Telecommunications and navigation are no longer conceivable without satellites. Germany wants to protect them in space – and takes a different path from the US.
With a new space center, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer wants to strengthen Germany’s ability to protect its own satellites. The commissioning of the “Air and Space Operations Center” (ASOC) on Monday at Uedem, North Rhine-Westphalia, was a first step in the planning and execution of space operations, the CDU leader said. The Air Force inspector, Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, said, “This isn’t about space weapons, it’s about protecting what we have in space.” Much of today’s technology – telecommunications, the Internet and navigation – now relies on satellites.
The new center was built as part of the air defense system on the Paulsberg near Uedem, from which the German army also has an overview of the entire airspace over Germany and monitors the sounding of alarms by fighter aircraft in the event of possible threats. The latter happened on August 18, when a plane flying through from Poland was no longer accessible.
Kramp-Karrenbauer wants rules for the use of space
The National Situation and Command Center for Safety in the Airspace is housed in a room that the minister visited. Large screens, flashing lights and numeric codes. Some TV channels are on. New buildings are being built on the site. The facility, in which around $ 200 million will be invested in 2038, will now also take a closer look at near-earth space.
“We have an increasing connection, and that is something that can no longer be separated, between space and airspace and also the systems on the ground,” said Kramp-Karrenbauer. Telecom and navigation, “it all depends on satellites”. She is also convinced that the use of space should also be regulated by international treaties.
The space center aims to help protect satellites from interference and attack, as well as to observe missiles that could threaten populated areas when they re-enter the atmosphere. It observes and catalogs space objects and the so-called space debris, which can be dangerous to other devices. The center will initially have 50 experts and will grow to 150 employees by 2031. In some cases, existing skills are brought together.
The new GESTRA (German Experimental Space Surveillance and Tracking Radar) system on the outskirts of Koblenz is used to track the orbits of space bodies. It was developed on behalf of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) by the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Frequency Physics and Radar Technology (FHR). The TIRA space observation radar will then be used near Bonn for a closer look at objects. There are also telescopes available.
Germany cannot act militarily in space
From the standpoint of military experts, it makes little sense for Germany to separate air and space – regardless of physical differences. Germany is taking a different path from the great US power, which has established its own forces for space. The US is Germany’s main partner and France is also located in Europe.
Unlike the US, China and Russia, Germany has no means of responding militarily to attacks in space there. Weapon systems for this are simply not available to the Bundeswehr. When the worst comes to the worst, the ground would respond – diplomatically at first. Attacks on satellites with laser beams are conceivable, and then the necessary reactions to turn the technology away from the beam angle. The technical defense is therefore passive.
However, data is also needed for ground missile defense and for space exploration of the activities of other states and powers. These are documented in a “space situation”. “Space weather” – the current situation with atmospheric disturbances – is also relevant for communications on Earth.