China’s anti-satellite capabilities have improved beyond missiles. China has been refining its co-orbital and multi-arm satellite capturing capabilities. With respect to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, China’s YaoGan constellation of military reconnaissance satellites supports a range of geospatial intelligence capabilities: optical, synthetic aperture radar (SAR), and electronic intelligence (ELINT). Most notably, unlike visible light optical imagery, China’s SAR capabilities allow the Chinese military to see through clouds and at night. Earlier this month, China delivered into orbit another trio of satellites designed to locate and track warships necessary for maritime domain awareness and intelligence operations.

Structurally, since the 1990s, China has taken great pains to reorganize its ministries to drive a national space startup strategy. Today, China’s New Space startups are more agile than their state-owned counterparts; they drive innovation and raise private capital. All the while, these “private” companies are intimately tied to the government through civil-military fusion policies. As China’s lunar lander and rover operations complete their second year and a new China-Russian moon base has just been announced, the West’s lead in space continues to narrow even faster.

Space-based remote sensing across the electromagnetic spectrum aids in ISR, especially optical imaging (visible light pictures), synthetic aperture radar (SAR – 3D radar imagery), and electronic intelligence (ELINT –  monitoring of radio frequency signals).

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