Category Asian Space Race: Rhetoric or Reality?

Mission Instruments

The mission profile for all the three states involved launching of a satellite which would enter into a lunar orbit and position itself approximately around 100 km/200 km over the Moon’s surface. The sensors onboard of these satellites took various observations. The attempt was to analyse the composition of materials on and below the surface of the Moon. Idea was to know the physical properties of the Moon. Scientists wanted to know more about the terrain characteristics from the point of view of selecting future landing area for unmanned and manned missions. All this information was gathered without landing on the Moon, and the satellites were essentially used as remote sensing systems.

Japan’s Kaguya-1 mission had groupings of sensors meant for elemental distribu­tion, mineral distribution, surface and subsurface structure feature analyses, gaining environment knowledge and understanding gravitational field distribution.[239] China’s Chang’e-1 mission instruments could be roughly divided into mission groupings

like mineral distribution, Moon topography assessment and solar wind understand­ing, while India’s Chandrayaan-1 mission sensors were tasked to undertake terrain and mineralogy mapping of the Moon’s surface, look for availability of water on the Moon and understand more about lunar gravity. In a broader sense, there was much commonality in the missions of all the three states.

In the case of Kaguya-1 mission, the overall mission configuration was somewhat different from others. This Japanese mission constitutes not only of the orbiter but also two 50-kg small satellites (relay satellite and VRAD satellite: The relay satellite is known as Okina[240] and the other is Ouna) which were released by the main orbiter after it had reached lunar orbit. Relay satellite plays a role towards understanding the gravity field. Knowledge of gravity filed is essential to study the evolution of Moon. Here, four-way Doppler measurements of main orbiter by using relay satellite for far-side gravity field are taken.[241] [242] The other VRAD satellite (VLBI RADio source) contributes towards measurements transmission of radio waves which in turn contribute to the accuracy of the gravity field, especially on the lunar limb areas. The ground stations involved towards monitoring and processing the data received from the satellite include National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and few others.11

The missions were also tasked to photograph the Earth form their position. It is expected that these missions would gather unknown information in regard to ionosphere and aurora.

Moon Still Not in Reach

Space programmes of Japan, China and India would continue to grow as planned in all fields but for deep space missions. Japan and India overtake China in this field. They develop a healthy collaboration with USA, and their robotic missions successfully bring samples of helium-3 and other minerals back to the Earth. In deep space arena, China receives technical setbacks and human mission to Moon fails to take-off. However, China’s space station is fully operational. China and Russia starts helping Iran to take its space programme to greater heights. At international forums, USA starts using every opportunity to make noise about the Chinese military space stations and claims that their entire space programme has strong military bias. Globally acceptable space regime is still elusive.

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.


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.

Space Weaponisation

Is weaponising a space a legitimate option for any state? The outer space treaty (OST) emphasises that ‘peaceful usages’ of space is important. But, at the same time, there is no common understanding on what should constitute a space weapon. Damage to satellite in space could be carried out by firing a missile from the ground to the space, by using a space-based weapon or by using ground and/or space-based jammers. Presently, only a theoretical possibility exists in regard to putting weapons in space to engage a ground-based target. On the other hand, various treaties and norms do exist in the space arena, which could be interpreted to conclude that space weaponisation is incorrect. However, mostly the selective and inferred interpretations of law would have limitations. Hence, there is no direct answer to the question regarding the legitimacy of space weaponisaton.

Also, it is argued that if the USA, the sole superpower in space and even otherwise, escalates the process of militarisation and weaponisation of space, then other states would try to follow them. This would lead to a destabilising effect on global community [14]. In contrast, five decades since the launching of the first

satellite barring few cases of ASAT demonstration, no actual ASAT attack has ever happened. This is a good omen, but absence of any attack on the adversaries’ satellite infrastructure till date does not guaranty that it would not happen in future. Understanding such realities, few Asian states have probably started making investments in the ASAT technologies. The aim could to be to develop and test them to demonstrate the capabilities. However, there appears to be much ambiguity in regard to the ASAT policies of various Asian states (same is true globally too). None of the Asian states are found taking clear positions of this issue. It appears that every state is waiting for others to make the first ‘move’!

