USCC annual report for 2015 was given to public. There is no surprise – China is strengthening position in space race, Commission is showing the way to keep U.S. supremacy.
Report was announced on 18 November 2015 and consist precision description of Chinese space military with possible ways of further development. In spite of fact, that China had achieved impressive level of annual progress in their space program, still main players in space race remain USA and Russia. Characteristic for China is their lack of separation between military and civilian space program and industry. It is hard to recognize which actions, programs and concepts are generally focused on civilian objectives and which are military purpose. According to report, whole Chinese space program should be threat like potential support for developing military technologies:
“China’s space program involves a wide network of entities spanning its political, military, defense industry, and commercial sectors. Unlike the United States, China does not have distinctly separate military and civilian space programs. CCP leaders provide policy guidance and authorize allocations of resources for the program, and various organizations within the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) execute space policy and oversee the space research, development, and acquisition process. China’s military also exercises control over the majority of China’s space assets and space operations. Although China conducts civilian space activities, such as scientific research and exploration, and Chinese civilian agencies provide input into space policy and space research, development, and
acquisition requirements, China does not have an official civilian space program”
To prevent acquiring and transferring civilian technologies into military purposes, Commission stresses the need of keeping restrictions in economy cooperation with China. ITAR and EAR export restrictions should be verified to protect better sensitive technologies from being sold on open market. Also it was pointed that many technologies were acquired by China from foreign companies from Europe, so previous export restrictions were not necessary effective and do not reflect well the changing reality. It is fourth position on list of recommended actions:
“Congress direct appropriate jurisdictional entities to undertake a review of the classification of satellites and related articles on the U.S. Munitions List under the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations and the prohibitions on exports of Commerce Control List satellites and related technologies to China under the Export Administration Regulations, in order to determine which systems and technologies China is likely to be able to obtain on the open market regardless of U.S. restrictions and which are critical technologies that merit continued U.S. protection.”
So still words of Buzz Aldrin, that USA should cooperate with China in manned space missions from interview published in Times on June 2015 are still far from becoming reality.
Report is also stressing the fact of that China is going to export their space technology and starting cooperation with many countries around the globe. First aim is clear and is connected with role of exports in the economy of China, which is heavily dependent on it; moderns technologies are flywheel of every economy, but China are switching from low cost mass production of consumption goods to Asian center of high end technologies. Second objective is described as below:
“Many of these engagements are designed to facilitate China’s acquisition of new technologies from technologically-advanced states and to promote the export of China’s
space technologies to states with space programs lagging behind its own. Others are intended to help China achieve a level of space situational awareness that enables the PLA’s offensive and defense space missions and supports China’s orbital debris detection,
mitigation plans, and operations.”
Especially interesting is cooperation with Ukraine which is developing particularly rapidly since the conflict with Russia over the Crimea had begun. China is looking with hope on Ukraine space industry with high potential and lack of funds (which is connected with Russian embargo for cooperation with Ukraine -latest post about effects of this situation You can read here).
Another aspect of report is opinion about Chinese military doctrine in terms of possible conflict with USA. In report it is mentioned that PLA is recognizing constellation of U.S. satellites as vital for American defense:
“The PLA assesses U.S. satellites are critical to the United States’ ability to sustain combat operations globally. PLA analysis of U.S. military operations states that ‘‘destroying or capturing satellites and other sensors . . . will deprive an opponent of initiative on the battlefield and [make it difficult] for them to bring their precision-guided weapons into full play.’’
Commission also points that crucial for preventing Chinese military doctrine is:
“Congress continue to support the U.S. Department of Defense’s efforts to reduce the vulnerability of U.S. space assets through cost-effective solutions, such as the development of smaller and more distributed satellites, hardened satellite communications, and non-space intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets such as unmanned aerial vehicles.”
It is interesting that stress was put on designing smaller satellites and cost reduction. It could be explanation of fact of developing by U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency new generation of small imaging satellites with cooperation with commercial partners (described here). Generally report is sign of new times of American space program. New competitor was spotted and threated as seriously as it is possible – various actions to prevent losing supremacy by USA were advised; few signs of it appeared recently like DARPA programs for creating less expensive launch vehicle (about ALASA program You can read here and here, about Super Strypi You can read here and about XS1 – here) especially for small satellites or general tendency for miniaturization of satellites and giving impetus to their further development (which was also spotted and seized by commercial companies like ULA – described wider here). Of course fragments quoted above are only part of report, but they are explaining clearly present trends in develop of American space industry.