Space Arms Race Presents New Threat

The world’s military powers are secretly preparing for a war, but not a normal war that includes ground offensives and airstrikes between nations and their occupied territory on Earth. This particular war involves outer-space combat. Leaders are preparing to ignite a dangerous new arms race, the Agence France-Presse reports.

Officials in the United States have been sounding alarm bells for years due to the vulnerabilities of their satellites that are undermining the U.S. military’s strength.

As the publication notes, space was once dominated by the United States and the Soviet Union, but it has now become more and more accessible to a multitude of nations and private firms. It’s also been reported that Moscow and Beijing are eager to test and demonstrate their attack capabilities in space, which is a great worry for strategists in the United States.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James spoke about these fears at an event last month.

“We are changing the culture in our space enterprise because we need to get our heads around… what happens if a conflict on Earth extends to space. How will we defend our assets?”

It was rumored that Russia had developed attack satellites capable of moving through space and approaching a set target in 2015. This worry was raised when a Russian satellite positioned itself for a number of months directly between two Intelsat satellites in “geostationary orbit, coming to within six miles (10 kilometers) of one, before eventually moving away again,” as the AFP notes.

Victoria Samson of the Secure World Foundation, which is an organization that works to maintain the safe use of space, spoke about the alarms such capabilities set off.

“Our satellites are crucial for our national security infrastructure. The fact that another entity can come close to them and interfere with their work is very unsettling to US national security.”

It’s been revealed that China has also sent small, low-orbit satellites with the capability of maneuvering toward another craft in its vicinity. Teresa Hitchens, a senior research scholar at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, relayed back in 2013 that China was able to launch three small satellites, including one with a robotic arm.

General John Hyten of the Air Force’s Space Command told lawmakers last month of the steps being taken to meet these new threats.

“The Department of Defense has aggressively moved out to develop responses that we see coming from China and Russia. I believe it’s essential that we go faster in our responses.”

Many experts, as well as Pentagon officials, are aware that the United States much speed up their military space efforts to prevent any communications networks from becoming compromised or damaged. Experts such as Elbridge Colby, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, believe that the U.S. must develop defenses against such threats to its own assets in space.

“As human beings and more states are able to operate in space, it will just become a reality that it will become more militarized,” Colby stated. “The United States should develop effective but limitable forms of space attack, particularly non-kinetic ones that do not result in space debris.”

However, other experts believe that the United States should exercise restraint, stating that the Pentagon might already have the offensive capabilities that China and Russia are working to develop.

“I think it’s being hyped somewhat by those in the US national security community that have never felt comfortable with the US losing its role as the dominant space power,” Samson said.

Since 2004, the United States has possessed the capability to block satellite communication via their mobile jamming stations. America is also testing a missile capable of blowing up a satellite and has obtained four satellites that are able to maneuver in orbit and also inspect other space objects in addition to monitoring them.

Maryland researcher Hitchens has stated that Russia and China are rapidly catching up to where Americans are.

“What you have is a brewing,” she said. It’s a lead-up “to a potential arms race in space, where people start developing things for real.”

The publication also notes that space wars could be devastating to humans, seeing as one single satellite explosion could leave a massive amount of debris that could damage other satellites and cause destruction on large a large scale.

Hitchens commented on the dangers of such a threat.

“We are at a very dangerous place right now: if we actually ever fought a war that would involve anti-satellite weapon, we would damage the space environment to such an extent that it would make it very difficult to have the benefits that satellites provide to society.”

[Featured Image by NOAA/Getty Images]