The geopolitical power plays in Earth observation

Running story
The geopolitical power plays in Earth observation

As global strategic rivalries return to the fore - in Ukraine, Gaza, the Taiwan Straight and in Africa, where Russia is a force to be reckoned with - accumulating crises are influencing the spy-satellite power players: who observes what, who sets up where, who sows alliances with whom and, increasingly, who releases what data publicly.

The upshot is that the targets selected for observation, the countries being courted, and the NGOs and broadcasters being brought into the loop all provide insight into the major space players' strategies and focal points.

The geopolitical power plays in Earth observation

Spotlight | United States
Maxar skies clearing, but Starshield on the horizon

Maxar engineers have got its WorldView-3 Earth observation satellite working again. But the Starshield constellation developed by SpaceX for the NRO is already in view.

A satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies showing the Trident jetty on the Gaza coast, 29 May 2024.
LogoSubscribers only Surveillance & Interception 13.06.2024
A satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies showing the Trident jetty on the Gaza coast, 29 May 2024.

Spotlight | Oman, Saudi Arabia, UAE
A new chapter in the space race between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi: launch stations

Unable to fire its heavy payloads on domestic soil, Saudi Arabia is weighing up a space partnership with Oman, an ideally situated space partner. The UAE faces a similar dilemma.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Saudi astronauts and other senior officials prior to the launch of the kingdom's scientific mission to the International Space Station in Jeddah on 16 April 2023.
LogoSubscribers only International Dealmaking 28.05.2024
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Saudi astronauts and other senior officials prior to the launch of the kingdom's scientific mission to the International Space Station in Jeddah on 16 April 2023.

United States
Maxar takes a hit with loss of its flagship spy satellite

The global leader in commercial space observation had hoped that the successful launch on 2 May of its first two WorldView Legion satellites would mark the end of four years of struggles. But Maxar is once again experiencing setbacks:

LogoSubscribers only Surveillance & Interception 28.05.2024

China
Beijing severs last of European Earth observation ties

Following on from China's other satellite imagery leaders, 21AT has cut loose from its European partnerships and is now using exclusively Chinese technology.

A Long March-2D rocket carrying four satellites blasts off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern China's Shanxi Province, 19 May 2024.
LogoSubscribers only Surveillance & Interception 24.05.2024
A Long March-2D rocket carrying four satellites blasts off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern China's Shanxi Province, 19 May 2024.

UAE, Yemen
UAE maps highly strategic Socotra Island from space

With military operations ramping up in the Red Sea, Abu Dhabi is keeping a close watch on the archipelago located in the mouth of crucial shipping routes. The UAE armed forces even scanned the entire island from space a few weeks ago.

The Socotra archipelago in Yemen.
LogoSubscribers only Government Intelligence 01.05.2024
The Socotra archipelago in Yemen.

China, Russia, United States
Washington, Beijing and Moscow square off in space after spy satellite launches

The race for space-based intelligence has prompted an unprecedented wave of spy satellite launches. Washington and its Indo-Pacific allies are picking up the pace in the face of China's push, while Russia is completing its transition to a war economy.

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China, United States
Spy space race: US intelligence shadowing Chinese spy satellites

Washington and Beijing are waging a top secret intelligence war high above the Indian Ocean, with a US satellite launched at the beginning of April now aligned with a Chinese device.

LogoSubscribers only Surveillance & Interception 29.04.2024

China, UAE
Chinese Uspace zooms in on Middle East to expand its Earth Observation business

China's space and earth observation industry has turned its focus towards the Gulf to find new export outlets as European markets become increasingly skittish.

LogoSubscribers only Surveillance & Interception 22.04.2024

Spotlight | France, Poland, Ukraine
Upset over secret French-Ukraine imagery deal

Drawing on sources in Paris, Kyiv and Warsaw, Intelligence Online has been able to piece together the details of a secret deal in which France is supplying Ukraine with high-resolution imagery. That deal impacts the fragile fabric of France's existing imagery cooperation with Poland.

On 16 February 2024, at the Élysée Palace, French president Emmanuel Macron and his counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky signed a bilateral security deal.
LogoSubscribers only Government Intelligence 15.04.2024
On 16 February 2024, at the Élysée Palace, French president Emmanuel Macron and his counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky signed a bilateral security deal.

Spotlight | UAE
Abu Dhabi spymaster puts his stamp on Emirati space sector remodelling

The Emirates are in the process of building a space force, in which the intelligence sector will play the major role, according to Intelligence Online's information. The operation represents a further consolidation of national security adviser Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan's power.

Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the United Arab Emirates national security adviser.
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Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the United Arab Emirates national security adviser.

Spotlight | China
Beijing building space intelligence 'string of pearls' over Indo-Pacific region

The recent arrival in orbit of China's new TJS-11 intelligence satellite has lifted the veil on the vast space surveillance network that Beijing is setting up over the region.

A Long March-5 Y6 carrier rocket carrying the Yaogan-41 satellite on 15 December 2023 in Wenchang. This satellite will operate 'in formation' with TJS-11 and Ludi-Tance 4.
LogoSubscribers only Surveillance & Interception 13.03.2024
A Long March-5 Y6 carrier rocket carrying the Yaogan-41 satellite on 15 December 2023 in Wenchang. This satellite will operate 'in formation' with TJS-11 and Ludi-Tance 4.

Poland
Warsaw plays spy satellite catch-up

With regional tensions rising, Poland is urgently stepping up its spy satellite programmes to compensate for its lack of geospatial intelligence.

Free access Surveillance & Interception 12.03.2024

Africa, China, Russia, United States
Space intelligence programmes in Africa adapt to raging geopolitical storms

The problems encountered by Moscow in its space observation programmes are having a direct impact on Russian partnerships with African countries. The main beneficiary is China, but Washington is trying to get back in the game too.

LogoSubscribers only Surveillance & Interception 13.02.2024

Spotlight | Russia
New launches conceal Moscow's earth observation vulnerabilities

Russia is being secretive about its earth observation capacity but the recent launches of three military observation satellites show that Moscow is trying to rectify its shortcomings and reduce its dependence on Chinese imagery.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (centre) and the head of Roscosmos Yuri Borisov (right) at the Rocket and Space Corp Energia in Korolyov on 26 October 2023.
LogoSubscribers only Surveillance & Interception 08.02.2024
Russian President Vladimir Putin (centre) and the head of Roscosmos Yuri Borisov (right) at the Rocket and Space Corp Energia in Korolyov on 26 October 2023.

Spotlight | Africa, China, Russia
Did Russian paramilitaries vandalise Niger memorial to 1989 terror attack victims?

The area around a monument commemorating the deaths of 170 passengers of a French airliner brought down by a bomb has attracted a great deal of satellite surveillance interest from Russian paramilitary Earth Observation contractors.

The UTA DC-10 - UT772 memorial in Niger.
LogoSubscribers only Government Intelligence 26.12.2023
The UTA DC-10 - UT772 memorial in Niger.

Spotlight | China, India, United States
Washington tracks Chinese army's secret Himalayan space launch

A rocket launch shrouded in mystery on the Himalayan plateau has caught the attention of space powers. Intelligence Online has investigated the launch from one of Asia's most disputed areas, Aksai Chin, claimed by both Beijing and New Delhi.

The base in Aksai Chin from which CAS Space carried out a test launch on 27 September 2023.
LogoSubscribers only Government Intelligence 20.11.2023
The base in Aksai Chin from which CAS Space carried out a test launch on 27 September 2023.

India
India races to catch up with China in space defence

India is getting into the starting blocks to close the gap with China in New Space intelligence, launching a flurry of calls for projects in strategic segments and boosting its nascent champion Pixxel.

LogoSubscribers only Surveillance & Interception 26.10.2023

Spotlight | Japan
Japan's imagery shortfall undermines monitoring of Russia-China action around Kuril Islands

The current compartmentalisation of Japan's intelligence services that have Earth observation capacities is hampering the government's aims to keep a close watch of Russian and Chinese movements around the Kuril Islands and the China Sea.

LogoSubscribers only Surveillance & Interception 14.09.2023

Spotlight | Australia, China, India, Taiwan
Beijing taunts Quad countries with new observation satellite

The launch of the L-SAR4-01 satellite just before the BRICS summit might have appeared to be a routine event. A detailed study of its trajectory however shows that it has settled into a position just above Australia, India and Taiwan.

LogoSubscribers only Government Intelligence 31.08.2023

China, United States
US prepares Earth Observation operators to compete with China

Touted as a circumstantial decision, Washington's 7 August announcement that it is lifting restrictions on commercialising high-resolution satellite images is actually a move to shake up the trade and technology rivalry between the US and China in the sector.

LogoSubscribers only International Dealmaking 21.08.2023

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Running story
The geopolitical power plays in Earth observation


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