the space arena. Indonesia has signed the APSCO[135] (Asia-Pacific

Space Cooperation Organization) convention. States like Malaysia and the Philippines also have interest in this organisation. Following sections of this chapter offer the present status of the space programmes of the few important states within the region.

United Nations, Asia and Navigational Network

The third UN conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space was held in 1999. During this conference, it was asserted that ‘there is a need to improve the efficiency and security of transport, search and rescue, geodesy and other activities by promoting the enhancement of, universal access to and compatibility of, space-based navigation and positioning systems’. As a reac­tion to this, in 2001 the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) established the Action Team on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) under the chairmanship of Italy and the USA. India, China, Japan and Malaysia were the action member states in this team (38 member states and 15 intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations).[229] Subsequently, the UN

along with the USA organised an international meeting on the use and applications of global navigation satellites in Vienna in December 2004. Here, West Asian states like Egypt, Syria and Turkey were also present. The meeting addressed various issues relating to the institutional framework with relating to service providers and made recommendations regarding specific global navigation satellite systems applications. The chief recommendation was for the creation of an international committee on global navigation satellite systems (ICG).[230] This committee was formed in Vienna in December 2005, and its members work on voluntary basis as part of an informal body for the purpose of promoting and cooperating on matters of mutual interest related to civil satellite-based navigation and value-added services, as well as compatibility and interoperability among the GNSS systems, while increasing their use to support sustainable development, particularly in developing countries.[231] Various meetings of ICG have been held till date—India hosted the second meeting (2007). The navigational systems of India, China and Japan are part of these arrangements. Asian states are playing their role to enhance compatibility and interoperability among current and future system providers.[232]

Space Militarisation

For more than five decades, space technologies are being used for the pur­poses of earth observation, remote sensing, space photography, surveillance and reconnaissance, navigation, communication, broadcasting, meteorology, education, astronomy and scientific experimentation. Such usage falls in the realm of ‘civilian uses of space technologies’. All such activities have become possible because of the rapid growth in the technology. The nature of data collected in twenty-first century is far more accurate than the earlier period because of the progress made in satellite resolution and contrast-matching technologies. Also, improvements in various sensor technologies have taken place over the last few years. This more accurate data availability has widened the client base. The dual-use nature of these technologies is allowing nation-states to consume them for military purposes too.

Along with the rocket science and sensor technologies, the simultaneous progress made in information technologies and information sciences has significantly helped the satellites to improve their performance. Along with this, the process of data management and interpretation has improved largely, owing to the developments in information technology. With the advent in revolution in military affairs (RMA), the importance of technologies has increased multifold for the militaries. Command, Control, Communication, Computers and Intelligence, Reconnaissance, Surveil­lance (C4ISR) systems have become central to various armed forces and have brought in various doctrinal changes. The C4ISR strategies and policies are heavily technology dependent. Such command and control systems operate on various transformative principles essentially focusing on the use of space technology for communication services and military information networking and for purposes of reconnaissance and intelligence gathering.

Major technology development programmes for various nation-states would mostly have a military DNA, and the same should be the case with space programmes. However, normally it has been observed that like nuclear weapons pro­gramme, the (military) space programmes are also developed typically away from public eye. In recent years, few states are found openly discussing about the military utility of the space assets. In Asian context, various states are dependent on the major powers outside the region for technology assistance. Most of them are found abiding by various international regimes in regard to technology acquisition and transfer. They are found cooperating with the major powers in respect to the international arms control or disarmament provisions. In regard to the strategic utilisation of the space assets, various non-spacefaring states from Asia are found noncommittal. They fully understand the importance of space utilisation for influencing the warfare on earth but, because of their technological and geopolitical limitations, are not found taking any hard positions. Also, since the space security domain is still in an embryonic stage, these states are probably reluctant to take any firm positions. By doing this, they are also keeping their potential enemies guessing.

South Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are found investing in satellite resources for the purposes of communication services, television broadcasting, resource management and education. Other small states in the region also have more or less similar interests. All these states are depending on spacefaring nations to help them to provide technological assistance to manufacture satellites and also to launch them. Some of them are not making any significant investments in satellite technology but probably are directly depending on outside agencies for supply of information based on various satellite-derived products. Under such circumstances, a significant reliance of these powers on space inputs for the purposes of military use looks distant. They could receive the inputs which are openly available in the market for the military purposes. Their dependence on their own assets could be minimal mainly because their systems have been manufactured by outside powers for specific civilian purposes. They could exploit the duel-use nature of this technology like others. The threat index to these regions and investments made by them into state-of-art military hardware which is mostly dependent on satellite technology indicates that particularly states like South Korea and Pakistan must be feeling the pinch of non-availably of indigenous space architecture to operate such systems to their fullest potential.


The overall gamut of space technology could be viewed under two categories, one, technologies like communication or imaging technologies and two, technologies required for space experimentation, planetary research, etc. The technology output is visible and quantifiable in regard to China-Japan-India, but as for other states in the region, research is an evolving process and would require special efforts to convince their politicians and citizens for sustained monitory investments.