Contradicting its own stated goal of a ‘peaceful rise’ on January 11, 2007, China carried out an ASAT test by destroying its own ageing weather satellite (Y-1C) by using a kinetic kill vehicle (KKV) technology. This act involved mounting a metal piece on the top of the missile KT-2 which destroyed its target simply by colliding with it. Beijing demonstrated the dramatic technological advances made by China through this test. It conducted this test on a spacecraft flying as fast as an intercontinental ballistic missile, re-entering the atmosphere. The satellite’s destruction was carried out by a unitary hit-to-kill payload—a technique far superior than what was used by the erstwhile Soviet Union. Since this satellite intercept occurred along the ascent trajectory of the offensive missiles’ flight, it could be concluded that the overall guidance and control systems as well as the KKV’s own sensors were so accurate that the Chinese engineers never took the option of exploiting the booster’s descent trajectory to give the kill vehicle more time, both to observe the target satellite and to manoeuvre as necessary [15]. During this test, China destroyed a 750-kg satellite orbiting at an altitude of 850 km. This in turn has created significant amount of debris in space almost to the tune of 300,000 big and small pieces of debris.

Apart from the ASAT weapons, China’s counter-space efforts also include satellite jamming technologies. China has probably made substantial investments in the field of ground-based lasers to destroy/damage satellites. In fact, China has pursued a variety of space warfare programmes particularly over the last decade. China has also invested in direct-attack and directed-energy weapons [16]. As per the Pentagon’s 1998 report to the Congress, ‘China already may possess the capability to damage, under specific conditions, optical sensors on satellites that are very vulnerable to damage by lasers’, and that ‘given China’s current interest in laser technology, it is reasonable to assume that Beijing would develop a weapon that could destroy satellites in the future’.24 In 2006, US government officials had accused China of using lasers against their reconnaissance satellites on a number of occasions [17]. According to one Pentagon report a year before, ‘PLA is building lasers to destroy satellites and already has beam weapons capable of damaging sensors on space based reconnaissance and intelligence systems. Consequently, China could blind the US intelligence and military space equipment systems vital for deploying US military forces in current and future warfare’.[285]

For the last couple of years, the Chinese interests in developing and testing various methodologies for carrying out antisatellite operations are being debated. There are reports that China has completed ground tests of an advanced antisatellite weapon called ‘parasitic satellite’. It is likely to be deployed on an experimental basis and enters the phase of space test in the near future. These satellite systems are probably already ground tested. This ASAT system can be used against various types of satellites such as communication satellites, navigational satellites and early warning satellites in different orbits. The cost of building this satellite system is 0.1-1% of typical satellite [18]. References to Parasite satellite are also found in 2003 and 2004 annual reports on the military power of China of the department of defence. Few scholars are of the opinion that even though China is working on small satellites, the idea of a Parasite satellite may not be true [7, p. 217]. Probably, arguments negating the likely ASAT potential of China were mostly made before the 2007 tests.

Theoretically, apart from China, India is another country in the region capable of developing and demonstrating ASAT capability. It is planning to build up its ‘potential’ for delivering an antisatellite weapon (ASAT). It appears that India has both technological wherewithal and political determination to undertake such test. At the same time, it has the maturity to understand the geopolitical implications for such testing and hence it likely to undertake the test only after undertaking a detailed cost benefits analysis.

India’s premier Defence Research and Development Organizations (DRDO) Director General VK Saraswat has claimed that ‘India is putting together building blocks of technology that could be used to neutralize enemy satellites’, while speaking to media on the sidelines of the 97th Indian Science Congress.[286] This announcement has significant strategic significance and could have wider global ramifications in regard to India’s strategic calculus. Hence, it is vital to view this ‘statement of intent’ in a correct perspective. India’s any probable ASAT programme could emerge as a part of its ballistic missile development programme. This indicates that ISRO, the India’s only space agency, would not have any mandate for such a programme. ISRO is expected to continue to perform various civilian and commercial mandates, and ASAT policies could be decided by other agencies.

Geo-strategically, India could be viewed caught in an unusual situation. Its adversaries (which are also its neighbours) are nuclear weapon states out of which

one is a communist state with a burning ambition to become a global superpower, and the other is a failing democracy where the safety of nuclear weapons is always a suspect. This indicates that India’s basic interest would lay with the development of ballistic missile defence (BMD) architecture. ASAT technology could emerge as an offshoot of such development. In regard to ASAT testing, India has not taken any official position yet.

