France has launched its first ever military exercise in space in order to “stress test” its defence systems against potential adversaries.
Codenamed AsterX, it is the first ever military space exercise in Europe and is part of France’s ambitions to become the world’s third-largest space power.
The exercise will involve 18 simulated events from 8 to 12 March, conducted in France’s Space Command operations room in Toulouse.
The development of advanced spy satellites and secretive telecoms infrastructure has added strategic importance to space in recent years. Space Command formed in 2019 in response to the growing trend of global powers deploying military equipment into Earth’s orbit.
“Our allies and adversaries are militarising space… We need to act,” Defence Minister Florence Parly said at the time.
“If our satellites are threatened, we intend to blind those of our adversaries. We reserve the right and the means to be able to respond: that could imply the use of powerful lasers deployed from our satellites or from patrolling nano-satellites.”
Both the US Space Force and German space agencies will also be taking part in the exercises.
Adversaries and allies featured in a promotional video for the exercise include China, Iran, Russia, North Korea and the US.
Michel Friedling, head of France’s Space Command, told reporters that hte military exercises would involve “a series of events appear and create crisis situations or threats against our space infrastructure.”
Christophe Michel, director of the AsterX exercise, said that a fictitious geopolitical crisis between two regions will be simulated in various scenarios throughout the week.
“The aim is to test every eventual outcome that could occur in space,” he said.
“For example, operators will have to deal with fire from anti-satellite weapons, performing a rendezvous in space, or even solar weather phenomena.”