The probe is designed to allow all of France’s armed forces to communicate quickly and securely across the globe.] It comes after Paris created a space command in July 2019 amid concerns that rival countries were investing more in space technology. Space-based assets are now seen as a crucial military frontier. A French air and space force spokesman, Colonel Stephane Spet told AFP that the satellite “is designed to resist military aggression from the ground and in space, as well as interference”.
The Syracuse 4A satellite was launched up into space on the Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, in French Guiana, late on Saturday.
It only took 38 minutes and 41 seconds to complete the mission.
The “state-of-the-art” satellite can survey its close surroundings and move itself to avoid an enemy attack.
This could prove crucial as space agencies are calling for their countries to fund space weaponry.
Last week, NASA called on US lawmakers to fund nuclear satellites to push the US to space domination.
Launch provider for the French mission, Arianespace, wrote in its mission description: “Thanks to its state-of-the-art equipment (anti-jamming antenna and digital transparent processor on board), Syracuse 4A will guarantee a high resistance to extreme jamming methods.”
Marc Finaud, an expert in weapons proliferation at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, said that the French satellite would also be protected against the electro-magnetic pulses that come as a result of a nuclear explosion.
He said: “This is the final warning scenario if deterrence fails.”
He also said this was “a first for the French army and even a first in Europe”.
In March, France began its first military exercises in space to test its ability to defend its satellites.
And as the space race has heated up, Paris has accused Russia of having brought its intelligence-gathering satellite Olymp-K, also known as Louch, into close proximity of the French-Italian military satellite Athena-Fidus in 2017.
Defence Minister Florence Parly called this “an act of espionage”.
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And last year, the US accused Russia of conducting a non-destructive anti-satellite weapons test from space.
Investments in France’s space programme are set to reach over £3.6 billion over the 2019-2025 budget period.
But this of the amount spent by the US or China.
President Joe Biden’s federal budget proposal for 2022 that was released in May will give NASA the most science funding it has ever received in history.
The White House’s £4.3 trillion federal spending bill will give NASA a total of £18billion.
It comes as the EU is also planning on boosting its capabilities in space.
The European Union Agency for the Space Programme, EUSPA, was launched on 12 May, and marked a new era for EU space.
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The EU’s Galileo satellite system has 26 satellites in orbit and more than two billion receivers in use.
Galileo is a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), similar to GPS, that will be used by government agencies, armed forces and emergency services for precision navigation.
When Britain voted to leave the EU, the country lost future access to this space system, even though several British companies had contributed substantially to the project.
The project costs nearly £8.5billion.