To develop indigenous BMD capability, India proposes to develop two systems: Prithvi Air Defence Exercise (PADE) and Advanced Air Defence System (AAD) by 2015. This entire project has begun few years back. The first interception test was successfully conducted during November 2006 at a 50-km range. India proposes to develop a two intercept mode system to hit a target at both exo­atmospheric and endo-atmospheric levels [19]. DRDO is building an advanced version of its interceptor missile with a range of 120-140 km. All such technological developments could allow India to develop its own ASAT capability. Engaging any satellite at the height 250 km or even less is advantageous to avoid creation of debris. If India wants to demonstrate any capability, then it should avoid creation of any debris, and their progress in BMD technology development arena could allow them that option.

In Asia, apart from India, China and Japan are also investing in missile interception technology. In the case of China which has already demonstrated ASAT capability, a reverse (in contrast to India) inference could be drawn. China’s ASAT indicative of direct-ascent or ‘direct-kill’ capability signifies that China has developed most of the technologies needed to bring together a modern anti-ballistic missile defence [20]. Japan’s interests in BMD are known, but their entire BMD architecture is in collaboration with the USA. Hypothetically, developing ASAT should not be problematic for them. Israel has also achieved success in interception technologies, and they have also made some of these technologies commercially available. This state also have technological base available to undertake ASAT. Pakistan has a successful missile programme but would have to make additional effort to develop ASAT capability. They could expect some help from China if they decide to do so. Not much of information is available in regard to these states about their interests in satellite jamming technologies. It appears that in the region, China would remain in the forefront in this field.


Satellites have emerged as a main focus of military activities for the last two decades, particularly post 1991 Gulf War. Since then various other military cam­paigns have demonstrated to the world the relevance of space technology in modern-day conflict and their capability to provide direct support for ground, air and water/underwater operations. Space technologies have brought in the transformation in warfare which is ultimately leading towards the revolution in warfare, particularly

for the defence forces in developing countries. By the beginning of the twenty – first century, the nature of the battlefield has undergone a transformation. Space is being recognised as the fourth dimension of warfare. Robotic equipments are slowly becoming the inessential part of the modern-day battlefield, and they also would operate in space. Fully automated warfare may be technologically feasible in the next 20 years, and space technology would play an extremely significant role in this.

Realising the importance of militarisation of space, few Asian states have started making specific investments into military-specific satellite technologies. The significant investments are being made by China, Japan and India. Particularly, these three states have developed high-resolution imaging satellites. Israel also has made investments into this field. All these states have launched satellites, offering them imagery with sub metre resolution (70-80 cm, in certain cases, approximately 1 m). Such imageries are also available commercially (with certain restrictions). Since various Asian states are not having direct accessibility for such information, they would depend on commercially available inputs, and India, China and Japan could offer such services to their friends and could also engage in imagery diplomacy. Communication is another arena where investments form military points of view are being made. India is planning for dedicated satellite services for their armed forces. Space technology is expected to help India, China and Israel to enhance the efficiency of their nuclear setup too.

Satellite navigation is one area where China is making rapid progress and has already declared their Biduo system operational regionally during Dec 2011. India is expected to take few more years before their indigenous navigational system becomes operational. Till that time, their dependence on GPS and GLONASS is expected to continue. For the armed forces of other states like South Korea, Malaysia, etc., GPS continues to remain the best option. Amongst the major spacefaring nations in the region, Japan’s military space programme displays transparency. India has few dual-use systems and has already announced their plans in regard to military satellites. China is unlikely to get out of its ambiguity cover. The need of the hour is for these states to become proactive towards the formulation of a space regime.

There are major concerns about space weaponisation leading to arms race in space. Asia has a very critical role to play in this regard. Already, China has vitiated the atmosphere by undertaking the ASAT in 2007. This has put India in an extremely precarious situation. Till date much before China, only the USA and Russia had demonstrated their ASAT capabilities. Owing to its BMD compulsions, the USA is not seen interested in developing any global space regime banning weaponisation of space. Also, the efforts made by China and Russia by jointly submitting to the Conference on Disarmament (CD) the draft Treaty on February 12, 2008 on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (PPWT) are found inadequate. This draft suffers from various lacunas, and the intentions of China and Russia in regard to space weaponisation remain doubtful. Various opinions are being expressed in regard to the EU’s space code of conduct. All these happenings indicate that many states in the world have at least started debating space security issues which is a positive change, and Asian states should not miss this opportunity to put their points of view across.

