U.S. Commission Solicits Proposals from Companies on China’s Remote Sensing Capabilities

The United States – China Economic and Security Review Commission, an independent agency of the U.S. government, issued a solicitation on August 8th that seeks proposals for companies to provide a report on the state of China’s remote sensing technology and status. The solicitation comes as China has significantly increased its capabilities in the space sector within the last few years – increasing its annual launch cadence for space assets from 15 to roughly 60 per year in 2022 and 2023. China’s increased capabilities are causing concern and this solicitation is one step to try and characterize the new technologies being fielded. Most recently, Chinese firm Galactic Energy achieved its 7th successful launch of the Ceres-1 rocket which, among other things, is delivering satellites with hyperspectral, infrared, and panchromatic imaging sensors.

This step by the U.S. is another in an interesting trend that has been developing recently showing increased collaboration between government and commercial efforts in the space arena. With increasing activities in the space sector for both commercial companies and government missions, especially in regards to proliferated LEO assets, we have seen commercial satellites being leveraged more often to provide key strategic and logistical advantages when available. It seems as though this trend will continue, and currently there is a palatable gap in defining the standard operating procedures and policies needed to help facilitate these activities in a secure manner.

It is also important to start taking a closer look at the capabilities of other countries as they release more technology into the space domain. Increased presence and technology in these areas can make the space domain much more dangerous for existing and new US assets. In addition to sophisticated cameras we have seen a shift toward RPO (Remote Proximity Operations) between satellites in orbit – where unknown or unidentified satellites are coming within close proximity to existing US assets. These RPO activities pose a real threat to the operation of US satellites and could even cause compromise of sensitive information and data. Newer technologies are also starting to emerge that allow for small sensors or devices to be stuck onto satellites as part of these RPO efforts.

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