For China and India, budgetary constraints have not been an issue for the last couple of years. The success of Chinese space programme in various fields during the last two decades clearly demonstrates the state support. China’s space budget remains relatively opaque. Various estimates put China’s spending around US$2 billion to 3 billion. Out of this, significant amount is spent on ambitious

space missions like manned space programme, lunar mission and space station. The case is reversed in the case of India. The pattern of spending is more on projects of socioeconomic relevance. At present, the value of ISRO’s overall assets is approximately US$25 billion [12]. Over a period of last 10 years, ISRO’s budget has shown steady increase and has almost doubled from 1999 to 2009. It is important to note that the ISRO spends more than 85% of its US$1 billion budget on development-related missions and only remaining 10-15% on advanced research and development, and on missions like Moon mission.

Japan’s space programme never started under any unified body. Almost for three decades, many of the organisations responsible for the developments in space arena were reporting to different ministries in the Japanese government. Naturally, for overall growth of the programme, such diverse reporting channels and different budgeting allocations were hazardous. The period 1996-2003 witnessed a major setback to Japan’s space programme because of series of failures. This had adverse impact on budgetary allotment too.

Presently, Japan also spends aroundUS$2.5 billion on space ambitions. However, in the past, their space programme witnessed some budget cuts. Now, after the establishment of a unified body called Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in October 2003, Japan’s space programme has stabilised. They have made significant investments in ISS too. South Korea spends around US$250 million, Iran around US$100 million per year and Pakistan US$10 million. Most of the other Asian states being the beginners in this field, no authentic information about their budgetary provisions are available.

The overall trend indicates that states would continue to provide necessary economic support for their space programmes and their investments are going to increase multifold in coming years. The big three from Asia have a very clear – cut roadmap for the next two decades, and no extravagant budgetary requirements are being envisaged. Their space agencies have already started earning revenue, and their space industry is expected to grow in years to come. Malaysian and South Korean ambitions are not being matched on ground with respect to their accomplishments. Therefore, political leadership in these states may not provide the requisite support for highly ambitious and long-term projects. Apart from its nuclear and missile ambitions, Iran wants to grow as a technologically advanced country, and hence, it will continue supporting its space programme. Uncertainties can take the form of significant unmanageable economic crises. Under such circumstances, states would mainly cap funding of ambitious programmes like colonisation of Moon and human space flights, but other programmes of socioeconomic importance will continue to grow or at least status quo would be maintained.

Structure of the Book

This book attempts to explore the character and counters of the investments made by various Asian states in the space arena. It is an attempt towards understanding the geopolitical and geostrategic relevance of space technologies for the Asian states. It is also an attempt to understand the nature of contest amongst the Asian states in this regard.

Today, in Asia, China, Japan and India appear to be investing in space tech­nologies with similar social and scientific but divergent military goals. Few other states in the region like Israel, South Korea and Malaysia are also developing their space agenda. On the other hand, states like Iran and North Korea are using space launches as a demonstrative tool to achieve strategic objectives. Various states within the region are found cooperating as well as competing with each other in this field. Both at global and region level, nothing could be said with certitude in regard to the space becoming future battlefield in near future. No definitive trends of immediate confrontations in space are visible in this regard; however, there are certain indications of suggestive propensity.

Over the years, officials from various Asian states have denied the existence of any rivalry amongst them in space field though many analysts have expressed an opinion that an escalating space race is taking place amongst the major Asian states. Fears have also been expressed in regard to space race turning into arms race. Hence, it is very important to debate about the existence and/or prospect of space race in the region. Is Asian space race for real or it is a subject more of an academic debate? Are there inconsistencies between the broad world view suggestive of the existence of Asian Space Race and actual ground realities? This book is about understanding the substructure of background thought upon which the lines of arguments are normally based in this regard. It attempts to recognise the presence or absence of the ‘space race’ in the Asian context. The book is not a theoretical, technical or technological discussion of the subject. It follows more a path of social science analysis with a scientific objectivity bias.

This work attempts to discuss the investments in space technologies made by some Asian states towards accomplishing their socioeconomic mandate. Some of these states are found increasing their footprint in commercial sector and are also

A. Lele, Asian Space Race: Rhetoric or Reality?, DOI 10.1007/978-81-322-0733-7_1, 3

© Springer India 2013

factoring these technologies in their security calculus. Appreciating the usage of space technologies for the purposes of civilian use alone in Asian context is not the core mandate for this book. This book is written with a predisposition to comprehend the strategic significance of space technologies for the Asian states. However, the inherent dual use capability of the space technologies does not allow a ‘strict’ analysis only from a strategic perspective. In view of this, there is a need to read between the lines to appreciate the strategic purpose behind the investments made by these states.

No stringent research methodology has been used for this work. The research scope and methods are adjusted to bring out the ‘character’ of the subject under discussion. The book comprises several interrelated layers of research. Attempt has been made to avoid the repetition of information. However, in certain places, some details could be found repeated in order to emphasise and elicit the exact relevance of the subject under discussion. The book is overwhelmingly based on a study of documents from printed and electronic records with a minor usage of interviews.

