Space is beginning to become more accessible to humankind. Naturally, the military wants to start fighting wars up there. Really, though, if you think about the timelines of the development of automobiles, aircraft, and atomic bombs relative to their use in war, it’s a wonder that there hasn’t been a war in space yet. I guess the near-unbelievable price tags of any space-borne technology still hold back the superpowers from going CRASH BANG BOOM with all their shiny new space toys - for now, at least. Thanks to James Bond villain-in-the-making Elon Musk and the Chinese rocket scientists who are no doubt furiously plagiarizing his technology (yeah, they really do that), those price tags are sure to come down in the near future. What does that mean for us? Get ready for war in space, folks. It’s gonna be weird - and deadly.

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What blows up must come down.

For now, most of the space weaponry involves disarming, destroying, or hijacking enemy satellites. Giant death lasers are on the way, though, don't worry. Satellites are what give battlefield advantage to modern militaries, providing GPS and communications networks, surveillance capabilities, and probably even some seriously crazy space-based firepower we don’t even know about yet. Those satellites are relied upon by military forces during conflicts, making them prime targets for adversaries. According to a new report published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Russia and China are only a few years away from having operational anti-satellite technology designed to reduce the advantages of the American military. The report also states that "the risk of interstate
conflict, including among great powers, is higher than at any time since the end of the Cold War." Space Wars, here we come.

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World superpowers have been testing anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons for decades but are only now approaching battlefield readiness.

This new report was published by the intelligence community and presented to congressional intelligence and armed forces committees. In the view of intelligence analysts, the United States’ closest rivals for world hegemony are fast at work preparing for space to be the pivotal battlefield in the next global conflict:

If a future conflict were to occur involving Russia or China, either country would justify attacks against US and allied satellites as necessary to offset any perceived US military advantage derived from military, civil, or commercial space systems. Military reforms in both countries in the past few years indicate an increased focus on establishing operational forces designed to integrate attacks against space systems and services with military operations in other domains.

Both countries are already training their soldiers how to launch and operate antisatellite (ASAT) weapons and are launching what the report describes as “experimental satellites” designed for use in warfare despite both China and Russia’s government both publicly claiming space should be a peaceful domain. The Russians have lately been launching covert satellites from remote launching stations over the past few years, while their known “killer” satellites have been waking up lately, worrying some defense analysts that a satellite war could be likely. China, meanwhile, has been testing ASAT weapons since 2007, and the United States, of course, have been doing some shadowy aerospace stuff and secret testing in orbit lately too. 

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Anything could be up there by now. Maybe this weird uh...thing? Sure, why not? Looks like it would hurt whatever it landed on when it fell from orbit.

It’s natural that war would move into space. Could it have already though? If there was shooting going on in space, would we know? I assume astronomers or anyone with a telescope would see the action, though, right? Although given all of the strange stuff falling from the skies and the mysterious booms lately, who knows what’s really going on overhead?

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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