U.S. Space Force finally acknowledges military dimension of China’s Moon plans

Special to CosmicTribune.com, March 27, 2024


By Richard Fisher

The United States Space Force is catching on: China’s Moon program is of direct concern to the security of the United States and its allies.

During a March 18 program sponsored by the Aerospace Corporation, Brigadier Gen. Anthony Mastalir, Commander of the U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific, told the gathering of his concerns regarding China’s Moon program:

On March 19, a Chinese Long March-8 space launcher lofted China’s second communications relay satellite, plus two new smaller communication/navigation satellites, as part of an eventual larger constellation to support Chinese unmanned and manned Moon Bases. / Chinese internet

“From a military perspective, I am curious about, are there attack vectors that we haven’t considered or that we need to consider, whether it’s xGEO [beyond Geosynchronous Earth Orbit] or cislunar or otherwise?,” Brigadier Gen. Mastalir was quoted by DefenseOne on March 18.

In short, does China’s presence on the Moon give them options for attacking U.S. satellites closer to Earth?

Mastalir made clear his focus was deterring conflicts on Earth, saying, “These are terrestrial conflicts that we hope we can deter and we also don’t want them, although it’s more and more likely, [to] extend into space or even start in space, but they’re terrestrial conflicts.

But he also warned of conflicts in deep space, saying, “Now someday in the future that may change, but for now I’d be more concerned just about what these new orbits, a moon presence — what that does for potential attack vectors to our traditional operating orbits.”

Brigadier Gen. Mastalir is correct to be concerned; it appears that China is repeating its strategy for Antarctica by building dual-use civil-military capabilities for the Moon.

An early example of this strategy is China’s ongoing effort to build what could become a robust constellation of satellites around the Moon for communication, navigation, surveillance and eventually, for active combat missions.

The day following Gen. Mastalir’s remarks, on March 19, China launched its Queqiao-2 relay satellite, to eventually occupy an elliptical orbit that enables communication with Chinese probes on the South Pole and far side of the Moon.

This will enable communication with China’s South Pole Moon missions, to include the Chang’e-6 Moon sample return mission planned for May 2024, and then its Chang’e-7 mission planned for 2026 and its Chang’e-8 mission planned for 2028.

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