SWF Releases Updated Fact Sheets on Anti-Satellite Testing, Rendezvous and Proximity Operations, and the X-37B

Friday, April 30, 2021

The recent resurgence in anti-satellite (ASAT) testing in space and growth in robotic rendezvous and proximity operations (RPOs) conducted for military and intelligence purposes have generated concerns from many countries about the increasingly contested nature of space. While many RPO activities are not directly aggressive or destructive themselves, they can lead to misconceptions or heightened tensions that could negatively impact space security and stability. Additionally, destructive ASAT tests have created thousands of pieces of orbital debris over the last several decades, which can pose long-term risks to all space activities. 

Today, the Secure World Foundation has released an updated set of fact sheets documenting these activities, based on research conducted as part of the annual SWF Global Counterspace Capabilities Report. The first set of fact sheets cover testing of ASAT weapons in space by the following countries as summarized in this public spreadsheet:

Each fact sheet summarizes the history of that country's programs in those areas, provides a table listing known tests of those programs in space (including any intercepts and orbital debris created), and a short analysis of the current state of development or operational status. 

As part of this update, we have provided an updated version of our fact sheet on the U.S. X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) program. While not a dedicated ASAT weapons system itself, the X-37B has generated significant international controversy and has engaged in abnormal activity on-orbit:

A second set of updated fact sheets summarize the history of robotic RPO programs done by the United States, Russia, and China for military or intelligence purposes that are not directly associated with ASAT testing, as summarized in this public spreadsheet:

As before, each of these fact sheets provides a table listing known robotic RPO activities by that country, a short analysis of the current state of development or operational status.

Finally, we have updated a separate fact sheet summarizing the commercial and civil robotic RPO activities that could potentially be misconstrued as a military capability:

These fact sheets were developed with the help of our intern, Ms. Marissa Martin. For more information, please contact SWF Director of Program Planning Dr. Brian Weeden or SWF Washington Office Director Ms. Victoria Samson.


Last updated on April 30, 2021