The book has four sections. The first section is introductory in nature. It attempts to rationalise and explain the concept of Asia, tries to understand the relevance of technology for Asia, explains the notion of space power and highlights the significance of Asian investments in the field of science and technology, elucidates the Asian response to space age and also identifies key Asian space players.

Second section is about space narratives. Usually, narratives are offered to present an account of a sequence of events. However, it is not necessary that all narratives are full-length stories. One of the fundamental aims of narrative is to present the significant facts of a particular event or an ongoing activity. In some sense, narrative is a history, and obviously like any other historical recitation, it would/could be told differently by different set of people. From individual to state and from religion to society, different narratives have been found told by different set of people mostly based on their perceptions and largely told for the purpose of self-representation.

Years after the launch of first satellite Sputnik (1957), it has been realised that space exploration assumes a critical role in defining the growth, success and at times superiority of the state. Significant achievements in this arena have impacted the feeling of nationalism. Naturally, the narratives of successes (and failures too) in space field in literature could have resulted based on certain prejudices. In some cases, it could be self-congratulatory and in some cases, the treatment could be iniquitous.

The journey in space undertaken by few states so far and the quest of others to join the select group of spacefaring nations demonstrate that a relationship exists between national identity and space technologies. Countries have historically justified space exploration by appealing to one (or a grouping) of five different motivations: human destiny, geopolitics, national security, economic competitive­ness, and scientific discovery [1]. Various nation-states in Asia depending on their country-specific rationale for such investments, available technological expertise, economic status and nature of assistance received from developed nations have started their space programmes. However, at times the narratives of these states are not found carried on in objective and universally valid manners.

Here, the narratives are presented as factual stories; however, any narratives always have an account which is beyond face value. These narratives need to be viewed as a mode of discourse. These narratives do not tell in micro details about the each and every aspects of the space programmes of various states. The basic purpose is to put in context the investments of various states in this field and understand the possible trajectory for the future. The space agenda of Japan-China – India and to certain extent Israel gets significant attention in this book for two reasons: one, their geostrategic and geo-economical importance and two, these are the states with significant investments and achievements into space arena. Various other regional players are also discussed in the book with an aim to understand and highlight their current and futuristic space agendas and policies. Since, the layout of the book is more thematic in nature; at places, some repetition of information was found inevitable. Particularly, the space programmes of Japan-China-India do find very many references in various sections of the book. Hence, care has been taken to provide only the basic information in the narrative section about the space programmes of these three states.

The third section of the book brings out various tenets of strategic significance in context of Asian space programmes. The various chapters in this section attempt to find connection between technology, interests, strategic relevance and power in regard to specific tenet of space agenda. It is important to appreciate that the security challenges faced by various Asian states are to a great extent different than the rest of the world. Investments into space technologies by some of the Asian nations have a definitive security bias. This section analyses the Asian investments by ‘accounting’ for the strategic compulsions of the states. Asian states have realised the importance of satellites for their armed forces. Particularly, the 1991 Gulf War has showcased the importance of space technologies for the militaries. On the other hand, the antisatellite test (ASAT) conducted by China in 2007 has increased the fear battle ground shifting to the outer space. There are concerns about the lack of globally approved space security architecture. Few Asian nations are found contributing towards the evolvement of process in regard to the changing global space order while few others in the region are anxiously monitoring this change. This section in limited sense also endeavours to analyse the ongoing trends in Asian space domain and the developing ambitions of the states in the region.

The fourth and last section offers an analysis in regard to new visions of possible futures (say three/four decades from hence) for Asian states in space arena. It attempts to peep into the future with an aim that it would allow states to be more aware of the possible challenges ahead and help to develop an agenda for response. This section also offers an overall assessment in regard to the basic theme of the book that is ‘the existence or likelihood of Asian Space Race’.


1. Launius RD. Compelling rationales for spaceflight? History and the search for relevance. In: Dick SJ, Launius RD, editors. Critical issues in the history of spaceflight. Washington, DC: National Aeronautics and Space Administration; 2006. p. 37-70.

Space Plan

In Pakistan, for the purpose of space science research and development, the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) was established in 1961, and it started functioning from 1964. This national organisation with a high degree of autonomy, which implements the space policy of Pakistan, was established by the Space Research Council (SRC), whose president is the prime minister. The commission comprises the chairman and four members for space technology, space research, space electronics and finance, respectively.1

SUPARCO is headquartered at the Arabian Sea port of Karachi in southern Pakistan, with additional facilities at the University of the Punjab at Lahore. SUPARCO defines its primary mission as earth imaging and upper atmosphere research. Its programmes include the development and launch of sounding rockets and identification of satellite technology necessities for remote sensing and commu­nications. Pakistan claims that the main motive behind SUPARCO is building of an infrastructure for both aeronautics and space research, with the means at hand.[37] [38]

This Pakistan’s space agency had a low-profile existence for the first 30-35 years since its inception. Its progress in the research field also was not very significant.

