China Enhances SSA through advancements in Deep Space Exploration and Manufacturing

China has announced the Miyin Project, four remote sensing telescopes positioned at the Sun-Earth Lagrange point 2, which will be used to image and characterize exoplanets.  The expected timeline includes a technical demonstration in 2024, prototype launch in 2027, and on-orbit construction of the five-spacecraft system in 2030.

This timeline suggests the Miyin Project will be active potentially a decade or more sooner than the US’s equivalent infrastructure, the Habitable Worlds Observatory. Also noteworthy, that the Habitable World’s Observatory, with an estimated cost of $11 billion, is expected to be manufactured and transported to orbit via legacy mechanisms.

From a security perspective, the Miyin Project substantially extends China’s sphere of influence and interest into deep space. Not only this, it potentially gives the nation the advantage of decades in this new domain. Similarly, the ability to manufacture complex systems on-orbit speaks to an advanced national technical competency that outpaces that of the US and other space faring nations.

In terms of cyber security, the ability to rapidly manufacture remote sensing satellites on-orbit may result in a large increase in China’s space situational awareness coupled with a challenge to other nation’s ability to accurately track objects in space. Today, lack of eyes on hardware presents unique challenges for dispositioning anomalies, potential cyber-attack related, behavior of satellites – but China’s new manufacturing capability may represent a transition toward having more visual information on malfunctioning space based infrastructure.

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