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

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

Australia, India, Japan, United States
Quad's China maritime surveillance projects get off to shaky start

Japan and Australia have been the most responsive in implementing a common Indo-Pacific satellite maritime surveillance system for the Quad Indo-Pacific intelligence partnership, but national differences in capacity are hampering integration.

LogoSubscribers only Government Intelligence 21.07.2023

Spotlight | China
China's new satellite imagery catalogue reveals geographical limits and technical improvements

Intelligence Online has seen the latest catalogue of Chinese commercial imagery from the country's observation satellites, and it reveals some of the progress that its satellite imagery has made, yet also its limitations.

LogoSubscribers only Surveillance & Interception 20.07.2023

North Korea, South Korea, United States
US and South Korean intelligence investigate Western components on Pyongyang's satellite

US and South Korean experts worked together to examine a North Korean satellite that crashed into the sea in late May, but those teams are more interested in the device's Western parts than in Pyongyang's technological know-how.

On 16 June 2023, the South Korean army will present the debris from the North Korean rocket that was carrying a military reconnaissance satellite and crashed into the sea in late May.
LogoSubscribers only Government Intelligence 14.07.2023
On 16 June 2023, the South Korean army will present the debris from the North Korean rocket that was carrying a military reconnaissance satellite and crashed into the sea in late May.

Brazil, China, India, Russia, South Africa
BRICS constellation caught between technical deficiencies and an impossible political balancing act

The BRICS countries' vast earth observation cooperation programme is intended to be a counterweight to the US' big plans for the QUAD alliance. Although it is politically attractive, close analysis of the capacities so far put in the common pot show intrinsic weaknesses and an inevitable over-dependence on Chinese sensing devices.

LogoSubscribers only Surveillance & Interception 07.07.2023

China, Europe, India, United States
China makes strides in precision geostationary satellite imagery thanks to US research

China is quietly making moves to become the first country to operate high-precision observation satellites in geostationary orbit, which would give its intelligence services a broader and more continual coverage of earth. Western countries are lagging behind.

LogoSubscribers only International Dealmaking 22.06.2023

Europe, France, Japan, South Korea
Tokyo and Seoul go all in for Airbus imagery

With Maxar taking control of the US market, Japanese and South Korean government agencies are increasingly relying on the European group Airbus for their imaging needs.

LogoSubscribers only International Dealmaking 13.06.2023

China, India
Beijing nudges forward with encroachment on Indian Himalayas

The war in Ukraine has provoked fears of a resurgence of tension between China and Taiwan. Meanwhile, Beijing is harnessing this momentum to assert its sovereignty over the disputed territories of Arunachal Pradesh.

China's goals in the Himalayas.
LogoSubscribers only Government Intelligence 18.05.2022
China's goals in the Himalayas.

Spotlight | France, Russia, Ukraine, United States
Geospatial intelligence providers caught in the middle of Russia-Ukraine war

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is almost the first conflict in history to be followed with live and publically available satellite imagery. The intelligence fuelling the information war between Russia and the West is not coming from state services alone.

A satellite image shows a battalion-sized unit in a convoy near Filativka training area, Crimea February 15, 2022.
LogoSubscribers only Surveillance & Interception 03.03.2022
A satellite image shows a battalion-sized unit in a convoy near Filativka training area, Crimea February 15, 2022.

Russia, United States
NGA contributes to Western influence counter-offensive against Wagner in Africa with Tearline

While Paris is trying to win the influence war against the Russian paramilitary group Wagner the old-fashioned way, Washington has turned to the research world and NGOs with its Tearline program. The program's latest research focuses on Wagner's various activities in Africa.

LogoSubscribers only Surveillance & Interception 10.01.2022

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Running story
The geopolitical power plays in Earth observation

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