The commission started publishing its research achievements and other works of significance in the field of space technology through its quarterly journal, Space Horizon, in 1983, but ceased the publication in June 1991. The other quarterly journal, Suparco Times, published since 1982, met with the same fate and ceased publication in March 1994.[39] However, in the recent past, the organisation has started maintaining its website (www. suparco. gov. pk), giving detailed inputs about its research activities and achievements.

SUPARCO began launching imported sounding rockets in 1962 and has fired small sounding rockets on suborbital science flights from launch pads at its Sonmiani Beach (Maini Beach) flight-range, 58 km west of Karachi. By the 1970s, SUPARCO had developed the ability to fabricate rocket motors from raw materials at a solid-propellant manufacturing plant. By the early 1980s, SUPARCO announced plans for the development of the Hatf-1 and Hatf-2 surface-to-surface ballistic missiles. The organisation’s solid-propellant production facilities were enlarged by 1987 to support this effort. Tests of the Hatf-1 and Hatf-2 were announced in April 1989, and the Hatf-2 was displayed publicly during a Pakistan Day Joint Services Parade later that year.[40] Pakistan had imported ballistic missiles from China since the late 1980s. Pakistan’s then Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar, with reference to Chinese M-11 missiles, in a statement to the Pakistani Senate on August 26, 1993, stated, ‘These missiles were bought keeping in mind Pakistan’s security needs’ which he went on to justify in relation to missiles across the borders from Afghanistan [1]. Chinese help in providing missile assistance to Pakistan was further extended towards developing a rocket factory. For 5 years, the American intelligence agency CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) had carefully tracked the flow of Chinese M-11 missile components into Pakistan. At the end of 1995, they discovered that ‘China was not only selling missiles to Pakistan but was also helping to build a factory to manufacture them’ [2].In 1989,Hatf-1 and Hatf-2 missiles were fired to ranges of 80 and 300 km, respectively. According to Pakistani sources,[41] during the same period, Pakistan and China had signed a 10-year cooperation agreement in defence science, technology and industry, including joint procurement, research and development, production and technology transfer. SUPARCO oversees the production and testing of sounding rockets, with an average of three or four launches per year and carrying high altitude and ionosphere research payloads. Pakistan’s development of locally made sounding rockets continues with a long­term goal of launching small satellites [3].

As compared to launch technology, SUPARCO’s journey in the field of satellite technology started very late. SUPARCO first built a small amateur radio satellite in the late 1980s with the help of the Pakistan Amateur Radio Society. But, due to the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle, the launch of Pakistan’s first satellite was delayed. The satellite was finally launched in orbit (low earth orbit—LEO) by a

Chinese Long March LM-2E rocket in July 1990. This satellite was formally called the Badr-1 satellite, after the Urdu language word for ‘new moon’. Badr-1 provided Pakistani scientists valuable experience in telemetry, uplink/downlink and other satellite-related technologies. Badr-1 provided the platform for Pakistan to develop satellite technology further.[42] The satellite successfully completed its designed life (it weighed 52 kg and had an orbital lifetime of 6 months). The design for this micro-satellite was apparently based on the University of Surrey platform1 [4].

For this mission, Pakistan had very limited objectives like testing the perfor­mance of satellite subsystems in space environment and performing experiments in real-time voice and data communications between two user ground stations.[43]

The success of Badr-1 is largely recognised as a success of the combined efforts of a few Islamic countries. The Inter-Islamic Network on Space Sciences and Technology (ISNET) was founded in 1986, in order to promote the advancement of space sciences and technology in the countries of the Islamic world. The member countries include Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Jordan, Syria, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Brunei, Kuwait, Senegal and Cameroon. It is headed by the chairman of SUPARCO. Headquartered in SUPARCO headquarters, Karachi, it has been responsible directly and indirectly for the fabrication, processing and launch of the Muslim Ummah’s first experimental satellite, Badr-1.[44] It was a historical event not only for the people of Pakistan but also for the entire Muslim Ummah as it was the first satellite built by any Islamic country based on indigenous resources and manpower.[45]

However, SUPARCO could not maintain the pace for further developments because of the sanctions regime. In June 1991, the Bush Administration imposed sanctions on China and SUPARCO for what Washington described as ‘significant transfers of M-11 missile technology and components’. The sanctions were waived in March 1992, when China promised to abide by Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) guidelines.

In August 1993, the US again imposed 2-year sanctions on Pakistani and Chinese entities for violations of MTCR guidelines. The sanctions on Pakistan ended with the expiry of the fixed 2-year term.

