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Space Warfare Remains Possible


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/06/24

The Atlantic reported on the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting the Earth.

Six busy bees work inside of the ISS. As these are some of the smartest and most talented people from each country, they are important. They take part in this space odyssey.

The group of six travel at thousands of miles per hours. These amount to peaceful ends. Other people want space for different purposes. One of which is for war.

If a single country owns the orbits of the Earth, then they own the surveillance of it. They have the strategic advantage of space-based weaponry too.

The Trump Administration has talked about the so-called Space Force or a Space Corps.

“The debate in Congressover whether to create a Space Corps comes at a time when governments around the world are engaged in a bigger international struggle over how militaries should operate in space,” as described in The Atlantic, “Fundamental changes are already underway. No longer confined to the fiction shelf, space warfare is likely on the horizon.”

These produce concerns for the potential for Sino-Russian relations to increase in intensity. A multinational military response to a space warfare initiative by the United States.

There are international agreements about the operations of war in land, water, and air. But this leaves open questions about space. Few countries can access low Earth orbit.

Few have a space program. Even those that do, like South Africa, it cannot compete. The US, Russia, and China dominate space. So, Sino-Russian relations will see reactions to US innervations into space.

Astronauts get reactions from cosmonauts and sinonauts.

The article stated, “It’s presumed that International Humanitarian Law would apply in outer space — protecting the civilian astronauts aboard the International Space Station — but it’s unclear whether damaging civilian satellites or the space environment itself is covered under the agreement.”

The guidelines for war in space are limited. They are outdated too. How could they not be? With fewer contenders and rules, what would stop a nation from domination of low Earth orbit?

No military conflict took place in space; not in a major way.

The article stated, “In 1962, the United States detonated a 1.4 megaton nuclear weapon 250 miles above the Earth’s surface.”

1/3 of the satellites orbiting around the Earth got obliterated. One region of space became poisoned with radiation for several years. It came from one bomb.

US, Russia, and others signed a treaty to not test nuclear weapons in space. North Korea and China did not sign it.

“In 2007, China tested an anti-satellite weapon, a conventionally-armed missile designed to target and destroy a satellite in orbit. In the process, it annihilated an old Chinese weather satellite and created high-velocity shrapnel that still threatens other satellites,”

The Atlantic explained.

What of the consequences for tests, debris created, and damage to satellites from tests?

Do we have any treaties for this signed onto by everyone?

Wth space warfare, the US may lose out the most. It can gain by establishment of norms. But it can also lose a lot more. Because half of the satellites in space are owned by the US.

Or they remain owned by US-based companies. Two times as many as Russia or China together. All modern conveniences rely to some extent on them.

The article said, “When the U.S. military deploys troops overseas, satellite communications connect forces on the ground to control centers. When North Korea launches an intercontinental ballistic missile, the U.S. and its allies depend on early-warning satellites to detect it.”

With agreements signed onto for limits, everyone can be safer. But the US spent lots of money developing space warfare-intended technologies.

This can cost them money. Lots and lots of money, it creates problems. The first human satellite flew into orbit in 1957. Then the US and Russia owned 9/10ths of the world’s satellites.

That’s a lot. It is a helluva of a lot. But the race began for the perfection of ownership of space. This race was based on fear of the other.

Science, discovery, and diplomacy seem less reasonable than deterrence and control. Starting in 1990, the second stage of the space era began. Now, the landscape of low-Earth orbit is conquered by many actors.

Still the US dominates it, the private comapnies and other nations take part in it. It is a diversifed landscape. Private comapnies have more satellites in orbit than militaries.

“More players in space — particularly more unpredictable players — means more opportunities for aggressive behavior,” the article said, “like developing anti-satellite technologies or hacking satellite communications.”

Iran or Northt Korea could function and operate in ways not seen before. This escalation in space age technology. This spread of it. It can lead to potential standoffs. This was known from the start.

The article explained, “The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 was written to govern a space era far different from the one seen today. Since 2014, a majority of space launches — civil, commercial, and military — have come from outside of the United States and Russia.”

There are work to create a functional guidebook for operation in space have not worked. Russia and China made aproposal for the proper conduct in space. However, the US did not sign onto the proposal. When the US gave explicit support for the EU 2014 proposal for the governed use of conventional weapons in orbit, Russia and China did not agree either.

The article concluded, “Since the congressional debate about a Space Corps, people have been taking the prospect of a war in space seriously, in a way we haven’t seen before. Now we should start talking about how to avoid that war. To prevent conflict in the upper atmosphere, all potential adversaries — the United States, China, North Korea, Iran, Russia, the EU — need to align, and agree on norms of behavior. They need rules.”


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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