Paris, France—The French government has accused Russia of space espionage.
According to the French Defence Ministry, in 2017 a Russian satellite attempted to steal classified telecommunication information from a joint Franko-Italian satellite.
The Russian Louch-Olymp spacecraft, a relay satellite responsible for transmitting imagery and telecommunication information to the earth, approached dangerously close to the Franko-Italian Athena-Fidus satellite. The European satellite was jointly developed and launched by the French (CNES) and Italian (ASI) space agencies.
“It got so close that we might have imagined it was trying to intercept our communications. Trying to listen to your neighbours is not only unfriendly. It’s an act of espionage,” said Florence Parly, the French Defense Minister.
Apparently, the Russian craft was relying on its high-tech eavesdropping capabilities to succeed. And it wasn’t content with just the Franko-Italian satellite, because it was later seen approaching other spacecraft as well.
Recently, the U.S. accused Russia of designing anti-satellite technology that could weaponize space, even though Russian and China proposed a treaty to avoid a space-arms race. For any history buffs out there, the Russian behaviour resembles that of Adolf Hitler’s before World War Two. He said one thing and did another. He called for peace but annexed countries. It appears, however, that some U.S. officials have learned from the past.
“We are well aware that other major players in space are deploying intriguing objects into orbit, experimenting with potential offensive capabilities, conducting manoeuvres which leave no doubt as to their aggressive intent. We’re at risk — our communications, our military manoeuvres, and our daily operations are at risk if we don’t react,” added Parly.
However, French President Emmanuel Macron doesn’t support the militarization of space. He opposes the development of a French and European “space defence strategy.” Moreover, he recently called for a European rapprochement with Russia.
He said that a “reinforced solidarity would imply a revision of the European architecture of defence and security: by initiating a renewed dialogue on cybersecurity, chemical weapons, conventional weaponry, territorial conflicts, space security, the protection of the polar zones, in particular with Russia.”
President Donald Trump called for the creation of a space force to secure U.S. space telecommunication capabilities and American space dominance.
And the French Defence Minister appears to agree with him. “I’ve heard some people laugh, but “I’m not among them. I see this as an extremely powerful signal, one of the confrontations to come, of the increasing importance of space, of the future challenges.”
“We know that space is becoming militarized. We’re not going to stand by and watch,” she added.