But SUPRACO continued with its clandestine activities. In 1996, shipments of ammonium perchlorate (an oxidiser for solid rocket propellant) destined for SUPARCO were seized in two separate incidents. In March 1996, 200 barrels of ammonium perchlorate shipped from North Korea’s Lyongaksan General Trade Corporation were detained in Taiwan en route to SUPARCO. On April 29, 1996, customs officials in Hong Kong seized enough ammonium perchlorate to fuel about 25 missiles, originating in Xian, China. In September 1996, Pakistan acknowledged that SUPARCO had imported a small quantity of rocket fuel for scientific research

but denied reports about the seizure of massive amounts of fuel. A foreign office spokesman claimed that SUPARCO had imported rocket fuel for research and study. All these activities forced the US Commerce Department to implement the sanctions on Pakistan (June 1998). The sanctions included a licensing policy of denial for export and import of items controlled for nuclear non-proliferation and missile technology. Such developments, directly or indirectly, affected the growth of development of satellite technology in Pakistan.

Rising above the difficulties faced due to the sanctions, by the late 1990s, Pakistan undertook a number of steps for consolidating and focussing its space programme in response to national priorities. In late 1999, Dr. Abdul Majid, the then chairman of SUPARCO, announced that Pakistan would develop its own satellite launching vehicle within a period of about 3 years, although no details of this previously undisclosed programme were revealed.10

However, in reality, Pakistan was found depending more on international com­mercially available space systems for satellite-derived inputs. For this purpose, the existing satellite ground station for reception of NOAA, LANDSAT and SPOT data was upgraded in the late 1990s. A national Geographic Information System (GIS) Committee was constituted to bring about GIS standardisation. Only indigenous activity undertaken was related to the development of the Badr-B multi-mission satellite.

Since the early 1990s, Pakistan has made significant investments towards training and educating space application experts. The scientists and technicians are trained in areas like application of satellite remote sensing data for resource and environmental surveying, meteorological and related environmental studies; determination of vertical profiles of atmospheric parameters through satellite radiance; study of the earth’s atmosphere through balloon and rocket soundings; air pollution monitoring; and collection of environmental data from unmanned data collection platforms.

Also, full-fledged research activity started during the same period in areas includ­ing ionospheric physics and radio wave propagation, satellite tracking by optical and radio techniques, geomagnetism, observational astronomy, communication satellite system design and small ground terminals/receivers.

Pakistan’s Remote Sensing Applications Centre (RESACENT) at Karachi has well-equipped laboratory facilities for visual as well as digital interpretation and analysis of remotely sensed data. SUPARCO has established a satellite ground receiving station at Islamabad to acquire LANDSAT, SPOT and NOAA data in real time. This station is one of the most advanced and sophisticated stations in the Asia-Pacific region. It covers, in addition to the whole of Pakistan, a large number of neighbouring countries, wholly or partially. The station has the most modern facilities for processing. SUPARCO has established a sophisticated ground receiving station for acquisition of NOAA APT pictures and facilities for reception of TOVS/HRPT data. Micro computer-based systems are available for the processing of NOAA and TOVS/HRPT data.11

SUPARCO had planned the launch of Badr-II satellite during 1993. However, the target could not be achieved. Subsequently, the launch was planned during 1995/1996. The anticipated launch date subsequently slipped to early 2000. Finally, Pakistan’s second satellite, Badr-B/Badr-II, was launched on December 10, 2001, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on a Zenit-2 rocket. It was launched in a sun-synchronous orbit of 1,050 km altitude. The satellite is tracked from the TT&C Station at Lahore. Badr-II has been launched with the following mission objectives:

• Indigenous development of low cost satellites and creation of necessary infras­tructure for future development in this field

• Acquisition of know-how and technology for earth imaging by the use of CCD sensors

• Acquisition of know-how and capability in the field of satellite altitude control and stabilisation

• Encouraging and stimulating the interest of the country’s academic and scientific community in the peaceful uses of space[46] [47]

It has been reported that the Badr series consisted of five satellites, and the Badr­I satellite has successfully completed its designated life. The Badr programme is likely to be decommissioned in 2012 after the Badr-B completes its successful designated life. However, no details of satellites from Badr 3 to 6 are available of the SUPARCO website. These satellites are being controlled by the Saudi Arabia’s Arabsat which owns and operates satellites like Badr-4, Badr-5 and Badr-6.[48]

SUPARCO established the Satellite Ground Station (SGS) near Islamabad in the year 1989 to ensure regular and timely availability of satellite remote sensing (SRS) data to user agencies for their natural resources and environmental surveying activities. The station has the capability to acquire and process LANDSAT MSS and TM data, SPOT HRV data in both the multispectral (XS) and panchromatic (Pan) modes (under agreements with EOSAT and SPOT IMAGE, the operators of the LANDSAT and SPOT satellite systems, respectively) as well as NOAA AVHRR data in the HRPT mode.