It is important for powers like India to learn from the past experiences of NPT. This treaty regime canvassed as one of the most successful UN regime is actually one of the most unfair UN document on arms control and disarmament. It allows five states in the world to keep their nuclear weapons stockpile while depriving others. It is important for India to learn lessons from this to decide their ASAT policy. For other smaller Asian powers, it is also important to remain connected with these issues and need to have a stake in the system for obvious resigns.

It is important to note that vulnerabilities do not necessarily result into threats. Currently, there are very few states having technological capabilities in ASAT arena. Most importantly, the ‘deterrence’ potential of space weapons is yet to be clearly established by the scientific, political and academic community. Hence, states are not looking at the space weaponisation as an immediate policy option. In Asia too, the process of militarisation of space is far more rapid than the weaponisation. Simultaneously, the armed forces from various Asian states lobbying for satellite technologies need to realise that, although the space technologies assisting the modern state-of-art military hardware has capabilities to neutralise the threats in a significantly reduced amount of time, there also exists a danger that such technologies have potential to escalate the conflict.

West Asia’s Investments in Space Technologies

West Asia (also known as Middle East) is the westernmost portion of Asia. It is a region containing large areas of mountainous terrain and also has major desert regions. Historically, the region is famous for its kingdoms and big cities. Over centuries, the people in various parts of this region are trying to stay independent, but either the invaders or the people within the region have always tried to overpower them. Over the years in this region, the means and methods of power grabbing could have changed, but the basic instinct remains the same. The region has gained importance globally mainly because of the significant availability of the energy sources. During last three to four decades, the region has witnessed few of the major wars fought in the recent history. Presently, the region could be viewed as one of the most unstable regions in the world.

One nuclear and two spacefaring states fall in this region. This chapter elaborates on the space programmes of two spacefaring states and also discusses in brief the investments made by few other important states within the region.

Asian Navigational Systems

Various Asian states are facing significant social challenges. Management of avail­able resources is an important issue for these states while devising various growth models. They understand the importance for undertaking development which could meet the requirements of the present without harming the interests of future generations. For undertaking ‘sustainable development’, Asian states are acquiring and developing various technologies, and satellite navigation is one amongst them.

In particular, combination of the GPS and the geographic information system (GIS) is being used for geospatial analysis in a variety of contexts ranging from agriculture and environment to resource management and medicine. Satellite navigation has significant security significance too.

As in other fields, in the arena of satellite navigation too, the maximum investments are being made mainly by China, Japan and India. In view of the fact that satellite navigation is a costly technology, these states are making careful investments. Both Indian and Japan are developing the regional navigation satellite system (RNSS), while only China is investing in a global navigation satellite system (GNSS). When viewed under larger geostrategic settings, this indirectly matches with the ambitions of these states indicating that China has global interests and even their investments in satellite navigation clearly implies this. Following paragraphs discuss the specific navigational programmes for three Asian powers.

International Cooperation

International collaboration has been the key for the initial success in space field for Asian states, and even today, it plays an important role. During initial years, Japan was helped by the USA, and China was helped by USSR/Russia towards development of their space programmes. For India, the help came from different quarters—France, USA to erstwhile USSR. Other countries in the region are being helped by countries within and outside the region. Presently, all major space players in Asia are having collaborations with Russia, USA and the EU.

China and EU have developed significant cooperation. On May 24, 2007, both sides signed China-EU Space Cooperation Actuality and Cooperative Plan Protocol, which stipulates distinctly the fields and direction of cooperation. They have established four work groups, that is, Science and Exploration Work Group, Microgravity Work Group, Education Work Group and Earth Observation Work Group. They have various other arrangements too.[330] However, it is also important to note that some of the very important collaborative ventures like the China’s collaboration with EU’s global navigational project Galileo have not worked in spite of the bests of efforts and commitments. With the success of Indo-US nuclear deal, collaborations between India and USA are expected to increase multifold in space arena. Human space flights, deep space missions and asteroid studies are expected to be the future areas of collaborations. During October 2011, India has launched a satellite called Megha-Tropiques in collaboration with France.

