KESTER, Belgium (AP) – For some of the locals, the top-secret, fenced-off installation on the hill is known as a “radar station”. Some claim that mysterious Russians were seen in the area. Over the years, rumors have been swirling that it could be a basis for American nuclear war.
It is easy to see how the rumors start. The site is visually striking. Four giant white keval balls sit like giant spherical spaceships in a compound in the middle of an open farm country, 25 kilometers (16 mi) west of Brussels, the capital of Belgium.
But the Castor satellite ground station is both safe and can be more sophisticated than local lore. It is central to space communications in NATO – the four largest and most modern that run military alliances.
Nearly 2,000 satellites orbited the Earth, with more than half operated by NATO countries, ensuring everything from mobile phones and banking services to weather forecasts. NATO commanders in places like Afghanistan or Kosovo relied on some of them to trust, communicate, share intelligence and detect missile launches.
This week, Caster’s site is scheduled to come under a new orbit, when NATO announced that it was building a space center to help manage satellite communications and key parts of its military operations around the world.
In December, NATO leaders declared the coalition’s “fifth domain” of operations after land, sea, air and cyberspace. In two days of talks beginning on Thursday, NATO’s defense minister will defeat a new space center at the coalition’s air command in Ramstein, Germany.
“It will be a focal point for ensuring space support for NATO operations, sharing information and coordinating our activities,” NATO Secretary General Jane Stoltenberg said before the meeting.
It is part of the coalition’s efforts to move quickly and keep ahead in the high-tech sector, particularly amid the fact that member states are increasingly aggressive in space by China and Russia.
Nearly 80 countries have satellites and private companies are also moving forward. In the 1980s, a fraction of NATO’s communications were via satellite. Today, it is at least 40%. During the Cold War, NATO had more than 20 stations, but new technologies meant the world’s largest security organization could double its coverage with a fifth of that number.
At Castor, behind a double security fence, a huge steel gate and bulletproof glass at a facility that can withstand a terrorist attack or any attempt to jam communications, four satellite dishes tied in Kevlar domes are part of NATO in Belgium. Connect civil and military headquarters to their operations. world.
From their high position, vessels – two of them 16 meters (52 ft) in diameter – beam information and imagery across Europe and Africa into the space above the equator where allied countries such as the United States, Britain, France and Italy owned Are in Orbit. NATO has no satellite of its own.
Around the world, ships, aircraft, and commanders in mobile or stationary headquarters decrypt data to gather commands, drawings and intelligence, prepare missions, or move troops and military equipment. From Castor, new lines of communication can be established for NATO within half an hour.
Most of the facility is enclosed in thick steel plates, including ducts where the cables run, to withstand any attack by electromagnetic pulses – high bursts of energy that can eject electrical power grids or electronic circuits. Can destroy boards and components.
But NATO allies are worried about other types of attacks using anti-satellite weapons over the Earth that can wreak havoc below and leave dangerous debris in space.
“Some countries – including Russia and China – are developing anti-satellite systems that can blind, deactivate, or kill satellites and create dangerous debris in orbit. Stoltenberg said That we should increase our understanding of the challenges in space and our ability to address them.
At the moment, the military coalition insists that its “approach will remain defensible and fully conform to international law.” And despite efforts being made in the “fifth domain”, Stoltenberg has repeatedly stated during the past year that “NATO has no intention of putting arms into space.”