This data processing subsystem equipment was upgraded around the year 2000. SUPARCO has modernised the processing systems by installing the latest hardware. This has helped them immensely to enhance the processing speeds.[49] Along with NOAA, which essentially caters for Pakistan’s routine meteorological requirements, they also depend on METEOSAT-5 satellite images for tracing tropical cyclones in the Arabian Sea region.[50]

During December 2002, Pakistan deployed a communication satellite, PAKSAT-1 (geostationary orbit), as an interim solution to cater for communication needs. The existing PAKSAT-1 satellite is a third-hand satellite bought from Turkey at an initial cost of $ 4.5 million. This satellite was originally developed for Indonesia by Boeing. It was later bought by Turkey, and finally, Pakistan purchased it and launched it. The decision to acquire this satellite was taken after Pakistan realised that the orbital slot allocated to it by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) along 38° East would lapse in April 2003 unless it had a satellite in place with transponders switched on, and the ownership of the slot was approved internationally.[51]

The Pakistani government had earlier sold one of its GEO (geostationary equatorial orbit) slots to Alcatel Escape for a commercial telecommunications satellite. As per some estimates, approximately 70% of Pakistan’s rural and remotely located population lacks good communication services. Pakistan’s TV and telecommunication capacity is leased on ASIASAT-1.[52]

In order to implement a fully operational communication satellite programme, Pakistan’s SUPARCO conducted a detailed study towards the launch of a national communication satellite, PAKSAT-1R. They took the help of a number of telecom users from both the public and private sectors to identify the current and future requirements of satellite transponder capacity to assist in the design of PAKSAT – 1R.[53] This Pakistan’s first communication satellite PAKSAT-1R was launched on August 11, 2011 as a part of Pakistan’s Space Programme 2040, on board China’s Satellite Launch Vehicle. It has a total of 30 transponders, 12 in C-band and 18 in Ku-band. The satellite is a replacement to the existing satellite PAKSAT-1 and has a design life of 15 years. It is expected to provide TV broadcasting, Internet and data communication services across South and Central Asia, Eastern Europe, East Africa and the Far East. Most importantly, it enables extending of communication services to all areas of Pakistan.19

Pakistan has announced Space Programme 2040 a satellite development and launch programme with intention to replace the Badr programme with emphasis on development and launching of geostationary communication satellite (e. g. Paksat 1R). Five GEO and six LEO satellites are expected to be launched in between 2011 till 2040 as a part of this programme. This programme has been approved by National Command Authority (NCA) whose chairman is a prime minister. This

is the highest body for the command and control of the country’s nuclear forces, and the Paksat-IR project falls under its purview. In the same meeting on July 14, 2011, NCA has also approved the futuristic, self-sustaining Nuclear Power Programme, 2050 [5].

SUPARCO has various multilateral/bilateral collaborations in the field of space technology and its applications with the countries of the Asia-Pacific region. By virtue of an agreement signed between SUPARCO and the Earth Observation Satellite (EOSAT) Company, the latter is SUPARCO’s sales agent outside Pakistan for the sale of LANDSAT data (except data pertaining to Pakistani territory) generated at the Satellite Ground Station, Islamabad.20

There are reports that Pakistan is preparing to launch its own satellite launching system. Pakistan’s first space launch vehicle (SLV) is expected to be available in the near future (timeline not known). However, this news has not been widely reported, and further details are yet awaited. In the IDEAS 2002 exhibition (the second International Defence Exhibition and Seminar, IDEAS 2002, held at Karachi during August/September 2002), a model of Pakistan’s first SLV was displayed.21 In this department of SLV, till date no significant progress has been achieved [6].


The geographical expanse of Indonesian state is unique in the world. Indonesian archipelago is a chain of islands comprising almost 13,000 islands and is the fourth most populous country of the world. On August 17, 1945, independence of the Republic of Indonesia was proclaimed just few days after the Japanese surrender to the Allies. Having achieved sovereignty, Indonesians were faced with the mission of nation-building. The state had inherited institutional structures from the colonial past that could be converted to Indonesian needs but had also created enormous disparity and an economic system that exhausted resources and propelled profits overseas [1].

The world’s third largest democracy, Indonesia by the beginning of twenty-first century has emerged as a biggest economy in Southeast Asia. The state aims to become a knowledge economy and puts education as a top priority.[136] However, since its inception, the state has not been on the forefront of the technology innovation baring few notable contributions. No significant investments were by the state in early years after the independence in the field of science and technology. Presently, the situation is slowly showing a change, and the investments are found being made by the state to use the process of technology development also with a premise to empower the poor. In 2010, the Indonesian government had allowed approximately US$205 million for research and development which is almost double the 2005 allocation [2].

Unfortunately, the progress of the state has been marred by one of the major wars fought over decades, in this part of the world. Technically the recent phase of the Aceh[137] conflict could be said to have began in 1976 when the Free Aceh Movement, or GAM (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka), was formed. This was the first time a movement gained strength demanding Aceh’s independence from Indonesia. A significant military involvement was made from the Indonesian side to eliminate the resistance, and also attempts were made to politically resolve this issue particularly post 2000.[138] The 2004 tsunami helped trigger a peace agreement between the GAM and the Indonesian government, and peace was achieved with the signing of an agreement on Aug 15, 2005.

It is important to appreciate the investments made by the Indonesian state in the space arena at the backdrop of such geographical, strategic and scientific realities. The investments towards space technologies have on the schema of Indonesia’s scientific vision since early years. The state was aware that to manage such amazing maze of islands, they require a technology particularly for the purposes of communication and remote sensing which is reliable and having a wider footprint. Naturally, space technology was the best option.