Russia is already collaborating with India and China for the Moon and Mars missions. Success of such missions and the importance of information gathered could decide the nature of further collaborations. The case in point is that the success achieved by Indian Chandrayaan-1 mission in finding water on the Moon’s surface in collaboration with NASA. Initially, NASA was not interested in India’s second Moon mission, but now, they are keen to get associated to further their research in this arena.

Other Asian states which have started late are keen to get outside assistance to develop their own space programmes. Iran is receiving tactic support from China and Russia. Pakistan is relatively a weak player in space arena and is dependent on support mainly from China. In SE Asia, aggressive investments are being made by the USA and China. As per industry estimates, by 2011-2012, over US$2 billion worth of new satellites may be launched over Asian region. SE Asia is expected to offer a major portion of this business. The USA 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. In 2009, it signed an agreement with Pakistan, granting a $200 million loan for satellite construction. It would also be establishing ground control segments for them at Lahore and Karachi.[331] During August 2011, China has launched the Pakistan’s first communications satellite.

Appreciating the requirement of multilateral engagement, few Asian states have joined together to form Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO). This organisation has started its operations in Beijing during December 2008, 16 years after the idea was put forward. It has seven member states, China, Bangladesh, Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, Peru and Thailand. Indonesia and Turkey have also signed the APSCO convention. Representatives from Argentina, Malaysia, the Philippines, Russia and Sri Lanka also attended the founding ceremony. The organisation aims to promote the multilateral cooperation in space science and technology. Its members will work together in development and research, space technology application and training of space experts.11 Such multilateral cooperation could help the members from SE Asian region in getting a greater access to technology allowing them to exploit natural resources and help in disaster reduction. Such grouping has a potential to develop into a major pressure group. States like India and Japan are having few collaborative projects with states in the region but are still far away from using satellite technology as a tool for increasing their regional influence. A state like India appears to be a slow starter in regard to using their space expertise for the purposes of political engagement. A case in point could be the case of Sri Lanka. This India’s neighbour is taking the help of a private company in UK to design and build its first satellite. This agreement was signed during November 2009 [3]. The current trend indicates that the USA and China could play a major

role in the region at least for next few decades and would garner both economic and geopolitical benefits.

In contrast, the development of space technology in Asia during the 1970s to the 1990s remained restricted because of the policies of the USA. It had used economic and technological disability of Asian states to its advantage. As mentioned earlier, states like India faced technological apartheid because of sanctions regime. Japan also received a raw deal from its ally, the USA [4]. Japan’s dream of indigenous satellite development programme did not materialise initially because of the US policies. There was a dispute between the US administration and Japan regarding the so-called unfair trade practices followed by Japan which in turn was bringing difficulties for the US industry to penetrate Japanese market [5]. The USA was not keen to allow Japan to develop their indigenous capabilities at the cost of the US industry interests.

However, in the twenty-first century, it is unlikely that major space powers would hold themselves back from cooperating with Asian countries anymore. There could be various reasons for it. First, financial constraints, with the decline in the economy of the West, for NASA or ESA, it may not be possible to fund major independent space projects. Hence, they could engage states like India and Japan for collaborative ventures. In fact, the abrupt end of US space shuttle programme without an alternative has made analysts to suggest that they could take help from China in future for space visits of their astronauts [6]. This could allow them to reduce the dependence on Russia in regard to ISS programme. However, the real challenge in this case would be of geopolitical arithmetic. Second, access to key global natural resources and commodities on other planets is likely to be the one of the important future space agendas. Apart from having requisite ‘hardware’ in place to do so, a need could arise to have some global consciences on this issue, and having ‘dependent’ space powers could become an advantage. Third, for economic reasons, Asian market offers good business opportunities.

The uncertainty factor in the likely engagements of Asian states could emerge from scenarios like Iran or Japan conducting nuclear tests or India undertaking an ASAT creating huge space debris.


