SWF Releases New Fact Sheets on Robotic RPOs for Military and Intelligence Purposes by Multiple Countries

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) technologies enable a wide range of capabilities to support civil and commercial space activities such as on-orbit inspections, repair, refueling, assembly, and life extension. RPO capabilities can also be used for military and intelligence space activities such as intelligence, surveillance, and offensive weapons such as co-orbital anti-satellites. While RPO technologies have long been a stable of human spaceflight activities, over the last twenty years robotic RPO capabilities have developed and grown in use, including for national security. While many RPO activities are no directly aggressive or destructive themselves, they can lead to misconceptions or heightened tensions that could negatively impact space security and stability. 

Today, the Secure World Foundation has released three new fact sheets documenting the history of robotic RPO activities by China, Russia, and the United States. The fact sheets are based on research conducted as part of the annual SWF Global Counterspace Capabilities Report and summarized in this public spreadsheet. Each sheet summarizes the history of that country's robotic RPO programs, provides a table listing known RPO activities, and a short analysis of the current state of development or operational status. RPO activities associated with known co-orbital ASAT testing or programs can be found on a separate set of fact sheets for those programs. These fact sheets will be updated periodically as new information comes to light.

For more information, please contact SWF Director of Program Planning Dr. Brian Weeden or SWF Washington Office Director Ms. Victoria Samson.

Last updated on August 25, 2020