The National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN) is the national space agency of Indonesia. It was established in 1964 and is responsible for various space-related activities. The agency also undertakes research in arena related to space sciences and technologies. LAPAN has launched various satellites to provide telecommunication cover to different islands in Indonesia.

Since 1976 Indonesia has operated a national GEO telecommunications network. Palapa (fruits of labour) is a series of communication satellites owned by Indosat, an Indonesian telecommunication company. The programme started in February 1975 with the purpose to unify the telecommunication networks of the nation. Indonesia became the first developing country to operate its own domestic satellite system in the mid-1970s. The state has consistently taken the steps necessary for developing its existing geostationary satellite system for multiple services. The system (Palapa – A) was started with two satellites during mid-1970s. The Palapa-B and Palapa-C series during 1980s and 1990s had five satellite and two satellites, respectively. Palapa-D was launched by a Chinese Long March 3B rocket on Aug 31, 2009.[139] However, this satellite owned by Indosat failed to reach the intended orbit initially. Currently, it has been put in the intended orbit and has 40 transponders onboard, but its life is expected to have reduced significantly because of the initial problems. The Palapa-D satellite, owned by Indonesian satellite communications company Indosat, was supposed to provide satellite links and broadcasting services for Indonesia and other Southeastern Asian nations.

Historically, Palapa was the second telecommunication system with a regional vocation initially intended to cater for national needs in television and telephone lines. This programme was originally developed by Indonesia. During late 1970s, the Philippines signed an agreement with Indonesia whereby Palapa provides for a part of their national coverage. Thailand and Malaysia followed suit and in their turn became users of space segment. Finally, in 1979, Palapa was officially recognised by

Intelsat[140] as a regional system, even though certain characteristics of its use and even its motivation differed fundamentally from those of Eutelsat, the first organisation of its kind. As time went by, Palapa began more and more to resemble a national system capable of providing services to the countries in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).[141]

It is important to note that Indonesia entered the global space communication era by the inauguration of her international INTELSAT station at Jatiluhur, 60 km south of Jakarta, in 1969. This decision allowed them the availability of reliable international communication for the first time in the Indonesian international communication history. Practically, all international communications in the past were by unreliable HF means. This decision was made during one of the most difficult period, economically and politically for the state. Indonesia was then one of the poorest countries in the world with an average income per capita of less than US$100 per annum. Indosat,[142] the Indonesian operating company in charge of international telecommunication services, was wholly owned and operated by a foreign company, a subsidiary of ITT, a US multinational company. It was a historic milestone for Indonesia’s international communications. In the interest of the public, international communication rights using satellites were transferred to ITT for 20 years until 1989: it was a ‘win-win’ deal, also financially [3]. Over the years, Indosat has made various deals in regards to satellite-based platforms and is playing a major role in offering communication facilities to the state.

Indonesia’s first micro-satellite was launched during 2007 onboard an Indian rocket. In 2003, Indonesia LAPAN and the Technical University of Berlin (TUB) signed a MoU to develop the first Indonesian micro-satellite, called LAPAN – TuBSat.[143] Today, this satellite is able to relay topography images from several regions in Indonesia, and the information gathered from this is finding great utility in various fields.

Indonesia is participating in the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) which provides decision-support tools to a wide variety of users by proactively linking together existing and planned observing systems around the world and supports the development of new systems where gaps currently exist. They have interests to use this system for the purposes of tsunami early warning systems, climate and weather monitoring, forest carbon tracking, water resources management and agriculture.[144] [145]

It is important for Indonesia to use satellite technology for addressing few other important issues. Particularly, the issue related to forest fires is grabbing lot of international attention in recent times because of thick layer of haze it is creating. Since the 1990s, Indonesia has been criticised internationally for the large amount of smoke it generates in the forests of Sumatra and Kalimantan. The resulting haze sometimes spreads to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand and is estimated to cause $9 billion in losses to tourism, transportation and agriculture across the region each year. An agreement amongst Southeast Asian nations was drawn up in 2002 to tackle haze, and Indonesia is the only nation that has not yet ratified it [4]. It is obvious that this issue is not likely to end immediately, and in the larger interest of Indonesia in particular and the region in general it is important to find some solution to this problem. The state could use satellite technology to address some of the issues in this regard.