Taiwan has long conducted space-related activities using foreign space data and has developed international partnerships in various fields [10]. Development of rockets for launching satellites had not been their core area of research and investments at least during late 1980s and 1990s. They established the National Space Organization, NSPO, in 2005 (formerly known as the National Space Programme Office established in1991) which is the civilian space agency of Taiwan. It has developed a successful sounding rocket programme and has undertaken few launches of these rockets. Since 1998, the launch of Sounding Rocket No.1, NSPO has launched rockets six times. These launches were meant for the purposes of conducting the physical experiments on atmospheric airglow, ionosphere, etc. They also had relevance for flight validations of technologies such as GPS, magnetometer, etc. NSPO’s second-phased aerospace technology development programme aims at suborbital measurements. Such measurements are also expected to enhance the development of the aerospace technology’s civilian application.[90]

Taiwan is yet to develop a workable space launch booster (launcher). There are some indications that they have plans of testing its first Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) to put around 50 kg payload into LEO.[91] No specific information is available in this regard. Probably, this could take few more years to happen. However, understanding China’s apprehensions about these issues, Taiwan may not be keen to divulge much information in this regard.

The first satellite for Taiwan, a low-Earth-orbit scientific experimental satellite called FORMOSAT-1(formerly known as ROCSAT-1), was launched by the USA on January 27,1999. The first remote sensing satellite developed by National Space Organization (NSPO), FORMOSAT-2, was successfully launched on May 21,2004. For its ‘FORMOSAT-3 Programme’, Taiwan has collaborated with the USA. This project is aimed at developing advanced technology for the real-time monitoring of the global climate. This project is also known as Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate (COSMIC). For this purpose, six micro-satellites are placed into six different orbits at 700-800 Km. These satellites orbit around the Earth and form a low-Earth-orbit constellation to receive signals transmitted by the 24 US GPS satellites. This project was successfully launched

during Apr 2006 and with this ended the First Phase Space Programme (1991-2006) devised by Taiwan. The Second Phase Space Programme (2004-2018) is about the Formosat-5 Programme, the first Remote Sensing Programme. Here the aim is on building up the capabilities for independent development of spacecraft and payload instruments.14

For almost two decades, Taiwan is systematically expanding its space programme and space industry. Probably, geopolitical compulsions are responsible for an overall slow growth of the Taiwan’s space agenda. China appears to be not keen for Taiwan to develop its own programme and influences foreign states not to coop­erate with Taiwan on this issue. However, in recent past, NASA is found interacting with Taiwan on various projects. Also, ESA and Japan have interest in collaborating with Taiwan on various issues including disaster warning and management. All this could help the growth of Taiwan’s space programme probably much faster than in the past.

Deep Space Networks

Sending a satellite to the Moon is only one part of the story, and the other part is to establish a deep space network for tracking and communicating with the satellite when it is in lunar orbit.

China does not have an exclusive network to cater for their Moon mission. There are few networks available globally like the US network—consisting of sites in California, Australia and Spain. However, geopolitics plays a dominant role in this, and in case of China, this network is off limits for political reasons. So the mission relied on a combination of Chinese and European assets. European Space Agency (ESA) has offered China assistance with communications and tracking relays to

and from the probe using its deep space network ESTRACK. This support was mainly because the Chinese had promised to share the data gathered from the Chang’e-1 mission in return [10]. China has wisely avoided any overdependence on such agencies. For purpose of the Moon mission, they have modified their S-band aerospace Telemetry, Tracking and Command (TT & C) network designed earlier for their manned space programme. The largest antennas for this network have an aperture of only 12 m. A series of technical measures were taken to ensure that such antennas could communicate with their Moon probe too [11].

India has installed a pair of giant antennas to monitor its Moon mission. The facility known as Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) consists of two powerful dish antennas, 32 and 18 m in diameter. This network will serve as the base station for future planetary missions like to Mars and would also be used to track the proposed space telescope, the astronomical satellite (Astrosat).[243] Apart from this, various ground stations within and outside India are available under the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) for providing ground support to Moon missions.

As per JAXA official website for the purposes of Kaguya mission, Japan is making use of the terrestrial station which is present at many places of the world, with Sagamihara in Japan as a centre. The deep space centre at Usuda and Uchinoura Space Center that operates two large antennas (20- and 34-m dishes) also form part of this telemetry tracking and command network.