Nine months ago, in December 2019, the American Space Force was born. The new military wing was created with a focus on protecting the country’s satellites and other space assets, which are important for everything from national security to day-to-day communication.
Now, countries including France, Canada and Japan are following suit, as the “Space Force” analogs of the leaders of those countries said on Thursday (September 10) during the 2nd Summit for Space Sustainability, a nonprofit An online event organized by the Safe World Foundation.
So, why do these countries as well as nations like Russia and China want a military presence in space?
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According to Major General John Shaw, the Joint Component Space Component Commander of the US Space Command and the Commander of the Space Operations Command for the US Space Force, conforming to the question “Why do ocean-ocean or sea-going nations need a navy?” ” “We want to secure that domain for all activity and reduce threats in that domain,” he said during the summit on Thursday. “Nobody wants war in space.”
Shaw explained that the purpose of the American Space Force to reduce the threat is not theoretical and has already started popping.
For example, in April and Again in julyThe space force detected an anti-satellite missile test conducted by Russia in low Earth orbit. The April test “provides yet another example of how threats to the US and allied space systems are real, severe and increasing,” Space Force Commander General John “Jay” Raymond Said after that incident.
Satellite testing in low Earth orbit is not an uncommon occurrence. However, according to Shaw, Russia was testing what a “space torpedo” would look like.
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“And I can add a number of other hazards that we’ve seen along the continuum of space counter-space capabilities,” Shaw said, citing the example of “the spread of electromagnetic spectrum jammers.” Jammers intentionally or interfere with information from satellites orbiting the Earth.
And, while the US Space Force is actively working to combat these threats, other countries are following suit. “We share similar concerns,” said Michel Friedling, the general and commander in chief of the French Space Command.
“We want to make sure we’re not riding coattails,” Brig. General Mike Adamson, director general and space / joint force space component commander for the Canadian Department of National Defense, added during the summit. Adamson said that Canada “wants to retain its place in the table.”
Satellite swarm threat
However, intentional, nefarious threats from other countries are not only a concern for the US space force and other countries’ growing military space efforts. Constellations of satellites of private companies here on earth can also raise serious issues.
“The low Earth orbit propagation of commercial satellites may in some ways be the greatest threat to space stability,” Shaw said, adding that it would in fact only be a threat if not done properly.
Recently, SpaceX began launching a large number of satellites into low Earth orbit, in an effort to develop a massive planetarium called Starlink designed to provide worldwide Internet access. has gone.
SpaceX has already lost more than 700 Starlink satellites. But Elon Musk’s company has approval from the US Federal Communications Commission to launch 12,000 satellites into orbit and someday want to make that constellation even bigger.
And SpaceX is not the only one with such ambitions. For example, Amazon aims to launch about 3,200 satellites for its Internet constellation, Project Kuiper.
Orbiting so many satellites gives rise to many potential concerns, including the spread of “space junk”. While SpaceX’s StarLink satellite is designed to fall out of orbit and burn in Earth’s atmosphere over time, the presence of so many spacecraft at once increases the likelihood of a collision, which will generate huge swarms of debris . These swarms will then pose a potential threat to other satellites in orbit.
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As noted by Shaw, the space force also hopes to launch more and more “academic” or science-focused satellites into orbit.
With the hope of launching all these new satellites, the space force wants to ensure that they are “built with responsible design so that they do not become a naval threat,” Shaw said. “As we continue to expand in all areas … how do we do in a responsible way?”
It is a concern for other countries to dip their toes into space-intensive military branches.
These emerging military enterprises have to consider such things as, “How do we coordinate with private actors in space?” Friedling said.
Friedling also raised the issue of the safety of these private or science-focused satellites. “Do they want to be protected or saved?” He compared these craft to private ships that survived the convoy during the First World War, asking them to protect the new submarines from enemy attack during World War I.
The space military representative, including Major General Hiroki Sakanashi, the director general of the Project Promotions Group for Emerging Domains and Programs at the Air Staff Office in Japan, agreed that these were concerns that should be addressed by space-military efforts. Focused on
“You invite conflict when there is weakness, and I believe that you stop conflict when there is strength, and that is the path we are on,” Shaw said. “By adopting this approach, I believe in a strategically stable position that prevents conflict in space,” he said.
“Of course, Canada is going along those lines as well,” Adamson agreed.
Email Chelsea Gohad at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and Facebook.