The US is seeking support from its allies for its space programme amid concerns Russia and China are trying to weaponise the sphere, the head of the US Space Force has said.
General Jay Raymond told a virtual event hosted by TechCrunch on Thursday: “Our goals are to deter conflict from beginning or extending into space,” according to the US defence department.
The Pentagon also said that Raymond had warned the “unfortunately” China and Russia were trying to weaponise space.
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He also stressed the important role of partnerships for the Space Force, which was established last year as the first new branch of the US military since 1947.
“I’m going to really work hard on cultivating partnerships,” he said, citing Australia, Canada, Britain, New Zealand, France, Germany and Japan.
The partnerships include a recently signed memorandum of understanding with Japan, its most important ally in Asia, for the hosted payload programme, which involves putting US payloads on Japanese satellites, which Raymond said has saved “dollars and gives us capability”.
A similar MOU was signed with Norway, another traditional ally in Europe, last year, which saved the US more than US$900 million, he added.
“We’re really turning these partnerships into partnerships where we operate together; we train together; we exercise together; we war-game together; we develop capabilities together, and it’s proven to pay significant advantages and there’s future growth opportunities ahead,” he said.
The remarks by Raymond came at a time when space is becoming one of the important arenas for the bitter rivalry between China and the US, now already locked in fierce competitions on various fronts, from trade, ideology and even over the polar regions.
A latecomer to space exploration, China has steadily advanced its ambitious programme over the past two decades to catch up with the front runners like the US.
China became the third country, after the US and Soviet Union, to obtain moon materials after its Chang’e-5 return capsule, which carried around two kilograms of drilled and scooped lunar material, landed in snow-covered grasslands in northern China’s Inner Mongolia on Thursday.
China has also stepped up cooperation with Russia, which inherited the Soviet Union’s space technologies.
In the latest joint communique between the two governments earlier this month, the two sides have pledged to further cooperation in space exploration and related technologies as part of efforts to boost their alliance amid shared pressure from the US.
That would include cooperation in lunar and deep-space exploration, satellite communication technology, aerospace components and Russia’s proposed Spektr-M scientific satellite, as well as long-term cooperation in satellite navigation by enhancing the compatibility of China’s Beidou and Russia’s Glonass satellites.
While Beijing insists its space programme is for peaceful purposes, its rapidly improving capabilities have raised suspicions particularly from the US. In June the Pentagon’s new space strategy listed China as well as Russia as strategic threats that “have weaponised space as a means to reduce US and allies’ military effectiveness and challenge … freedom of operation in space”.
In a setback to Beijing’s space programme, the Swedish Space Corporation, citing the complexity of the Chinese market and the geopolitical situation, announced in September that it would terminate China’s access to its strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when the contract expires
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