IndoStar-1 (Cakrawarta-1) a commercial communication satellite that was launched on Nov 12, 1997 aboard an Ariane 44L-3 rocket French Guiana, as the first direct broadcast satellite (DBS) in Asia. Particularly, the cable television uses this satellite to relay international programmes and local programmes directly that can be received all over Indonesia. This is the world’s first commercial communications satellite that uses S-band frequency, which is less vulnerable to atmospheric interference than higher and more common frequencies like C-band and Ku-band. This satellite is operated by PT Media Citra Indostar (MCI), which provides a direct broadcast by high-quality digital transmission. The designed 14-year life of this satellite got compromised almost to the half due to a failed power regulator. It has been reported that the insurers paid US$25 million in damages for this mishap.11 Subsequently, on May 16, 2009, Indostar II/Protostar II satellite was launched which replaces the existing Chakarawarta 1. This satellite is basically meant to support direct-to-home TV and radio services for Indovision. The satellite is also offering HDTV multimedia and broadband services throughout the ASEAN region.[146]

Indonesia is planning to launch two satellites around 2012, called Lapan-A2 and Lapan-Orari. Both these satellites would weigh around 70 kg each and are designed to support disaster mitigation, earth observation, natural resources and environment monitoring, as well as observation of the Moon. India would be helping Indonesia to place these satellites into the orbit.[147]

Indonesia has ambitions to join the elite club of spacefaring nations and is working towards developing its own satellite launching capabilities, namely, the SLV (Satellite Launch Vehicle). During July 2009, Indonesia has successfully launched a home-grown rocket RX-420 into space as part of plans to send a satellite into orbit by 2014. Earlier too few tests, mostly stationary in nature, were conducted.[148]

During 2008, Ukraine and Indonesia have signed a framework agreement on cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space. Since 2008, Indonesia has been involved in a joint venture with the Russian Federal Space Agency and companies to offer the commercial launch services for launch of satellites. Together they are developing Biak Spaceport which is ideally suited to commercial launches as it sits near exactly on the Equator – ‘any space vehicle launched at the equator has a greater kinetic energy imparted to it and thus a higher escape velocity, and thus heavier payloads greater other terrestrial locations’.[149] LAPAN has had extensive cooperation and skills enhancement with the Technical University Berlin too.

Indonesia commenced aeronautics exploration in 1962 almost within 5 years after the launch of Sputnik. But, the progress of the state in the space arena has been much below expectations, and even in 2012, the state is yet to join the club of a spacefaring nations. One good aspect of the state’s space programme has been its participation in the intergovernmental communication systems (Palapa). This allowed the state to cater for its complex communication requirements enthused by geography. Particularly, post 2005, the state has increased its engagement with various space-related activities and is found making some useful investments and making collaborations with other states. The geographical location of the region offers it a unique advantage for establishing satellite launching facility bay with significant commercial viability. Coming few years are crucial for the Indonesian space programme, correct investments and collaborations could reward state both from technology enhancement as well as commercial perspective.


Mainly owing to the almost global spread of information and communication technologies, the concept of GPS navigation is no longer a novelty. Many Asian states are using such technologies. However, in Asia—being an uneven grouping of failed, developing and successful states—the usage of such technologies is uneven. Three major spacefaring nations in the region, namely, China, Japan and India, have significant stakes in the satellite navigation. All these three states have been significant users of GPS technology for many years. In regard to managing the navigational services, the approach of Japan and India looks almost similar. They want to augment the strength of GPS signals reaching their regions by creating boosting mechanisms and are also keen to develop a separate system catering to their specific regional requirements. China has successfully developed a regional system and is in the process of developing a global navigational system. These states are keen to have independent space and ground segment and user receivers.

In the twenty-first century, the relevance of global navigational networks for civilian uses is undisputed. At the same time, the strategic relevance of such systems for nuclear weapon states like India and China is undisputed. Satellite navigation is an important constituent of ‘network-centric warfare’. Modern-day military power is dependent on access to satellite navigation. Understanding the dual-use nature of this technology, all three states are not only making their individual investments but are also factoring other global navigational constellations in their security calculus. Israel being an advanced military power is expected to a major user of this technology, and their dependence on the US system is obvious.

As the US GPS was an early starter in this arena, various Asian states have derived lessons from the US experience and have the advantage of late starters. Some Asian states are also found making investments in new ideas, and innovative experimentation is under way. India, for instance, is putting a few of its navigational satellites in geostationary orbit when conventional navigational systems station their satellites in medium Earth orbit (MEO). Also, these states are making their navigational satellites multipurpose for other inputs like weather.

Asian states are expected to derive the maximum economic benefit from the systems developed by them. On the other hand, participation in a particular global navigational network could also dictate the pattern of future military procurements in the region, owing to compatibility factor. India will benefit from investing in the GLONASS with regard to its SU-30MKI fighter jets, its Brahmos cruise missile systems, the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, the co-development and co­production of a military multirole transport aircraft (MTA) and a fifth-generation fighter plane. In short, the GLONASS system would play a crucial role in supporting India’s aerospace power in the twenty-first century.

The economic interests of China, Japan and India are global in nature. The strategic interests of Japan and India are more regional in nature, but the same is not the case with China. China understands the role of GPS in US economy as well as in its strategic preparedness. It also understands the vulnerability of the US GPS and the likely damage it could cause if blocked. For China, global positioning is not only an instrument for location identification but a means of gaining a tactical as well as strategic advantage over its adversary in case of a conflict situation arising in the Taiwan theatre. The completion of Compass project would give China a significant strategic advantage and also would enhance the commercial utility of its space programme.