Several recent developments have made it clear that space has become the latest front in whatever strange new Cold War is brewing. Just this week, it seems that the war might have gone from ‘cold’ to ‘shooting’ with the news that several satellite-tracking agencies have spotted a European-contolled communications satellite breaking apart in space. The satellite’s operator? A private agency which provides satellite services for the U.S. Armed Forces, NASA, and NATO, among others.
The story began on June 17th when the Luxembourg-based satellite firm SES S.A. lost control of its AMC-9 satellite which reportedly provides data and broadcast services over the U.S. and Mexico. Shortly after, operators watched helplessly as the satellite began to drift and then break apart.
It’s currently unknown what might have happened to the satellite. Leading theories include a collision with debris or a malfunction, although the possibility remains that the satellite could have been attacked by the new weaponized satellites many world superpowers have been putting into orbit recently. Doug Hendrix, CEO at aerospace technology firm ExoAnalytic Solutions, told ArsTechnica that his company watched the AMC-9 satellite break apart, but even they aren’t sure what the cause was:
We have seen several pieces come off of it over the past several days. We are tracking at least one of the pieces. I would hesitate to say we know for sure what happened.
There are concerns now that debris from the satellite might damage others in the same orbit, which is heavily populated with communications satellites. It's been known for years that satellites will become both the next weapons and the next targets in the wars of the future; disrupting an entire geostationary orbit with debris would be a perfect way to distract one's adversaries.
Noting that a war might be brewing in space isn’t purely conjecture; the U.S. Armed Forces have made several recent announcements regarding the creation of new space weapons and space-oriented leadership posts in what has been described as a pivot to the upcoming battlefield that is space. Couple that with the news that Russia is waking up its mysterious “killer satellites,” launching unidentified new satellites from secret Arctic bases, and that U.S. intelligence agencies are launching their own mysterious satellites which have been displaying some rather strange behavior lately, and it seems as if a shadowy space conflict might already be underway.