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The Increasing Reality of War in Space

Introduction

On December 20th, 2019, President Donald Trump established the United States Space Force. This decision was met with mixed reactions, with many comedians poking fun at the idea of a “space force.” However, recent events have highlighted the increasing importance of space in global conflicts.

Space as a Strategic Platform

The orbit around Earth, known as orbital space, is an incredibly valuable resource. Satellites placed in orbit have line-of-sight with more of Earth, allowing them to observe or communicate with larger areas. This has numerous applications, including weather forecasting, navigation, internet connectivity, and TV broadcast.

The specific characteristics of an orbit depend on its distance from Earth. Satellites closer to Earth need to move at higher speeds to balance out the gravitational pull. For example, a satellite 150 miles above Earth needs to move at about 17,000 miles per hour, while a satellite 22,223 miles away only needs to go 7,000 miles per hour. This slower speed allows the satellite to stay fixed above a specific point on the equator.

Companies like DirecTV have taken advantage of geostationary orbits, placing their satellites in a fixed position above a specific geographic region. This ensures the best coverage for the greatest number of customers. Other organizations, such as meteorological agencies, also utilize geostationary orbits to maximize their observational coverage.

The Value of Low Earth Orbit

While geostationary orbits have their advantages, there is value in placing satellites in lower orbits as well. SpaceX’s Starlink system, for example, has pioneered satellite internet by placing satellites just 342 miles above Earth. This proximity reduces signal transmission time, providing faster internet speeds compared to geostationary satellites.

There is a wide spectrum of capabilities possible in different orbits. Satellites can be placed as low as 104 miles above Earth or as high as 22,223 miles. This range allows for a variety of vantage points and applications.

The Vulnerability of Satellites

Satellites, regardless of their orbit, are incredibly vulnerable to attack. The lack of defensive geography in space means that any satellite can be tracked and targeted. This vulnerability is compounded by the fact that satellites are delicate and optimized for weight, making them easy targets for collisions or destruction.

Space warfare has already become a reality. Major space powers like the United States, Russia, and China have developed offensive capabilities, including kinetic and non-kinetic attacks on satellites. These capabilities are highly secretive, and the public is often unaware of the true extent of a country’s space arsenal.

Offensive capabilities in space can quickly escalate into a race to the bottom. The destruction of one satellite can lead to a chain reaction, creating an exponential increase in space debris. This debris poses a significant threat to other satellites and can render entire orbits unusable.

The Need for Space Non-Proliferation

The militarization of space is a dangerous path that must be avoided. The benefits provided by satellites are immense and touch many aspects of society, from GPS navigation to weather forecasting to internet access. Crippling these capabilities would have severe consequences for humanity.

Space warfare shares parallels with nuclear warfare. Just as nuclear non-proliferation is critical for global security, the non-proliferation of space weaponry is equally important. However, the technology used in space warfare is conventional and difficult to ban. Countries with advanced missile capabilities can easily initiate conflict in space.

The key to solving this conundrum lies in the understanding of the devastating consequences of war in space. It is crucial that all nations recognize the need to protect the shared asset of Earth’s orbit and prevent the escalation of conflicts into space battles.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the reality of conflict in space is growing, and the consequences are potentially catastrophic. The vulnerability of satellites, the offensive capabilities of major space powers, and the exponential increase in space debris all highlight the urgent need for space non-proliferation.

As individuals, we must recognize the importance of space and advocate for peaceful resolutions to conflicts. The future of humanity depends on the responsible and sustainable use of Earth’s orbit.

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