Last week, France carried out its first military exercise in space since the creation in 2019 of the Space Command (Commandement de l'espace), set up to drive military space strategy. It was also the first exercise of this kind to be carried out in Europe.
The simulation, which ran from Monday March 8 to Friday March 12, was called AsterX, a nod to the famous comic-book character Asterix and also to France’s first satellite of the same name launched in 1965.
President Emmanuel Macron visited the Centre national d'études spatiales in Toulouse on Friday, the base from where the exercise was run.
“It's a first in France and in Europe: Space Command has just conducted its very first large-scale military space exercise. With our European and American partners! The aim is to evaluate the protective capability of our satellites,” He posted on Twitter.
C'est une première en France comme en Europe : le Commandement de l'espace vient de conduire son tout premier exercice militaire spatial d'ampleur. Avec nos partenaires européens et américains ! Il s'agit notamment d'évaluer la capacité de protection de nos satellites. pic.twitter.com/wY672ZSHdi— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) March 12, 2021
The objective of the exercise, conducted with the assistance of several allied countries such as Germany, Italy, and the US, was to simulate satellite orbit changes, to plan emergency satellite launches, to monitor risky satellite re-entries, to jam signals or temporarily blind a hostile satellite.
The simulation consisted of modelling a crisis situation between two world powers - one with space capabilities and the other an ally of France with a military assistance agreement, BFMTV reported.
Several events were planned in advance, such as an attack on a French satellite or the detection of Earth-bound debris in the atmosphere that could endanger the civilian population below.
There were also tests on how the country’s outer space defence systems - which are supposed to be able to counter threats with a maximum range of more than 3,000 kilometres - would react to attacks ranging from signal jamming to destruction.
The French government said of the military exercise, "We need to have the means to act if we ever see that there are dangers to our capabilities or those of our allies,” AFP reported.
In 2018, France’s Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, accused Russia of committing "an act of espionage" against French-Italian military satellite Athena-Fidus.