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NATO advances in space, in the midst of tensions with China and Russia

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In the vicinity of Belgium’s capital Brussels, four huge white Kevlar balls can be seen which resemble a giant spherical spacecraft. People living around the area consider it to be “the radar station” there have been speculations that it might be a base for US nuclear warheads.

The Kester Satellite Ground Station is secure and more sophisticated as compared to what the locals think. It is essential to the NATO’s space communications. More than half of the 2000 satellites that orbit the Earth are under the control of NATO countries, making sure that everything from mobile phones to weather forecasts and functional.

NATO’s space center

This week, NATO will be announcing that a space center is being set up to assist in managing satellite communications and military operations across the globe. This will make Kester enter a new arena.

Space was said to be the alliance’s “fifth domain” of operations by NATO leaders in the month of December. The other four domains being land, sea, air, cyberspace. The round of discussions will be held in Germany, starting on Thursday where NATO defense ministers will approve the new space center.

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Domes’ security

At Kester, there are Kevlar domes that connect NATO’s civilian and military headquarters in Belgium to their operations across the globe. The domes are secure behind a double security fence, huge steel gates and bulletproof glass in a place which can endure a terror attack.

The dishes are positioned at an elevated angle, being 52ft in diameter. They transfer information and imagery across Europe and Africa into space above the equatorial line where satellites that are controlled by allies like US, Britain, Italy and France are stationed. Officers in ships, aircrafts or headquarters located around the world decipher the data to collect order, pictures and intelligence and prepare for further missions.

The military alliance corroborates that the approach it has taken up will be defensive and will be in accordance to the international law. As conveyed by Stoltenberg, NATO does not plan to station weapons in space, even though it has made significant developments in the “fifth domain.”

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Vidhi Narula

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