Star Wars: Attack of the Countries
‘Star Wars’, or space combat, may not be ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far far away’ anymore. As technology advances, what was once science fiction becomes closer to reality. The implications and repercussions could be disastrous. Here to give you more information on the militarisation of space, is Perspectoverse’s Ishana Kandhari.
October 4 1957 marked the beginning of the Space Age. On this day, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, the world’s first-ever artificial satellite, into outer space. Since then, space technology has advanced tremendously. Mankind has explored the moon, landed spacecrafts on other planets, created an International Space Station, taken pictures of faraway galaxies, formed images of black holes and are even planning to open a hotel in space in 2027. The broad range of space activities can be classified into three categories- civil, commercial and security.
Examples of civic space activities include scientific research and organizations such as NASA. Commercial space activities are those conducted by private companies. The security sector comprises military or intelligence organizations. This includes the militarisation or weaponization of space. Although the two terms are used interchangeably, there is a massive difference between them. Weaponization is when devices that have the ability to destruct are placed, while militarisation is the process in which space is increasingly becoming a military zone.
Since the launch of Sputnik I, space exploration has caused conflicts between countries. The USA was under the impression that the Soviets were less technologically advanced than their country. They were horrified when they were beaten to space. The so-called ‘Sputnik Crisis’ commenced the famous ‘Space Race’ between Russia and the United States. There have been tremendous improvements and advancements in technology since this incident. Countries now have the capability to use space as a frontier for war.
There are currently extremely insufficient and meritless rules and regulations pertaining to outer space. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty was the first to establish laws for states’ activities in space and still remains the most important. However, there are several faults in this document. For one, it does not ban conventional weapons. The treaty only prohibits nuclear weapons and those that can cause mass destruction from Earth’s orbit. Another is that the treaty is flexible and open to interpretation. For example, it is unclear what exactly defines military devices. There are space devices that can be used for both civil and military purposes. Around 95% of satellites can be used for military intentions, especially due to their navigational capabilities. This treaty has been unable to prevent the militarization of space.
To our knowledge, the countries leading the current arms race are Russia, the USA, China and India. These countries have conducted tests with Anti-Satellite Technology. Anti-Satellite technology can disable and destroy other satellites for strategic purposes. Kessler’s Syndrome can arise as a result of conflicting countries using ASAT to destroy each other’s satellites. The satellite debris could cause a chain reaction and destroy all of its kind in Earth’s orbit. In 2019, former US President Trump introduced a national Space Force and NATO declared Space to be an ‘operational domain’.
People are dependent on satellites for most everyday activities- ranging from GPS to electronic communication to bank transactions. A countries’ satellites being destroyed would be a catastrophic event. It would become dysfunctional, its economy would collapse and it would have a terrible impact. In the case of a war, militaries are dependent on satellites for their drones. Countries need to come together to negotiate stronger laws and form a stronger treaty to prevent space combat and a real-life version of Star Wars.
Written by Ishana Kandhari
Illustrated by Anushka Doshi
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Robert Strauss Center. SSS Informational Video: The Militarization and Weaponization of Space, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd4CJOIaJ3o.
The Economist. Space: The next Frontier for War? | The Economist, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iliAWd_itq4.
The General Assembly. “The Militarization of Space.” Accessed December 24, 2021. https://www.generalassembly.ca/archive/the-militarization-of-space.
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